Re-Learning How to Learn Again
Article ID: 13694
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: February 28th. 2010
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One of the most important assets that teens have is the ability to learn. Not to say that adults can’t learn from being on the Pagan path – as everyone has this opportunity – but with the school life that most teens deal with, dedicating yourself to a spiritual path offers even greater opportunities than the spiritual path itself, but the ability to rethink what learning is and should be about.
Our education system, while it may consist of some of the most amazing teachers and introduce you to some great peers, mainly focuses on ‘right’ answers. Thus, when most young adults start out on the path, they begin to dig up the ‘right’ information from the ‘right’ books and the ‘right’ people to find the ‘right’ correspondences, ‘right’ Gods, ‘right’ Goddesses, ‘right’ Sabbats, ‘right’ Rituals, and so on. It’s essentially no different from a multi-billion dollar elimination TV program that centers around cutting out those with the wrong answers, those that take risks, and students that challenge information without being spoon-fed, and rewards the students that continue to be ‘right’ and produce ‘correct and accurate’ work.
And it’s true in many cases, that this is important. You should have some knowledge of the history of the path that you choose - Or the origins and mythology surrounding the Deity you invoke in ritual. You can’t make everything up as you go along, and it is important to listen to those with more experience. It is always advised to have some logical basis for your practice.
However, there are several things about the ‘right vs. wrong’ mentality that have negative effects on teen practitioners, not just religiously but in other areas as well. We need to wipe the word ‘correct’ from our memories, at least for now.
First, I think it is most important to rid ourselves of things we have learned that hold us back. If you come from a background that makes you uncomfortable with who you are – for your race, gender, religion, appearance, sexuality, or anything at all – the first thing you can do for yourself is teach you to accept yourself.
You have to unlearn all the harmful thoughts that are holding back your further learning. If you believe that you are unintelligent and incapable of dedicating yourself to a path, that belief will follow you subconsciously until you address it straight on, and with the fullest intent to learn self-acceptance.
How we view ourselves is a mirror of how we view the world, and vice versa. Thus, if we view ourselves as being completely open to receiving information and self-definition, then the more we will be able to draw from our experiences. Once we teach ourselves this, we have to teach ourselves that it’s okay to sound foolish, and to be honest you can’t expect to really succeed without making mistakes first. Mistakes are a learning process. While it’s true you don’t want to have too many mistakes at important times, they all have something to teach you.
One of the worst things that have been put into our minds since we were old enough to understand plain English is that asking questions is something we do when we don’t or can’t understand something. Throughout school, we deduce that asking questions is something people do when we aren’t smart enough to understand what we’ve been told. The truth is, to be honest, asking questions is much, much more important than just getting the right answers. Knowing the answer to some questions often means you know how to use a glossary – or Google in some cases.
But asking a question, and not just a “what is this?” question, but “how does that relate to this? What do they share? Is there a reason this is different? Do they have common origins?” shows much more then that you know how to hunt down an answer – It shows evidence of thought. Being able to process what you learn, and look at it from a new and puzzling perspective is the greatest thing we can do on a spiritual path.
The answers to your questions show how you spend your time. The questions you ask show what you think is important to know, and the alternative ways to see things.
Another problem that I have often seen, and not just with teenagers but anyone who is eager to learn, is how we judge information based on who gives it to us. It is true that many authors are more credible than others, and some should be avoided. Some people give false information, whether it’s on purpose or not. But there is no starting point, no milestone that grants you permission for everything you say to be right.
People less experienced then you can teach you a lot, and you probably have lots to teach to those that are more experienced then yourself. For a general example, I’m enrolled in a very advanced English Humanities course, and I have a spectacular teacher. He recently explained to us ... “lots of people think teenagers are a really scary, uncontrollable group of kids.
Especially when you aren’t used to seeing them every day. And then with a class at this level in a school like this, sometimes you wonder if you’re going to walk into a class of seventeen year olds with PhDs. I had that thought the first day I came here to teach, and that fear was realized. I have no doubt that some of you are smarter than me, and I’m a proud teacher to say that you are, and that I can learn from you – But I can still teach you lots of things, because I still have a lot of experience under my belt.”
Education is a lot more then memorizing facts, testing knowledge and moving on. That’s true when you’re looking into Wicca and when you’re doing mundane tasks in school. It’s about the exchange of information, all students have the ability to teach, and all teachers have the ability to learn. No one knows absolutely everything, and no matter how much we know we never really stop learning.
One of the most influential discoveries I have made on the Pagan path was that the greatest information is found in the most unlikely places, sometimes, and that does not necessarily mean it is wrong. What is ‘right’ for us may not be ‘right’ for someone else, and there is no one ‘right’ way to gain information.
The fact is we can learn all sorts of things in unlikely places and from unlikely people, and they are no more ‘wrong’ then credible professors, as long as the things we learn help us grow as people. We can learn all we want from books and teachers, but the best books and teachers out there will tell us that learning is a process we all must go through and that we have to make decisions and search our souls for our own answers, it is a process that cannot be overlooked.
“Not many years ago I began playing the cello. Most people would say that what I am doing is ‘learning to play’ the cello. But these words carry into our minds the strange idea that there exist two very different processes: 1) learning to play the cello; and 2) playing the cello. They imply that I will do the first until I have completed it, at which point I will stop the first process and begin the second; in short, I will go on ‘learning to play’ until I have ‘learned to play’ and then I will begin to play.
Of course, this is nonsense. There are not two processes, but one … What I am slowly learning to do in my music is revive some of the resilience of the exploring and learning of a baby. I have to accept at each moment, as a fact of life, my present skill or lack of skill, and do the best I can, without blaming myself for not being able to do better. I have to be aware of my mistakes and short comings without being ashamed of them. ” -Originally from ‘Never Too Late’, by John Holt, as quoted in ‘Chop Wood, Carry Water’.
We learn not only by reading books and articles, but we learn by gathering opinions and breaking them down, a complex process of analyzing and synthesizing information. It’s not enough to be spoon-fed information and take it without question, but neither is it enough to ignore the advice of those around us. In the end, it is not the books we read, but it is what we make of them in our minds, and the experiences that result from how this information changes our behavior.
It’s important that we make learning about ourselves just as much a priority as we consider learning about Wicca or witchcraft to be, because no matter what we want to learn or what we aim to try, we will always be the common factor in our experiences, and should be open to our own deep experiences, and be aware of how we identify with the world around us.
Copyright: "Not many years ago...without beign ashamed of them." Originally from ‘Never Too Late’, by John Holt, as quoted in ‘Chop Wood, Carry Water’
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