“Is this on the test?”
How many of us went through our lives asking this question? It is only worth learning if we will need the information for a grade.
Otherwise, do we really need to know it?
The opposite of this idea is learning for the sake of learning. Lifelong learning. Taking chances. Making mistakes. Asking a question in a meeting at work and not worrying about whether it makes you look bad for not knowing the answer.
I read this passage in Yuval Noah Hurari’s Sapiens this week and it made me gasp.
He writes, “In 1831, the Royal Navy sent the ship HMS Beagle to map the coasts of South America, the Falkland Islands and the Galapagos Islands. The navy needed this knowledge in order to be better prepared in the event of war. The ship’s captain, who was an amateur scientist, decided to add a geologist to the expedition to study geological formations they might encounter on the way. After several professional geologists refused his invitation, the captain offered the job to a twenty-two-year-old Cambridge graduate, Charles Darwin.”
They did not need the geological information specifically, but they were curious enough to add a young man to the ship list who ended up writing the theory of evolution based on his findings. And that student was curious enough to take the opportunity to jump on a ship and see what he might learn.
What can we be more curious about? What book could we read that covers a topic that interests us or something we know nothing about? What questions can we ask? What Zoom events can we join where we might learn something new, meet people outside our regular scene, or have a chance to get feedback on our own story?
The more I know, the less I know. But as author William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
How can we light our own fire this week? And what will we do with the flames?