In pursuit of lifelong learning

In pursuit of lifelong learning

One of the best things about growing up is that you no longer need to learn by rote for exams. The learning needn’t stop though; you can dare to be a lifelong learner, urges Reethika Azariah Kuruvilla .

You are stuck in traffic; the radio jockey is talking about some toilets in Sochi. You are not really paying attention, but there’s a tiny, lingering part of your brain that wonders where Sochi really is on the map. While Geography may never have been your forte, it doesn’t hurt to whip out the smart phone and do some quick reading on the Russian topography.

Learning something new is not really that difficult, especially in today’s day and age. Instead of searching for that all-elusive Peepal tree and eternal enlightenment, it’s prudent to start with simple things.

As your child burns the midnight oil this exam season, you could brush up on some lessons too. If you look beyond those CECs (Continuing Education Credits), your life’s education can be as simple as learning through the rest of your life. Every new experience, every new person you meet, every conversation, and practically, every   article you read has something new to offer, something you may not have known before. Provided you have a receptive mind.

There’s no great universal call for all humanity to become ‘opsimaths’ (an opsimath is somebody who begins or continues to study until late in life). But there’s certainly a whole lot of good in never ceasing to learn. Eartha Kitt, the late American television actress, put it beautifully: “I am learning all the time and my tombstone will be my diploma.”

The good thing about growing up and finally finishing formal education is that you no longer have to be forced to sit at a desk to mug up something you aren’t       interested in. Once you realise that you can learn things for the sheer joy of      finding out more, it becomes an enjoyable journey of following your curiosity.

There’s no clear-cut free-size system to educate yourself or your children. You need to build a nurtured home where learning is encouraged and appreciated. After all, it’s not just good grades that count.

Encourage reading without the goal of having to answer questions about the book - read for the sheer pleasure of finding out what happens between those pages. Let children know that what is learnt in the classrooms can actually be practised outside in the real world. Show them how a transformer works and where electricity comes from. Encourage  them to be curious about how things are made and celebrate new discoveries - looking at a bird’s nest in the garden or watching the refraction of light in a bucket of water. Learning soon becomes a natural process, an extension of who you are.

As Descartes, the French philosopher, mathematician and writer, so aptly said, “I think, therefore I am.”

 Constant learning not only keeps you up-to-date on a varied number of topics, but also helps you stay intellectually healthy.

According to the American Alzheimer’s Association, “keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s.” While experts cannot positively explain why there is such a connection, they   reckon it could possibly be due to the      social and mental stimulation, during learning, that protect the brain.
There’s, arguably, no better way to      ensure that one’s life is more worthwhile and enriching than making a conscious effort to make each and every experience count as a life lesson.

n  Challenge yourself; raise the bar  higher on how much more you can achieve. For instance, if you are a fairly good sudoku player at the medium level, try the more difficult ‘evil sudoku’ puzzle. You could do it on your commute to work and see how quickly you can master one of those challenges.

n  If dancing is something you have       always wanted to try, but haven’t, due to some unexplained fear, sign up for a  salsa session. There’s always something liberating about learning how to put your left foot behind the right and looking graceful while you’re at it. 

n  Download those news applications and interesting blogs. There’s more to free time than mere candy crushing and pelting angry birds. Use your free time to read about current affairs and the state of the world outside your home and office. The more you know you      realise that there’s so much more you don’t know. 

n  Engage in a new hobby every now and then. Keep your interests varied so that you don’t quit on account of boredom. Take up a course in Tanjore painting, photography, just about           anything that interests you. There’s no age for learning. Keep your creative juices flowing. If fitness is what gets you going, make time to incorporate a jazzercise or zumba routine into your workout at least once a week.

n  Find out more about things you don’t know. Although it’s often hard to imagine a world without Google, use it for the reason it was developed in the first place. Find out more about something that’s happening around the world. Know a little bit more today than you did yesterday and then make sure you know even more tomorrow.  Find out why the four-lane road in your city cannot be extended and who those farmers are who might lose their land.

n  Surround yourself with smart people from whom you can keep learning new things – the people you spend time with make a big impact on your outlook       towards the world. Such people keep you on your toes.

Speaking of how he picked up a new subject every three or four years, ranging from Japanese art to economics, Peter F Drucker, the management expert, once said “Knowledge has to be improved, challenged and increased constantly, or it vanishes”. While you may not aspire to be a management guru or an opsimath, it will, undoubtedly, do you a world of good to dare to go beyond what you           already know. Dare to be a lifelong     learner.

‘Disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus’ That’s Latin for learn as if you’re going to live, and live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.

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