The first time

I love yesterday’s xkcd:

I also like the alt-tag: ‘Saying “What kind of idiot doesn’t know about the Yellowstone supervolcano?” is so much more boring than telling someone about the Yellowstone supervolcano for the first time.’

I think this constitutes most of the joy of teaching. Neville spent a bit of time earlier this year teaching schoolkids about cryptography. I’m sure a lot of what he said would be obvious for someone like me or my other EE/CS friends. But for the children hearing about it for the first time, it would have been new and exciting. And Nev probably relived those moments when he was learning about it for the first time. Which is why it was exciting for him.

I have had the same thought that the comic describes in the context of jokes. A lot of jokes have become so cliched and stale for us, but there’s always a group of people, at a certain age group, who haven’t heard them before. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch them laugh at those jokes when they’re hearing about it for the first time?

Ditto with books and movies and music. Some books grow on you, but many others are winners the first time you watch them. Take a song like Hotel California. Does anyone listen to it any more? – certainly not the people I hang out with; we’ve all heard it so many times I guess we’re a bit sick of it. But there’s someone there, who’s 14 or 15, who hasn’t heard it before, and think how marvelous it would be to see that person listening to it for the first time – joining the club, in some sense, of those who have derived pleasure from something like that.

In the quest for newness, Shakespeare’s line is true: “…time is like a fashionable host, that slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand, and with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly, grasps in the comer.” Always we need new experiences and enjoyments to thrill us; always things drop out of fashion. But at any time, and in all things, there are always other people who, experiencing something for the first time, feel the same joy as we did, aeons back, when things were new for us also.

PS: I follow xkcd but I far prefer the wicked smbc (www.smbc-comics.com). My favorite xkcd is the one where Zach Weiner did a guest comic on dad-trolling: http://xkcd.com/826/

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One thought on “The first time

  1. I listen to ‘Hotel California’ all the time. In fact, I listened to it even today!

    I agree with your thought though – I often imagine how somebody reading Wodehouse for the first time would feel.

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