In the beginning was experience.
Man is conscious before he becomes self-conscious. As self-consciousness fitfully dawns, the individual is already there: sleeping and waking; growing hungry and seeking ways to satisfy himself; responding to cold and heat, pain and pleasure; growing bored and restless and seeking diversion or fatigued and seeking rest. As he becomes self-conscious, he finds his life entwined with those of others, many of whom have power to satisfy or frustrate him. He discovers himself seeking ways to win them to his causes; he basks in their approval; he shivers in the cloud-cold of their disapproval. The day may even come when he generalizes this: Socialization is a transformation that individuals largely carry out upon themselves.
Experience, the primary reality, always comes in particulars: this moment; this occasion; this person; this face; this smile or frown; this pain or pleasure. Fortunately one particular experience is often very like another, so an individual is able in some measure to anticipate and grow more effective in time. But in the procession of incidents from day to day, however similar, one is never quite identical to another and there are always breaks and discordances. Success in the many enterprises an individual discovers himself engaged in as he becomes self-conscious, depends largely upon ability to extract similarities from differences, generalizing them into tools for the mastery of new experience. In fact, self-consciousness and the process of extracting generalizations from particular cases often come together. And some persons with more knowledge and experience and with a special relationship to the individual, often prove to have at hand a store of generalizations. Particularly when experience collapses and falls in on the individual, parents, relatives, older friends, or teachers quote sayings or proverbs that apply to experience like his own or they tell him stories that suggest strategies for outwitting disaster.
The individual will not be long in discovering that in the wider ongoing world of men vital information may be found on almost anything if only he will take