The mind is a terrible thing to waste

Human beings have inquiring minds – we want to know and learn new things. It is in our DNA to be curious. It is an enduring quality of all ages from the cradle to the grave. Curiosity is the engine that drives human development. People are inspired and rewarded by their desire to acquire new knowledge, explore new horizons, gain new skills. and seek new experiences. Curiosity has been at the heart of humankind’s most significant discoveries and advancements. 

The human mind is the most mysterious and complex entity in the known universe. Thinking exists as the top mental activity displayed in human beings. The use of the mind is so fundamental to our existence to have inspired this enduring axiom, “I think therefore I am.” 

Though we live in the Information Age, vigorous thinking is at an all-time low because our minds are routinely in a passive mode. We have become receptacles for data hurled at us continuously through a multitude of devices. We are information consumers – it comes at such high-speed and massive quantities that we are not capable of processing it. 

A passive mind is not a fulfilled mind. Our intellect wants more than to digest data or be amused and entertained; it wants knowledge and increased understanding. Too often we are feeding our minds empty carbs when it needs substantial meals. 

One reason we seldom make individual effort to gain more knowledge is the common assumption that upon leaving formal education, we have completed our learning. People feel that no informal studies are necessary after the final chapter of their last textbook. It would not be reasonable to conclude that since you have spent many years eating food that it is no longer necessary to do so – soon you would starve and die. Similarly, to presume after formal education that it is no longer essential to invest oneself in learning is a disastrous decision for your mind and life. 

Learning new things could be as simple as exploring a new interest, hobby, or recreational activity, trying a new form of art, or organizing and completing a DIY project. There is an increasing number of interest-based groups, classes, or clubs a person can take part in. Many community colleges and online learning sites offer free courses to gain new knowledge and skills in virtually every area imaginable. 

A simple and common activity to feed and sharpen one’s mind is reading. Not only does new and useful knowledge satisfy our curiosity, but it also supplies the raw materials to direct our life in meaningful and fulfilling ways. Bell Hooks wrote, “Life-transforming ideas have always come to me through books.” 

Reading had been a source of immense joy in my daily life. Books have afforded me the privilege of forging a bond across centuries with the greatest minds. Contact with people of genius has conferred upon my life invaluable insight for effectual living. The most useful knowledge is a broad-based multifaceted education of all the world’s top ideas. I have gained invaluable knowledge and understanding though my study of the natural and social sciences, history, and the exploration of the human experience through art, philosophy, and spirituality. 

Much of the learning that takes place in life is obligatory. Formal schooling is often referred to as “compulsory education” because it is required by law. But now you have the freedom, autonomy, and flexibility to determine your learning interests and goals. You get to decide what you want to learn, how you want to learn it and the pace at which you do it. This kind of intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning can sustain a lifetime of personal growth and self-fulfillment.

One might be inspired to learn new things for a variety of reasons. What motivations or reasons kindle your desire to learn something new?  What would you like to learn or gain from exploring new knowledge and experiences? Where does your sense of wonder and curiosity lead you? How would you like to challenge yourself by learning something new? 

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©  2009 Jim Palmer Author. All Rights Reserved
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