Permission to Learn New Things

“One day, I met with a researcher in a coffee shop. Language was a problem but he spoke more English than I did Japanese. I had just been to the bookstore and was lugging a stack of books on highly advanced computer-science topics. It was all Greek to me but I figured something might rub off. Suddenly the guy asks me “Who gives you permission to read those books?”

I was stunned. Bowled over. Did his puzzlement reflect some sort of cultural difference? I didn’t think so. It struck me that this fellow was just being more honest and direct than an American might be. He was articulating what many people in today’s world seem to assume: that official authorization is required to learn new things. I thought about this deeply and I’m thinking about it still.

Who gives us permission to explore our world? The question implies that the world in fact belongs to someone else. Who gives us permission to communicate what we’ve experienced, what we believe, what we’ve discovered of that for ourselves? Right then and there, in that chance encounter in some random Tokyo coffee shop, I gave myself blanket permission: to be curious, to learn, to speak, to write.” The Cluetrain Manifesto, Christopher Locke

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