We start learning with our first breath, and from what I can tell, it’s a pattern that continues. Unless you close yourself off from it, learning for people happens to infinity and beyond.
I like to learn, though we all have different things that grab us. I like this, and you like that, which has been true since it all began. It’s a good thing; it’s how the pool of knowledge grows deep and wide.
For instance, excluding the young and new, we all know not to lick cold metal. [i] We’re able to profit from the lessons another went through without acquiring that information firsthand. Good thing – I don’t fancy a bleeding or stumpy tongue.
Life lessons aren’t always about the practical and mundane, however vital those lessons may be. We collect philosophical life lessons as well, though we’re slower at picking those up.
I remember my parents trying to teach me this thing or that. I also remember not listening. Karma has a nasty sense of humour because the wheel spun ‘round, and now I’m the parent whose encyclopedic knowledge of life is going to waste.
Ah, well. Our species seems to learn better when we do it the hard way.
Amor fati is my life lesson number one. It’s gained in popularity recently: the shorthand meme that condenses Friedrich Nietzsche’s thoughts on the matter into “love your fate” pops up regularly on social media feeds. I prefer expanded descriptions like the one offered by Epictetus:
Do not seek for things to happen the way you want them to; rather, wish that what happens happen the way it happens: then you will be happy.
The difference is subtle but essential. Then again, Nietzsche’s thoughts on the matter weren’t simple either. We lose much with soundbite culture: summations aren’t equivalencies.
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it – all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary – but love it.” – F. Nietzsche.
Life lesson number two: easier isn’t always better.
[i] I will also exclude people who’ve never experienced cold. They likely have lessons about blistering heat about which I’m ignorant.