#BlogElul 15 – Learn



Oh my, Rabbi Sommer. I have so much to say about this, I don’t know where to start. Learning is my absolutely favourite thing to do, and this High Holy Day season is no exception.

We begin learning in the womb, when we become familiar with our mother’s heartbeat and voice. If we’re lucky, we only stop learning when we are cold and dead.

The old adage “Use it or lose it” is as true for our brain as it is for every other muscle and organ in our body. There is strong evidence that older people who continue using their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Learning about the world and the point of view of people of other cultures is a sure-fire way to increase tolerance and an acceptance of diversity. My one caveat is that we must ensure that children are not exposed to the world beyond what they can handle in an age-appropriate way.

As adults, however, we can learn most things if we put our minds to them. Look at Tim Ferriss and his enormous success with accelerated learning.

Surely there is no downside to learning?

It always surprises me to find out that not everybody is as much of a learning junkie as I am. People are resistant to change, and learning usually means change.

It can be scary, it can be demanding, there can be new expectations where there were none before. When you learn something new, you risk being pushed right out of your comfort zone. Furthermore, you run a very real risk of Doing It Wrong, and how terrible would that be?

The Book of Proverbs (traditionally ascribed to the wise King Solomon) makes a good point about how painful learning can be along the way (Proverbs 12, 1):

א אֹהֵב מוּסָר, אֹהֵב דָּעַת; וְשׂוֹנֵא תוֹכַחַת בָּעַר.

1 Whoso loveth knowledge loveth correction; but he that is brutish hateth reproof.

If you love to learn, you don’t mind being corrected by those who know more than you do. To quote David Wood again, every master was once a disaster. It’s OK to make mistakes and do things wrong and mess up. As long as nobody actually dies as a result of your learning curve, it’s OK. If somebody might actually die, have an experienced backup standing by.

It takes courage to be willing to expose our ignorance and learn something new. Some people are extremely attached to their status as experts, and it is hard for them to admit that there are things they don’t know. I won’t go as far as King Solomon in calling them brutish, but I do think they are missing out on lots of wonderful new learning.

Stop taking yourself so seriously and step out and learn something new. You will benefit, and maybe the world will, too.

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