Circles Within Circles: Everything’s Interconnected

Over the last couple days, I’ve been involved in a couple conversations both online and off that got me thinking about a few things.  The thing that really stands out in my mind is the interconnectedness of all areas of knowledge and study.

We’ve artificially divided knowledge and learning into discrete areas during the last century or so.  The reasons are understandable; it makes specialty and expertise easier to define, it makes them easier to teach, and all that.

However, it also causes problems.

Recently one person I know asked how I remembered “so much” history.  Another pulled out the “I’m an X major, not a Y major” thing when confronted about a questionable analogy (s)he made.  The latter really annoyed me for a few reasons (it reinforces stereotypes and is intellectually lazy, IMO).

But, they got me thinking about how every area of knowledge is interrelated.

I thought about my own undergrad days.  I started as a bio major, so had biology and chemistry.  At the same time, I did some psychology, Spanish, classical mythology, and comparative theology.  Then I became an English major, covering a range of literature and history of English language materials with an History minor focusing on medieval and Renaissance history with some military and Chinese history.  At the same time, I was continuing formal study of comparative theology and dabbled in cultural studies.  In grad school, English language and literature was the focus, but the history study continued and developmental psychology (for literacy study) and Jungian psychoanalysis were added alongside comparative mythology.  (And remained interested sciences and moderately good at math.)

And I didn’t think any of this was odd, or unusual.  It was natural.

A comment from a student a few years back comes to mind.  (S)He was smiling after class and we started talking.  (S)He said something to the effect of being amused by “how little we talked about writing” in the class.  That had me thinking, as I replied.

When we study writing, literature, what is it that we’re studying?  What is it that people are writing about (in fiction and nonfiction)?

They’re writing about, and we’re studying: history, sociology, culture, law, life.  Literature is about history, society, culture, politics, philosophy, people (psychology), life (biology).  Many of those are in turn connected to chemistry, physics, fashion, architecture, art, music, math, etc. which eventually come full circle back to literature, history, philosophy, and so on.

3 comments on “Circles Within Circles: Everything’s Interconnected

  1. calmgrove says:

    As a retired class music teacher I heartily concur. In UK primary education most subject areas were taught by one teacher, and pupils used to do projects showing the interrelatedness of everything. In secondary education students were suddenly taught discrete subjects by specialists and those links were soon severed — and primary education has followed the trend.

    And yet, as you point out, everything is related. You can’t effectively study music without reference to history, geography, language and literature; maths and physics underpin its functioning; composers plunder art and drama and dance as inspiration; psychology explains its appeal, biology and physical effort and socialising are intimately associated. I was infinitely frustrated by student comments about ‘why are we doing history?’ when discussing context or ‘how does this help us pass the exam?’ Teaching piano privately has help restore my love of tutoring where the education system destroyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lordtaltos says:

      That “why are we doing X?” got to me as an instructor. In comp, I often infused historical context, social examples, and such. Both then and now as a tutor, I often get the “I’m in physics/nursing/whatever, why do I need composition or ?” I don’t really get it on a visceral level, on an intellectual level I understand the reasoning but I don’t get it.


      • calmgrove says:

        I suppose it’s because some of us in education have intellectual curiosity, and we find it hard to emotionally comprehend why many of those we teach (and even some colleagues) are so myopic as to exclude anything that seems irrelevant.

        Liked by 1 person

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