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Monday, July 25, 2016

Learning what we already know

"It is impossible to begin to learn that which one thinks one already knows."  (Epictetus) This is so true, isn't it?  We might think we are open to learning new things until we actually realize we have developed a thought pattern which already sees our viewpoint as "right" or "the best".  In essence, we shut our minds and hearts to any further intake of knowledge simply by thinking we already have it all figured out!  Maybe this is why scripture warns us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, or that we are to remember the heart is pretty deceitful.  Epictetus also said, "The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing."  To bear, one must take up, or come under a load so as to carry it for another.  To forbear, one must not given into the tiny annoyances which life (and sometimes people) send our way while not reacting to them in a negative or unkind manner.

...pass on to you these proverbs—a treasury of wisdom—so that you would recognize wisdom and value discipline; that you would understand insightful teaching and receive wise guidance to live a disciplined life; that you would seek justice and have the ability to choose what is right and fair.  These proverbs teach the naive how to become clever; they instruct the young in how to grow in knowledge and live with discretion.  The wise will pay attention to these words and will grow in learning, and the discerning will receive divine guidance, and they will be able to interpret the meaning of a proverb and a puzzle, the twists and turns in the words of the wise and their riddles.  (Proverbs 1:1-6 VOICE)

To recognize wisdom and value discipline one must come to the place of realizing he or she doesn't know it all, nor is life lived without the need for correction in our course from time to time.  Recognition is nine-tenths of all learning, for without realization one will always be in the same spot, doing the same things over and over again, and getting the same results. If a scientist approached a problem with the same set of steps over and over again thinking he could produce different results, you'd think him mad.  It make sense to repeat the same steps over and over only when you are actually trying to test a theory one might have about the solution as real or trustworthy.  If you didn't get the results you should have the first time, you try again, but you alter what you do slightly so as to get a different result.

The toughest lessons to learn are those you have to "re-learn" sometimes.  Why? I think it may be because we have developed the attitude we already "know that", so why do we need to reinvest the time or energy into learning it again.  Truth is, each time we approach a lesson we thought we had learned earlier in time, we will "re-learn" it in a little bit of a different way the next time we face it.  Why?  We have a new set of experiences in life - things we have born and forborne - and these influence how we will approach what we are about to "re-learn" now.  I think this is what scripture means when we are reminded there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  What has been will be again - it just isn't exactly the same.

The things we "bear" influence how it is we approach problems in life.  Try taking on a new load when you are already bearing up under a full-load.  It isn't going to work very well for you, is it?  You are about maxed out already, so to take on something new one must lay down something which one has been carrying (bearing).  It amazes me how frequently we don't realize the load we are bearing until we are asked to carry a different one.  It sometimes takes being asked to carry the new load to actually get us to examine what we have been bearing which really might not totally belong in our "pack" in the first place!  

The issues we "forbear" through in life are often those which define how we will face the new ones which arise and give us a little bit of a challenge later on.  Sometimes we are viewed as "holding back" in life, but in reality we are simply forbearing (refraining).  It isn't that we don't want to pursue another form of action, but we are allowing God's grace within to give us the patience to go through what we are facing right now.  We might not see it as valuable right now, but as we go through it to the other side of it, we might have a different perspective.  Patience is not learned in the classroom - it is learned in the living out of what we have been trying to learn!  Just sayin!