The art of learning

My grandmother amazes me. She is 91 years old and has remained quite sharp over the years. Nothing seems to overwhelm or intimidate her. As technology has proliferated through society, she has adapted enough to stay relevant. She emails, designs and prints her own greetings cards, and she volunteers daily at her church almost to the point of it being a full blown job. I admire her so much.

That is how I want to be for the rest of my years. Unafraid to learn new things in order to adapt and remain capable in an ever changing world. Eric Hoffer, writer and philosopher, said that “in a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in world that no longer exists.” To be a forever student of life and all of it’s wonders–that is my desire.

My boys and I recently had a conversation about George Washington Carver, the scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Carver discovered, through rigorous research and testing, over 200 uses for peanuts in order to provide crops alternatives to cotton for the southern United States during the Reconstruction period. Referred to as the “Black Leonardo” (as in Leonardo Da Vinci), he never gave up in his pursuit to assist his fellow Americans in rebuilding their lives following the destruction of the Civil War. Carver never stooped learning and discovering.

I fear that in our information age, we have lost the ability to truly learn, because to learn is to discover truth for ourselves. I am currently preparing to take the GRE for entrance to grad school. The test material covers hundreds of words I did not know existed and math facts I have long since forgotten since I merely memorized them in order to pass a class. I had not an ounce of care or interest in learning these facts for myself. My goal was to finish school, not to understand geometric theories. I have found that I learn most effectively when I discover the answer for myself…when the truth is unearthed as I dig through the fertile grounds of knowledge. But nobody can do that for me but me. No parent, teacher, or mentor can teach me the wonders of this world if I do not pursue what it is that is before me.

I honestly feel a bit like a hypocrite here because I know I have missed the art of learning. I get so caught up in myself that I do not take time to be curious and explore the hidden treasures around me. I have heard it said that busyness is the enemy to intimacy. I also add that it is the enemy to true personal growth. It is time to take a moment, slow down, and just be. Out of the silence can emerge a wonderful new outlook on life, almost like putting on a new pair of glasses that help you see the riches around you.

So here is to the art of leaning. May we remember to explore again, to keep our eyes, minds, and hearts open to the input flowing in from around us.

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