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A brief look at our ability to learn

Disha Kathuria
20th Jul 2017
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We humans have the ability to learn, a trait we share with the animal kingdom. While animals possess the intelligence to learn things that can be taught to them, humans are bestowed with a higher intelligence – the mind. The mind allows us to assess those things that come to us as lessons, and to make a conscious choice between applying those lessons in our lives or rejecting them. Our intention to accept and apply the lessons or to reject them defines our character. And our character plays a role, more significant than we seldom fathom, in the state the world is in today. This, perhaps, is the reason why our world is constantly in a state of conflict, oppression, poverty, inequality, and suffering of all kinds.

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

It is ironical that even as institutions of learning are mushrooming all around us, man has yet not found the wisdom to be at peace with himself and others. Are our institutions crippling our ability to learn by channelising it towards just career and wealth? Is it possible to redeem our power to learn from the myopic and selfish motives that drive us into conflicts and wars? Can we learn (all over again) to reform the world and to make it a happy, prosperous, and plentiful place for each and every single life that lives on Earth? Perhaps we can. Striving to gather a full understanding of our power to learn would probably be a good starting point to find solutions to the many problems that are plaguing our world today.

The two components of learning

To learn anything, the two pre-requisites are information and understanding. When information meets understanding, learning happens. While information comes to us from external sources, understanding is an inner faculty that's applied of one's own volition. Therefore, no amount of information, even from the most prestigious institutions or the most important books, can ensure learning.

Learning is limitless

Society has overwhelmingly limited, even twisted, our understanding of learning. Today, we are left to choose a narrowed down stream and acquire all knowledge in the field of our choice. Even the choices we make are dictated by many factors, like family, financial standing, governmental policies, and so on. What this has led to is a whole lot of experts who know a lot about a few isolated things. To make sense of life and find a way out of wars, disharmony, oppression, inequality, and conflicts is still a big challenge with all our experts and expertise. Learning is a lifelong process. In many ancient cultures, learning was considered to continue beyond the point of death.

Teaching is a part of learning

It is believed that we that teach best that which we set out to learn ourselves. Teaching, today, is considered to be the responsibility of a few people certified to do so. However, in truth, everybody has something to teach, to share, to build and create. The more we open ourselves to teaching and learning from one another, the closer we will come together to fight the evils plaguing our society today.

As the saying goes, education is the progressive discovery of our ignorance. If we set out with an objective to learn all that life has to offer – from ancient mystery traditions to the most modern technology – in pursuit of peace and joy and fulfilment for one and all, the lessons that will come our way would give us the wisdom to do far greater things than we thought we are capable of.

Also read: 7 x 1 = 7, 7 x 2 = 14: isn’t education more than just learning by heart?

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