Grateful Dead ~ Black-Throated Wind
Learning takes courage. It is humbling to admit that you do not know. And it is impossible to learn what you don’t want to know. Learning affects the ego with the possibility that you have been mistaken about a subject you thought you knew, or, it can introduce facts and concepts you’ve never heard before. Uncomfortable, unfamiliar, challenging truths make us confront our biases. Since it is the accumulation of knowledge and experiences that make you, YOU, a metamorphosis akin to an ego-death might be needed to emerge as the new, more enlightened version of YOURSELF.
Learning also requires intelligence, which can be defined as an aptitude for grasping truths. The greater this aptitude, the greater the chance that learning occurs even without specific intentionality. To be sure, there are very smart people who use their intelligence, not in pursuit of truths to grasp, but in devising systems for denying truth and for creating, protecting and propagating lies. To me, using intelligence this way is the essence of evil.
Rather, a good life is built around using intelligence to pursue and discover truth, and once found, to act on it. If a new discovery forces a change of belief, or a change of direction, so be it. How many ideas in your life are you absolutely certain about? How certain are you that you’ve been exposed to all the truth you’ll ever need? It is written that, “Every man’s ways are right in his own eyes.” But that verse is a warning that absolute certainty is a luxury reserved for a very limited handful of truths.
Seeking out, learning, and acting on truth sounds good until you realize it forces you to act like an intellectual nomad. Your concept of self must be fluid and dynamic, as new facts overturn previously staked out beliefs. So, the learner lives in an intellectual tent that can be quickly taken down, moved, set up elsewhere, maybe enlarged, maybe subtracted from. Brick and mortar rigidity is unhelpful here.
There is a kind of false security that comes from past knowledge. But tradition must never become a replacement for truth. Truth can move with us into the present and will guide us into the future. So let those who claim to be learners be courageous and determined to tear down any house of lies they encounter. Ruthlessly reject untruths, falsehoods, and biases as soon as new facts and new information is discovered. Pitch your tent upon newly learned truth.