Learning and Un-learning
Contributed by Beth Ambrosini
Today, Linda Christas received a thought provoking article written by The Rambling Taoist, Trey Smith.
The article, which can be found in its entirety, by permission of the author, at the conclusion of these preliminary remarks, speaks of the processes of learning and un-learning as both necessary in our journey toward an ultimate understanding of why we are here in this particular universe at this particular moment. Through the Tao Te Ching, Mr. Smith hints at what our life journeys may mean, and our need as individual minds to continually gather what we can through personal study for the purpose of encouraging wisdom, as we concurrently adjust and purge views that we may have outgrown.
Dr. Paul Davies, a Linda Christas honorary chair holder, in his book The Mind of God, explains that there may be limits in terms of what can be learned through the study of science and mathematics. It may be the case, according to Dr. Davies, that seeking empirical knowledge, as well as direct inspiration that may possess aspects of the mystical both have roles to play as we go about our individual journeys toward understanding the place in which we have our being.
Ken Wilbur is quoted by Dr. Davies in The Mind of God as saying, "In the mystical consciousness, Reality is apprehended directly and immediately, meaning without any mediation, any symbolic elaboration, any conceptualization, or any abstractions; subject and object become one in a timeless and spaceless act that is beyond any and all forms of mediation. Mystics universally speak of contacting reality in its 'suchness,' its 'isness,' its 'thatness,' without any intermediaries; beyond words, symbols, names, thoughts, images."
Dr. Davies also quotes Rudy Rucker as follows: "The central teaching of mysticism is this: Reality is One. The practice of mysticism consists in finding ways to experience this unity directly. The One has variously been called the Good, God, the Cosmos, the Mind, the Void, or (perhaps most neutrally) the Absolute. No door in the labyrinthine castle of science opens directly onto the Absolute. But if one understands the maze well enough, it is possible to jump out of the system, and experience the Absolute for oneself....But, ultimately, mystical knowledge is attained all at once or not all all. There is no gradual path......"
ARTICLE BY THE RAMBLING TAOIST, TREY SMITH
We live in a time in which there's a lot of discussion regarding education: public schools, private schools, vouchers, funding, priorities, unions, test scores, and levels of achievement. We all want what's best for current and future generations; there is merely a wide divergence of opinion on which elements are most important and which criteria will deliver the greatest bang for the buck.
There's one element of the educational process that is rarely talked about -- that education involves de-learning.
On its face, this sounds like a straightforward contradiction in terms. Everybody knows that the foundation of education is learning, right? Lao Tzu would kindly disagree.
Consider the following thoughts from the Tao Te Ching:
Without going outside, you may know the whole world.
Without looking through the window, you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.
Thus the sage knows without traveling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.
In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.
The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.
In other areas of his work, Lao Tzu suggests that we should all be like children, a metaphor used frequently by Jesus of Nazareth.
I don't think either man was suggesting that education lacks merit. It would be next to impossible to live in this modern world and NOT learn anything. In fact, people who tend not to learn are prone to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
I think what each was trying to express in his own way is that we tend to fuse together the concepts of education and learning. They are not the same thing.
Learning is something we can do and never open a text book. All we need is to be aware of the world around us and allow it to encompass our being. Consequently, "without going outside" or "looking through the window", we already possess everything the world has to offer.
Education, on the other hand, is from outside. It's rote statistics, other people's words and ideas, scientific formulae and social history, customs and mores. We tend to clutter our minds with this esoteric verbiage to the point that the learning from within is shunted aside.
Education teaches us to discriminate between objects, ideas and life beings. It teaches us to make comparisons and contrasts. In essence, education teaches that all things are separate and unequal.
And this gets us back to metaphor of the child.
Young children don't experience the world around them in this way. There is no separation, only interconnection. A child doesn't see a white or black face, but a face and that face is a reflection of them and they of it.
As we grow older and become "educated", we lose this ability to see and feel the connection. The more educated we become, the more we become estranged from the world. In the end, education causes us to learn less and to become more atomized.
We would each do best to heed the advice of Lao Tzu and Jesus. We would each lead more contented lives and our society would be far more just and peaceful if we would endeavor to unlearn our education.