July 04th, 2015
Losing an argument leads to career
I’ve now traveled or lived in more than 30 countries, from India, Egypt, Gaza and Iraq, to Guatemala, Peru, Nicaragua and soon, Thailand. But it didn’t start out that way. Not even close.
I grew up in Spokane, Washington, “heart of the Inland Empire”, and I believed that was quite enough, thank you. The farthest east I had traveled by the time I was 29 was Denver, Colorado. When my wife first proposed that we fly to Israel to see a kibbutz community where she had once lived, I thought she was nuts.
“Hey, there are parts of the United States I have never even been too, honey. How about we start there?” She was not persuaded.
What does cause some of us to seek out the unknown, and others to shrink from it?
Jaak Panksepp, a leading neuroscientist at Washington State University has studied this issue for decades through extensive animal research. Seven ancient instincts, in his view, drive the human being: SEEKING, ANGER, PANIC-GRIEF, MATERNAL CARE, PLEASURE/LUST, AND PLAY. And of these, SEEKING is the underpinning driver. When that instinct is diminished, we often experience depression.
I find that my teaching today is driven by the desire to stimulate the SEEKING instinct in students. I want them to develop an unquenchable thirst for understanding how other people “tick”, especially those that seem to be radically different from themselves. Then I want them to develop the talent to investigate and peel back the layers on the surface, and see what lies deep beneath. Not just in others, but in themselves.
Some students will initially only travel this road kicking and screaming. Just like me. Some will do it if the incentives (bonus points toward an “A”) are particularly attractive. But once that SEEKING instinct kicks in, But once that SEEKING instinct kicks in, it’s like a powerful drug that keeps you coming back for more.
This is not the only argument I have lost in my life, but it is one of the most rewarding ones.
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Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.