This past spring I went to a language workshop. Since learning a language involves speaking out loud and practicing pronunciation, the first two hours of the workshop were devoted to encouraging class participation. The teacher spoke about the safety of a classroom environment, that we were all learning something new, and that perfection was not expected. Also, by speaking up we would benefit from the individual corrections that would be missed if we stayed silent.
Even with all of the teacher’s reassurances, there was still an air of hesitation. All of us had spent years in school raising our hands and answering questions or ducking to avoid them. Everyone at some point in their life has given a wrong answer and sunk down in a chair when the teacher corrected them. It is a part of our school experience that most of us happily left behind.
As adults when we return to the classroom, it is by choice. For enrichment classes like the one I took, no grade is attached, or if there is a grade, it does not impact anything else in our lives. We are there because we want to learn, but still, the anxiety of not being able to answer a question or answering incorrectly remains.
At one point in time it was possible to read all the books that had ever been printed since there were not that many printed books. Now, there is more information available than we can possibly hope to absorb on any given subject. It is impossible to master every subject; the breadth and depth of human knowledge just is too great. Therefore, though we can be knowledgeable about a broad range of subjects, we cannot be an expert in all of them. There will always be someone who knows something that we do not.
This can be disconcerting or it can be quite comforting. This does not mean we should give up learning, but we should not feel stressed because we are not an authority on every subject.
Since there will always be something unknown to us, there will always be new discoveries. If you watch a small child when he learns something new, the smile on his face lights up the room. He is so happy he can barely contain himself. As adults we may not show the same outward glee, but there is the warm glow of satisfaction when some aspect of the world suddenly makes sense.
What a dull place the world would be if we knew everything; the thrill of discovery would be gone. When receiving a gift, part of the fun is in the unwrapping. You know something is there, but until the paper is removed, it is a mystery. When we discover something new, there is the same sense of revelation. What was hidden has been revealed.
How lucky we are to be able to delve into and enjoy our discoveries of the unknown.