It is strange that we get most of our learning in unexpected ways in an unexpected manner. Stanger still is the fact that the process of learning can happen only when we are open and willing to learn something. Fleeting insights, a particular line or a quote can linger in our minds and hearts for a long while because we find some deep transformative learning that we can apply to our lives right now.
Yes, basic knowledge does boost our learning process. We are able to read and write. So we can reflect on great literature and imbibe some valuable lessons from it. Avid readers are able to create a world of their own. A good book and a sacred book read at the right age in the right context and manner can nurture our souls with a series of profound thoughts. Such thoughts gradually seep into our subconscious minds and have the capacity to mold our behavior on a daily basis.
Can we then infer that knowledge and learning are interrelated?
On the other hand, there are quite a few people out there in the world, who do not have access to even the most basic level of education. Technically we may call them illiterate people.
Farmers, carpenters, plumbers and all the people who are adept at some skill may not be educated but have a storehouse of practical knowledge that literally earns them their bread and butter on a daily basis. No fancy MBA degree adorns their portfolio. They are not engineering graduates.
They are not CEOs of an MNC. But they are smart and ethical in their dealings. They know how to create a reputation for themselves. They know the market worth of their skills and understand the value of their time. And when we interact with them and see them work so effectively, efficiently and confidently – our admiration for them goes up by several notches. We cannot even imagine living and leading a life like them. They do not unduly complicate their lives. Simple living and high thinking is their mantra.
Can we now infer that knowledge and learning are not always interrelated?
Which brings us to the next question now. Every subject that we study has a big set of rules. As students, we have all memorized laws and rules and principles by the dozen every year.
We have all gone blank during our exams because the right rule simply did not strike us at the right time in the exam. The minute we step out of the hall, the answer strikes us. And we clap our foreheads in regret because we could have easily scored a better grade had we applied that rule half an hour back in the examination hall.
Most of the foreigner students that I taught would be taken aback when I told them not to study any of the grammar rules. I had to patiently explain to them that it was more important for them to practice speaking a language and keep learning along the way rather than learn a set of rules which they do not know how, where, when and why to apply!
And if you have to think so much before constructing a single sentence in your mind, when are you going to get around to speaking it correctly. Keep speaking, keep making mistakes and keep learning – was my advice. And it worked because the more mistakes they made, the faster they learned and the more confidence they became.
When we apply this technical aspect to our real life learning, we can see the correlation. Perhaps knowledge and learning are interrelated. Perhaps knowledge and learning are mutually exclusive. We are not entering into that kind of a debate or argument here. We will all agree that all knowledge is not confined to textbooks alone. That should suffice here.
Real life learning, friendship, empathy are intrinsic values that help us cope with the stresses and strains of our lives. We can never live in isolation. We will need the support of different people at different times all through our lives. We may also graduate from dependence to independence and slowly to interdependence. But it is a slow process.
There are several instances in our daily lives where we consciously seek the support of other people. Often, we find ourselves extending a quiet hand of support to people who seem to need it.
In some situations, people will come knocking at our doorstep and literally ask us for help. Moral, physical, financial, mental or emotional support. They may want our advice or our guidance or our suggestions or some form of monetary help from us.
In an ideal scenario, we willingly help people without a second thought. Let me emphasize that this is the ideal scenario.
All of us lead increasingly hectic lives these days. We do not have time. In fact, 24 hours are not enough, and most of us are so drained by the end of the week that we just want to unwind at home peacefully. Urban life is tough. Inflation is a scary word. We all have health issues.
Stress is a part of our lives. Unexpected expenses can drain and leak our bank balances. All of us may not be financially comfortable. We lead insecure lives because at the end of the day, we know that we have to pay all our own bills till our dying day. We may not always be able to extend physical, mental, emotional or monetary support to people who are undergoing a crisis. Strangely most of us do not even know what kind of help we are seeking. A crisis simply confuses us.
All our knowledge and real life learning come to naught if we do not master the art of rendering the KIND OF HELP people are looking for. What is the use of giving money to a rich man when he is actually looking for emotional support? What is the use of being emotionally supportive to your friend when he is in dire need of money? (Assuming you have enough money to help him.)
Often most people just need someone who will listen to them. They just need to vent out their confused thoughts and feelings. They can most certainly think for themselves and take their own decisions.
But all our real life learning and education are of no use when we are so caught up in our own lives that we have no time even to listen to the problems that other people around us are facing. Quite often in our haste, we do not even understand the depth of their problems and may end up compounding the issue by misguiding them or hurting them with our criticism. That is sad. Truly truly sad.
Learning to strike this delicate balance is an art. Not all of us are astute enough to gauge it at all times. But then we learn to grasp this beautiful learning with a lot of real life experience.
A beautiful story that I read yesterday sums up the essence of this article in a memorable manner.
Floods inundated a particular patch of the forest where a lot of animals lived together in harmony. Most of the animals drowned as the flood waters rose steadily. It continued to rain heavily. Only the monkeys were lucky to be alive because they could climb and jump to the topmost branches of the trees.
Perched on top of the trees, the monkeys spotted all the fishes swimming in the turbulent flood waters. They were overcome with sympathy because they thought they were struggling to stay alive.
So, all of them got down from the tree tops and removed all the fishes from the flood waters and lay them on the patch of dry ground that was unaffected by the flood waters.
The fishes tossed and turned gasping for air. The monkeys thought they were jumping with joy because they were happy to be alive. All the fishes lay still after a long while. The monkeys were happy because they assumed that the fishes were finally sleeping peacefully after surviving the ordeal of the floods.
I do not want to ruin the beauty of that story by elaborating on the learning that we can derive from it. Just this much, often it is better to remain silent or not help someone instead of ridiculing them or criticizing them for their predicament. It is fine if we don’t help.
It is okay if we cannot help. It is perfectly fine if we do not wish to help someone in any manner. At least let us not become a barrier or a hurdle or an obstacle in their path. They have realized their mistakes. They are learning to recover from their erroneous ways.
If for some reason, we cannot help them, at least let us learn to shut our mouths tightly and go about leading our lives without interfering in theirs. That is all.