Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Time and Freedom to Learn

Yesterday afternoon, a former student posed a question to all of his friends and family on facebook: What would you learn if you were given the time and freedom to learn it? There were a variety of splendid responses to this question, ranging from foreign language to carpentry.   The responses were enjoyable to read, and created in me a renewed desire to gain more knowledge and skills. 

I, myself, feel I am constantly learning and growing.  I have a strong desire for knowledge, which is one of the primary reasons I am such an avid reader.  Even in fiction, there are universal truths to be learned and much to be discovered of different cultures and perspectives.  While most individuals left one sentence responses to the above question, my response was as follows:

Foremost, I would become a more skilled wine aficionado.  I would like to speak a foreign language fluently.  I would learn to be a better gardener and be more self-sufficient.  I would like to learn to build and craft items – to become more skilled with my hands.  I would also like to learn more about publishing so that I can pursue writing more devotedly.  I would learn more about foreign affairs, mythology, and philosophy. I would like to finish reading all of Anais Nin’s and Virginia Woolf’s diaries.  I would also like to write a thesis that fully analyzes every author mention and text allusion in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  You know, just a few things.  I’m always thirsty for knowledge, and constantly reading and learning.   
After leaving such a lengthy response, this particular status update still made me pause to consider life and the lessons I so hope to gain from it.  First, I wondered what was truly preventing me from gaining the aforementioned skills and talents.  The most basic answer is time.  Another reason is that my list of interests and knowledge sought is so extensive that other areas have taken priority.  One of the other reasons I haven’t learned all I want from books or manuals is that I have been busy simply living and loving.  I would far rather have my arms wrapped around my son and watch him smile than learn mechanics or carpentry, although both are valuable skills.  However, another truth is that there are some skills I wish I could attain without the work.  I don’t really want to learn reupholstery, for example; I just wish I innately knew how to do it so I could cover the ugly, old, inherited side chair my husband insists on keeping in our basement. 

Upon reflection regarding the reasons we hesitate to gain desired knowledge, I then considered all that I would love to learn, or, more honestly sometimes, simply know.  While a complete list would probably be too extensive, I decided to here list 20 things (in addition to those above) I would learn given the time and freedom:

1.       I would learn how to sew, so I can hem up every single pair of jeans that is too long for me rather than still depending on my mother.

2.       I would learn to play piano, so I can pass this skill onto my children
     who have each expressed a deep interest in music.

3.       I would learn to read music; I’m ashamed that I don’t possess
  this skill after four years of senior choir.

4.       I would learn how to drywall, so that I could complete the
  necessary work in our basement.

5.       I would learn how to speak Spanish fluently, as I have honestly
   learned more from watching Dora the Explorer than I ever did in
  my high school foreign language courses.

6.       I would learn to speak Italian, so that I might enjoy the country more fully when I (hopefully) travel there in the future.

7.       I would learn more about the saints.  I want to understand why each is significant.

8.       I would learn more about politics so that I can more soundly support all of my beliefs and opinions.

9.       I would learn more about foreign affairs and world cultures, as such knowledge creates a more well-rounded, empathetic individual.

      10.   I would learn pottery, as I so admire the work of other artists and all they create with their own two hands.

      11.   I would learn sign language so that I might communicate more effectively with those with differing abilities.

     12.   I would learn basic auto mechanics, so that I am more self-sufficient and less dependent on others.

      13.   I would learn more about the publishing industry, so that I feel more comfortable sharing a completed manuscript.

14.   I would learn more about Ernest Hemingway, whose “swagger” fascinates me, thus more enjoying my (hopeful) future travels to Key West and Paris to visit some of Hemingway’s old haunts.

15.   I would learn more of ancient Greece and the early philosophers.

16.   I would learn more about social media and marketing, so that I could better promote my passion.

17.   I would learn about computer programming and html so that I could create my own blog badge, and other such basic skills that yet confound me.

18.   I would learn geography; I honestly can’t even correctly identify
       the fifty states on a blank map, and I only know a handful of state capitols.
19.   I would learn the dates of all my in-law’s birthdays, as my
       husband can’t remember and I have never recorded it, which
       leads to an inevitable argument after he has once again
       forgotten his mother’s birthday and made us both look bad.

20.   I would learn more about birds and flowers, so that I can
       correctly identify each species and plant when my young daughter
       inquires about them with interest.

And, now, I present the same question to you:  What would you learn if you were given the time and freedom to learn it?  Please comment and then go forth and accomplish your learning goals!

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