Monday, May 31, 2010

Learning instead of consuming

The following passage, quoted in Gordon T. Smith's Courage & Calling, stuck out to me during a day of reading yesterday:

"Learning is perhaps the only pleasure that might replace increasing consumption as our chosen mode of enriching experience. Someday, the joy of recognizing a pattern in a leaf or the geological strata in a cliff face might replace the satisfactions of new carpeting or more horsepower in an engine, and the chance to learn in the workplace might seem more valuable than increased purchasing power or a move up the organizational chart."

Smith goes on to comment:
"But this will only come about, as Bateson implies, when we come to see knowledge as a source of delight rather than as a means of power. We enjoy learning because we enjoy discovery, the expansion of heart and mind, and growth in wisdom, not merely because it is a means by which we can accomplish something."

There's something revolutionary about the idea of replacing consumption with learning. We spend so much time acquiring stuff, much of it entertainment--pursued not for knowledge and discovery, but for mindless filling of time.

I fall into consumption even while ostensibly pursuing learning--way more often than I'd like to admit. I miss the nourishment of discovery when I binge instead of taking time to savor, to absorb and reflect on the stories I take in. How different would it be to pursue learning, "expansion of heart and mind, and growth in wisdom" instead of escape? I wish I could say I always read this way. Sometimes, but not enough.

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