Monday, December 07, 2009

The quest for knowledge, and learning today

Mark Schwehn's Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America:

"The quest for knowledge of the truth, if it takes place in a context of communal conversation, involved the testing of our own opinions. And we must, of course, be willing to give up what we think we know for what is true, if genuine learning is to take place. At times, this will be easy, as when we learn that we were mistaken about some geographical detail or another. But much of our self-knowledge as well as our beliefs about what is truly good for us are not simply matters of what we know but matters of who we are. We thus often risk ourselves when we test our ideas."

I read this quote after following a link on Paul Harvey's post (Risk, Wisdom, and Education), which quoted John Fea's blog essay What is a Liberal Arts Education? Risk and Wisdom. I am always interested in people's ideas about what learning truly is. I've changed my thoughts and understanding of learning during my lifetime. I've always appreciated learning at some levels, and enjoyed it. Still, as I've learned more (to expand my mind-fields), I've deepened my understanding of learning as the conscious integration of knowledge which becomes our active (dynamic) truth of that moment.

I've explored the same thoughts that some of the students quoted here have expressed. It's an odd idea, really - we believe we are expressing our individualism, our "freedom of speech," our Rights, when we say we are offended by something, as students, and demand to choose for ourselves. It's a fascinating pattern, I think - for me, because I have not had children, I suppose I gain from this in a way parents already know. This inherent pattern of parents teaching children, of children being either open or resistant to learning, the dynamics of same, continues and repeats itself in so many ways. The rebellious adolescent mind does not want to be "told what to do." I am belligerent in my demand for my rights, for my self-expression. Yet until I mature my own mind, my self-expression and my expression of my rights are not tempered with the love (Ethical Values) which guide a truly mature and wise mind.

As Paul wrote in his post, "it's a strange sense of entitlement indeed, to demand not to be educated in literature, in a class on literature. " I see this parallel in life - and, as Kathy Oddenino wrote in her books: we think we are open to learning but we resist being taught. I have certainly lived with this attitude, and I thought about it when I taught literature to students too. Applying this to life in general, and to what Spiritual Philosophy has taught me, I recognize this pattern as one we, as humans, created as a way to "grow up." We have to be open-minded to question our perceptions, our beliefs - about ourselves, about life, about love, about death, about change, about learning. We have to want to THINK!

The passion for learning, which is based in love, makes learning, and therefore living, a joy. This would have sounded trite to me at one time; or, I might have thought I understood it, without really thinking about it further. As my heart opens to the vicissitudes of life (experience, including the smiles which come as morning breaks open, the sadness I share in my own or a friend's loss, the scare of the vulnerability of death as we know it, the absolute joy of the love in true friendship, the refreshment of the first taste of bold organic coffee in the morning), I appreciate the creation of context all the more. With each choice, I create.

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