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When we begin to learn something, we learn it in caricatures. When it comes time to make decisions and live with them, we need a more accurate perception of reality. This applies to everything from math to history to the spiritual life.

The challenge of the mentor, teacher, or coach is to know what caricatures the learners have learned and to stretch them to the next degree of perception.

The challenge for the learner is to admit that he is thinking in caricatures of reality and to be willing to adapt the caricature to a more accurate, precise, and adaptable understanding of the nature of the thing studied, the parts of that thing, the relations of the parts, the relations between the thing and other things, and whatever else leads to an understanding that is more true and actionable than the caricature.

That is why political caricatures, for example, are both so powerful and so misleading. Beyond a certain scale, I don’t know how we can think about politics in anything but caricatures, which is to say, inaccurately.

The point and benefit of discussion (especially with those you disagree with) is not to win an argument or expose the other’s folly, but to help each participant move from caricature to something more real.

Yet we cannot learn anything without starting with the caricature.

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