Fox: Let's all learn the lessons of life

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although Emerson lived almost 200 years ago, the well-known author could well have been talking about life in 21st-century Marshall County. As school gets back in session this week -- today is the first full day of classes -- it's always important to remember the value of education.

And these days, education should never be more valued.

Most people think of education as a means to an end. In other words, it's a way to land a job: Graduate high school. Go to college and/or a trade school. Perhaps complete an accredited course. Anything that makes yourself more valuable in your chosen trade.

From there, some people think, education stops. We pigeon-hole ourselves into what we do, striving for knowledge in that chosen field. And in many ways, that's OK. Sometimes, we're in professions we love so much that we find something every day that's exciting and new.

Oftentimes, learning requires us to stray outside our comfort zone -- and who wants to do that? Not when there's serious work to be done. Especially for those of us trying to balance parenthood, family, work and other commitments.

It's a natural reflex. But we've got to learn -- if nothing else, it's our natural state.

-- Learning gives us a range of perspectives, which always makes us healthier.

-- Learning helps us more easily and readily adapt to new situations. Which is good, because life always changes.

-- Learning makes us more confident.

-- Learning instills an understanding of the historical, social, and natural processes that impact and limit our lives.

And it's only fair that we learn. We ask our kids to learn every day.

I'm not talking about trivia. Knowing how many bones are in a squirrel's hand might be nice, but it has no practical value.

I'm talking about learning from each other. Take the time to go learn something new about a family member, something you didn't know before. Take the time to learn a friend's values and beliefs. Exchange ideas. Figure out where that person's coming from.

If you're feeling adventurous, check out Columbia State's Lewisburg campus for a host of subjects. Take a class. Meet people. Exercise your brain.

The other day, one of my friends from high school asked me who my favorite teachers were. There were several who came to mind, and I tried to find a common thread among them, because they all taught different subjects and they all had different styles.

It finally hit me, though: The biggest thing all of them had in common was that they didn't fall for the myth that learning is a one-way street, or that it ever stops. While they were enthused about teaching, they were just as enthused to learn from us.

So while I have always loved the book, "Everything I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten," the title's premise really isn't true. While that book extolls the virtues of fair play, the wisdom of sharing and the practicality of flushing, life in 21st-century Marshall County is a little more complicated.

Fortunately, we can all learn to cope.