I was chatting away to a girl at work this morning. She looked exhausted and I asked why. She told me that it was exam time. She is studying part time at University and she told me that she has been burning the midnight oil studying and cramming. She told me that she was endeavouring to to stuff her brain with facts that she might be examined on.
I remember such times even though they were long ago. I asked her whether she enjoyed acquiring knowledge and learning new things. She looked aghast and shocked and horrified. Her answer was an emphatic 'No".
When I pushed further, trying to find out why she would work so hard for something that that bought no enjoyment, she looked puzzled and confused. She looked bamboozled. She is young and inexperienced in life. Puzzlement is a common expression of youth these days when asked questions of substance - as is bamboozlement.
After a while she told me that doing well in her exams would make her parents happy and it would get her a promotion at work then she would be paid more. It was therefore learning for others and not for herself. I thought this was strange.
However who am I to judge?
I have forgotten pretty much all that I learnt at school and University and most of what I learnt isn't relevant to what I do now. In my career or in my life.
It never really was.
Studying was more of a discipline and that is a good thing. Formal education rarely teaches one how to connect with people or how to communicate. Perhaps some courses do but not the one's that I took.
Learning - as an adult - needs to be enjoyable and it needs to be attached to desire. There are of course fundamentals for children such as reading and writing and establishing a moral code. Developing minds need to be taught the difference between what is right and what is wrong. This learning continues throughout adulthood and we have the capacity to learn something new every day.
I look to the great philosophers for their perspective on this and this concept of learning and how it ties in with the acquisition of Wisdom. I seek out the views of Writers and Poets and Artisans and Eminem.
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up. Please stand up.
E.M Forster wrote:
“Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon.”
Nicely said E.M.
Natalie Portman agrees and penned:
“I don't love studying. I hate studying. I like learning. Learning is beautiful.”
Heed this my Singaporean friend.
Da Vinci had a few crackers that are real pearls of wisdom:
“The knowledge of all things is possible” he wrote and:
“Learning never exhausts the mind.”
The gentle and more humble Mahatma Gandhi says much the same thing with great humility and hubris:
“The expert knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.”
I love this. Knowing everything about nothing.
The genius Albert Einstein wrote:
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
I would never argue against Albert. He was a very smart cookie.
My favorite life philosopher, Czeslaw Milosz, described learning as:
" .... to believe you are magnificent. Then to gradually to discover that you are not magnificent. This is enough labor for one human life.”
“A man, though wise, should never be ashamed of learning more, and must unbend his mind.”
I am going to try and explain these thoughts and concepts to my exhausted Singaporean friend.