Thoughts Along the Path . . .
Though I have no children in my household, I still feel part of the “back to school” season. Obvious reminders include yards and parks looking like autumn, the closing of summertime events and facilities such as local splash pads and music in the park, advertisements about school supplies, and children and youth waiting for buses or walking together to-from school. Earlier today my husband John was in a bakery near a high school and saw a large group of teens buying lots of fresh cookies — though hopefully their lunch included more than just baked treats.
I do wonder though if school really ends and then re-starts. For children and youth, learning happens over the summer break, just as it happens away from the physical school location during the official school year. Perhaps “school” literally starts-stops every year, but learning does not.
What is the purpose of school anyway? Far more than merely preparation for jobs and careers, during our school years we learn how to contribute to society and how to make our way through life. Surely this is not just for the young but rather is a process we never outgrow, something that doesn’t stop just because we are finished with structured schooling. Life itself educates us, and our experiences give meaning to what we do every day.
I enjoy learning, sometimes through scheduled classes and discussion groups. Most of my learning is less formal — reading books, watching films, subscribing to newspapers and newsletters, discussing ideas with others, researching questions, or listening to podcasts. How do you like to learn? What do you do with what you have learned?
Sometimes we are faced with troubles, and the effort to get through the day is in and of itself full of learning and tests. These tests do not result in a report card but rather in a process of self-evaluation. We ask ourselves what we learned through all of it and whether we ended up stronger and wiser. This means we can learn through feeling grateful, sharing our lives, and sincerely asking others what they are learning, too.
Every day we have the opportunity to learn and grow, pass or fail, build or try again. And every evening we can reflect on how it all went, tests included. I can think about what I accomplished, what I learned, and how I made decisions about how to live. From the Baha’i writings: “Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning.”
If a day doesn’t present tests, perhaps we have the equivalent of “pop quizzes” instead. Similar to what happens in school, we are sometimes surprised by troubles, challenges, consequences, and opportunities. We ask ourselves “wow, where did that come from?” and then, regardless of the answer, we are compelled to respond.
Whether my day is filled with great or small tasks, I can adopt an attitude of continuous learning. When I use what I learn to help others and our planet, if I base my actions on principles such as justice and honour, then I am fulfilling this advice from the Baha’i writings: “Let deeds not words be your adorning.” That being the case, I will have passed both my quizzes and my tests. My education will never end, and I can live every day open to learning even more.
Submitted to Ayr News by Jaellayna Palmer, September 2022
© Jaellayna Palmer 2022