“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” ~Ralph W. Sockman
We’ve begun to pay attention, and now it is time to be astonished.
Many of us live lives of distraction. We dabble. We move quickly through our days without letting the wonder seep through us and stretch us, grow us, change us.
Wonder: to think or speculate curiously, to be filled with awe, marvel
Speculate: to meditate on a subject, reflect; to engage in a course of reasoning; to consider or think curiously about; suppose, propose, wonder [from the Latin speculare: to watch over, explore]
Delight, ponder, contemplate, reflect, dwell, engage. Explore. Ask questions. Wallow.
Wallow: indulge in an unrestrained way. Luxuriate, bask, take pleasure, take satisfaction, indulge (oneself), delight, revel, glory.
That’s what I’m talking about.
We who are in media res are in a wonderful position. We can choose to learn about ideas and activities that excite us, fill us with passion, give us a sense of fulfillment.
The challenge, of course, is making time in the often small margins of our full day-to-day lives, and being consistent and persistent enough to engage in a process of learning over time.
I’m probably not the only one who struggles with focus, consistency, and perseverance. (Am I?)
But growth does not come without effort, and a step into the unknown requires courage.
Let’s challenge ourselves to take the next step.
If you are living a life of curiosity, you are likely to come across a subject in passing that begins to fascinate you more deeply.
This is the time to practice wallowing.
For instance, you are currently spending a whole year(!) learning and exploring what it means to create a life you love.
When I was first married, I went through a season of passion-filled learning. It was different from anything I had experienced in school! I took classes, often with friends, in American Sign Language, black and white photography, tennis, and French.
Then I spent years seeped in the raising of young children. I lost a bit of my autonomous self. While I did spend time learning, it was usually for the sake of my kids and homeschooling. This wasn’t necessarily a negative thing, since I was and am passionate about my children and about education, but I recently realized that it is important for me to learn something unnecessary.
This may sound funny to some of you, but, in order for me to embrace the idea that learning can enlarge my life and who I am as a person even if it doesn’t have an immediate practical use, I need to learn something that simply brings me joy.
My husband bought me a new flute for Christmas. Practicing my flute brings me joy.
I’ve always loved geography. Mastering all the countries of the world brings me joy.
Book lists excite me. Challenging myself with a year-long reading list brings me joy.
Set yourself up for success.
What ignites your passion? What brings you life?
Your learning isn’t going to look like someone else’s learning. Don’t brace yourself for a DVD course in Homer if the Iliad doesn’t excite any sort of curiosity or passion in you. It may be worthy, but it may not be right for you right now. This challenge is supposed to stretch you, be new, be risky, but not something you are going to dread!
What kind of instruction or practice fits with your lifestyle?
In this stage of my life, weekly outside classes don’t work. I also lack discipline to do something on my own that doesn’t have specific goals or deadlines or outside accountability. I rarely have large chunks of time in my schedule to devote to concentrated learning. I have to make use of small but consistent increments of time. Working on my own with online or monthly accountability partners or groups works best for me!
Set reasonable expectations.
We tend to expect to start at something resembling proficiency when learning something new as adults. It doesn’t work that way! I’ve had to give myself permission to read excellent picture book biographies or retellings of classical works such as the Iliad.
You will be amazed at how much progress you can make in 5-10 minutes each day if you are consistent!
Don’t try to master All the Things. Pick ONE.
Memorize a poem.
Master a specific task (sentence diagramming, a magic trick, identifying all the countries on a continent).
Pick a subject to learn more about (a time period, person, or event in history; a scientific topic; essential oils). Gather a collection of books, documentaries, DVD classes, or online articles.
Develop a new skill (baking, painting, archery, photography, fly fishing, drag racing, herb gardening).
Learn to play an instrument.
Learn a second language. (This one is next on my list!)
Challenge yourself with a book list. Create your own or choose a curated list such as Amazon’s 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime or the book list in The Well-Educated Mind.
Take an online class or a class at a community college or watch a DVD course.
Learn how to be a conversationalist. Learn how to read people.
The goal is growth that brings delight!
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
- Pick one or two subjects or skills from your bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to learn or improve, and set a course of action to grow in those areas in the coming year.