What Are the Questions?
Ishi had grown up in the wilderness, but when his companions at the anthropology museum asked him to take them back to his old haunts in 1914, he was reluctant. Perhaps he did not want to be reminded of sad memories of his family and tribe, now all dead. But just as likely, he was a different person now. He had been living in San Francisco for three years, dressing and eating as others did, walking along the streets with his new friends, working in and welcoming visitors to the museum and volunteering in the hospital next door. He had seen things, trains and cars and electricity, that he could hardly have imagined as a younger man. Ishi may have had the sense, familiar to most of us, of not being able to go back. Some experiences have profound effects that go beyond incremental improvement of fingering an instrument or wielding a wrench or a kitchen knife. Some experiences seem to create a whole new mind—or, rather, to use the more dynamic verb form, a whole new way of minding, of using our brains to experience the world. Ishi, like all migrants, may have missed his past life terribly, but Ishi the San Francisco resident was no longer that person who showed up at the Oroville slaughterhouse on an August evening in 1911. How could he not have experienced what today we would call a transformation, a personal paradigm shift?
Shifts in how we perceive the world occur because what we experience changes the questions we ask. Seeking answers to questions ...