Everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten

This phrase, if we were lucky enough, may remind us of a time when we were very young and able to make friends with anyone who looked our way with interest or empathy. Perhaps we wish we could have retained, as adults, more of that openness and trust towards other people–that belief in the possibility of adventure and new knowledge. What does this say about our years of schooling, our jobs and relationships, our coping mechanisms, and all that hovering at the edges of real engagement?

It seems that so much of what we call ‘education’ fails to quicken our minds and hearts while we’re ‘accumulating’ it and then,–once we’ve settled into some kind of occupation–we are frequently unable to vouch for its value.

Surely a true ‘education’–while it would involve committing some things to memory and require that we sometimes struggle with unfamiliar concepts—must also involve excitement, insight and spontaneous discoveries if it is to impart a deeper kind of knowing. With such an ‘education’, we would still doubtlessly avoid things we perceive as harmful, but would not see “enemies” based on our own preferences and conditioning.

Seeing the world through eyes that know how to know we would be willing to share our lecture notes, our insights and our discoveries, because we will recognize that true knowledge does not belong to us any more than the wind stirring its branches belongs to a tree. Like exhalations that make inhalation possible, we absorb knowledge by sharing it; and since everything we learn flows to us from beyond the borders of our small selves, we make a home for knowledge by letting it flow through us.

Teaching our children to know for themselves is a greater gift than restraining them within the confining walls of our own structures of belief. I once passed a church marquee at the side of the road that proclaimed, “What we believe is the important thing.” While it’s hard to imagine living without beliefs, what we believe is like the fish dinner we eat today. Better is to be able to reach into the river of experience and draw forth our own fresh caught understandings. Indeed beliefs that hang around too long, like three-day old fish, will stink up our minds.

Beliefs are like the axioms of geometry. We need a few to ground our systems of reasoning and provide a starting point. But such axioms are external to what really matters and may actually obstruct the path of discovery that allows us to develop purpose and understanding. Like the external skeletons that allow shrimp and crabs to leverage their muscles, belief is not central. Vertebrate humans do not need armor in order to think, feel, and embark on journeys. In assuming defensive postures we try to ward off the blows of “enemies”. But if we don’t see enemies behind every door, then do we really need to walk through life encrusted with these symbols of our inability to trust?

What we get from our years of schooling is just a small part of the knowledge we need to live a fulfilling life. As a parent, my wish for my kids is that when they feel stuck in the circumstances of their lives, they will realize that movement is possible. And how does one move away from circumstances that make us feel like prisoners? Sometimes we will need to make a physical change before we can discover that our attitude was always the real problem. When we step out of our familiar nests we may recognize that we have always been free. Then, sitting wherever we happen to be, we can cast our lines over the water, and welcome whatever swims to us of its own accord. How could it not, since each of us finds our own being through the oneness and wholeness of Great Being?

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