Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.
-Abigail Adams, 1780
There's something so dispirited... so sad, I think, to a school that no longer fosters learning... that no longer welcomes new ideas and lessons and hobbies.
I was standing in the knitting aisle of Hobby Lobby when a woman close by startled me with a question.
"Which size needles would you use for this?" she asked, holding up a picture of a knitted baby bag.
Surprised, I answered her, to which she replied, "Thank you. I'm just learning to knit, and still don't know all the rules."
There was nothing spectacular about that brief exchange- save for the fact that the woman couldn't have been a day younger than 80. Really. And there she was, learning to knit.
She's my hero. I don't know that woman's name, but she's my hero. I get the feeling she's a true Renaissance woman. She has something I aspire to: a unappeasable desire to learn - an insatiable yearning to do - that apparently hasn't relented with age or time.
It's strange how we all graduate from school, start jobs (or families), and figure that our days of intensive learning are over. After all, we have diplomas on the wall... see? Or we've potty-trained kids and done half their homework for years... see? No, that's not the type of learning I mean. I'm talking about the type of education... the type of knowledge... that rounds-out your list of abilities. That shoots your capable-quotient to the moon.
What are we good at? Lots of different things. Maybe you can drive a stick shift. (I can't.) Or maybe you can speak French fluently. (I'm still working on my English.) Or maybe you make jewelry. Or cabinets. Or really great jazz. (I can't, can't, and don't.) Good for you. Your personal resume is varied already. But... isn't there more? Isn't there something... beyond what you can do now... that would delight you? Thrill you? Fulfill you?
I'd love to learn to make great chili. I'd love to learn to dance. (Right now, I do a great Elaine from Seinfeld.) I'd love to learn Italian... and how to properly fold a fitted sheet. I want to conquer the violin... the guitar... the art of gift-giving. I want to discover the beauty of all our national parks. I want to learn to string Christmas lights without losing my temper. I want to make the best Peach Salsa in the world. I need to re-learn beloved songs from my childhood and save them up for my kids.
I know. Call me old school. Diagnose me with Adult ADD. Whatever. There are just so many things out there to learn. There's so much out there to explore - to seek 'for with ardor and attend to with diligence'.
This abandoned school off a lonely Kansas road troubled me somehow. I took a picture of it to remind myself to keep learning. To remind myself of the 80-year old knitting student.
After all - there's something so dispirited... so sad, I think, to a person who no longer fosters learning... who no longer welcomes new ideas and lessons and hobbies....