Why do I learn?

there-is-no-finish-lineTo be very frank – I’ve been going through a rough patch. Can’t run anymore, feeling half my normal self. Just not up to things and just not sparking as I always did.

I’ve been reading, as I do when I step back in order to jump ahead. Came across an old essay I laminated, by George Sheehan about running. I’d look at it day in and day out over the years and it always gave me sustenance. Its magic will do so again I believe.

I remix it here for you. About learning. The original is about running but the same applies to all us teachers, all us learners. If we stop learning, we die, we shrivel up. I think at the end of the day, I ran because I learned so much while running – so much was I in my homeless mind!

So here it is for your enjoyment. Thank you George!

Why Do I Learn?

Why do I learn? I have written over the years of the benefits I receive from learning. Enumerated the physical and mental changes. Listed the emotional and spiritual gains. Charted the improvement that has taken place in my person and my life. What I have not emphasized is how transient these values and virtues are.

With just a little thought, however, it should be evident that physical laws parallel those of the mind and the spirit. We know that the effects of learning are temporary. I cannot put learning in the bank. If not curious, I will become dull witted in even less time than it took me to get in learning shape. And since my entire persona is influenced by continual learning, I must be constantly curious. Otherwise the sedentary minded life will inexorably reduce my mental and emotional well-being.

So, I learn each day to preserve the self I attained the day before. And coupled with this is the desire to secure the self yet to be. There can be no let up. If I do not learn I will eventually lose all I have gained-and my future with it.

Maintenance was a favorite topic of Eric Hoffer. It made the difference, said the former longshoreman, between a country that was successful and one that failed. However magnificent the achievement, without constant care the result was decay.

I know the experience intimately. There is nothing more brief than a laurel. Victory is of the moment. It must be followed by another victory and then another. I have to learn just to stay in place.

Excellence is not a diploma attained and put in a trophy case. It is not sought after, achieved and, thereafter, a steady state. It is a momentary phenomenon, a rare conjunction of body, mind, and spirit at one’s peak. Should I come to that peak I cannot stay there. I must start each day at the bottom and climb to the top. And then beyond that peak to another and yet another. I must keep learning.

Through learning I have learned what I can be and do. My body is now sensitive to the slightest change. It is particularly aware of any decline or decay. I can feel this lessening of the “me” that I have come to think of myself.

Learning has made this new me. Taken the raw material and honed it and delivered it back ready to do the work of a human being. I learn so I do not lose the me I was yesterday and the me I might become tomorrow.

by Dr. George Sheehan

Like this? Try this article Keeping Going or this about a running lesson. 

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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