Posted October 10th, 2007 and filed in Education, Human Mind, Life

A child is always curious and open-minded. He never tries to fit either himself or the external world into a set frame of reference. He adapts without making a fuss. He never assumes he has known enough, or has known better than what things really are.

A child is soft, relaxed, fluid. He completely trusts himself to be taken care of by this universe. He is vulnerable, so he does not stress himself out trying to protect himself from adversities. What happens, happens. Meanwhile, when he is alive, he is busy learning and enjoying life. There is no perceived limit, no planned goal, only endless joy. He is happy without having much. At the same time, he sets no limit to his perceived capability, his ongoing growth, and his wild dreams.

Adults have lost such an ability. We think we have learned enough, because we have spent the entire first half of our life learning about facts and rules and boundaries, and settled our mind and life based on and within them. When things go beyond our expected way, we adults, who have long stopped learning, become really confused and make a bigger fuss than necessary inside the self. Our minds and attitudes are too hardened. We panic when we cannot find an image to attach ourselves to. Every time we wake up from sleep, we figure out who we are first, then go on to go about life. We try to be something, something we can tell people and ourselves we are. We cannot not have a status, an identity. And we need various identities to define and confine ourselves from all sides and in all directions: I’m a professional, I’m a Christian, I’m a father of three, etc. Within such a framework we thought we were safe and solid, like a diamond. In fact, we are hard but vulnerable, easily broken, like a diamond.

A child is like a drop of water. A child endures failure and sickness and hardship without much ado, not holding back tears either. When all is passed, all is forgotten, and he faces life once again with no baggage or hindrance, still enthusiastic and intact. He merges into things he encounters, without restrictions or stereotypes, and comes out still purely himself, even more so with new self discovery.

The human beings who have reached real maturity are like children again. They have been able to acquire knowledge but have overcome its hindrance. They are eager to learn and are never held back by their social status. They may be the experts in their fields. When they speak, they speak with natural authority and people listen in awe. However, they are also the most curious. And they are happy, which is an indicator of ultimate wisdom.

Hunting for knowledge

Posted June 10th, 2007 and filed in Education, Life

The human mind must have a sense of purpose. This purpose had better be self-chosen, freely and with impartial information. Education, in its fullest sense, should facilitate this search for purpose for each individual. This is the mission. Humans do not need to be educated. They need help and guidance to educate themselves. There must be two conditions before education can happen: the individual’s will to learn, and the direction to the best resources made known to this individual. Then the teacher’s job is done. He can sit back and enjoy his pupil’s learning, because the only real learning is self-teaching. The hunting for knowledge is no different from beasts hunting for food.

Every great person who ever lived on this planet has followed a self-imposed self-development plan, has refused to let formal education lead them to mediocrity, has consciously and continuously self studied. Benjamin Franklin did this. Jack London did this. These people rely on great books and real life, not teachers. Great minds are rare at any given time. Therefore they must be preserved in books. Great living teachers are not blessed to everyone, not even in the most renowned schools.

Big questions

Posted February 10th, 2007 and filed in Education, Life

This world for ever moves in mindless motions. Everyone feels safe following the herd: job, marriage, home, kids, retirement. Yes, I admit, there is tremendous wisdom and true happiness in this routine road of life. But sooner or later you’ll have to answer the big questions: Why are you here? What do you want to do? Where does this world need you most? What should you know to live your life in fullness, enlightened? How do you come to terms with this world around you? Are there any other possibilities? What has happened? What will happen if we do nothing? Is there a higher beauty and nobility beyond what you have seen and imagined? What would you like? What is the relationship between you and the universe?

Throughout this life we learn. If we didn’t do better, that was because we did not know better. The Education school did not provide us, we sought it in life, in our adventure in this vast yet confining world. How many mistakes we have made! How many punishments we have suffered! Wouldn’t it be nice if someone had shared with us the best things they learned? Wouldn’t it be nice if the best heritage of human beings was presented to us in a systematic way, allowing us to explore and develop on our own, while providing the framework and a few steady, solid stepping stones? Wouldn’t it be nice if we were so wisely educated that we knew what we needed to learn?

Predetermined occupation

Posted January 10th, 2007 and filed in Education, Employment, Human Condition, Life

Back to Vancouver. Still beautiful, the city lights before dawn.  It was 7 degrees below zero. It snowed 3 days ago. A taxi driver from India drove me home. I have never met a taxi driver at the Vancouver airport who is not from India. In Calgary they are all from Pakistan. Often an occupation in an area is controlled by people from a certain area. For these people of a certain regional and/or racial origin, it is also a fate they can hardly escape, due to lack of influence and connection in any other career. I realized this latter point yesterday when again a (this time underground because he is not licensed) driver from Hunan Province was driving me to Shenzhen Airport. We talked about it. He told me how hard it would be to start from scratch in a new field in which nobody you know could guide you with experience. There is also people’s inertia in play, but a cultural effect like this is an almost determining factor in the economy and in people’s lives. Again, people are not free to do things they have never heard of. And it takes great courage to go out of one’s “normal” way into a risky, unknown life.

Intrinsic interest

Posted August 10th, 2006 and filed in Education, Employment, Life

A life, even one full of meaning, performing all duties, fulfilling all obligations to family and friends and society and even the human species as a whole, if deprived of intrinsic interest, is still a life not worth living by itself. You will still have difficulty getting out of bed every morning.

By intrinsic interest I do not mean material or monetary interest, I mean what you are interested in, naturally and genuinely, and, as in many cases, have a natural gift for. For instance, you really want to be teaching, preaching, playing piano, helping the poor, gardening, doing woodwork, painting, playing with kids, observing nature, traveling, studying economics, leading the community, making a film, climbing a mountain, sweeping the streets, knitting a sweater, or making a doll. You really want to do it.

Whatever you look for leads to it. Even if this desire has been laughed at, or thwarted, you still want it subconsciously. You do not feel alive when not doing it. Maybe you cannot name it, maybe you cannot find it in the National Occupation Codes, but you want it to be your occupation, your life’s work and leisure. It is so vague that sometimes it only becomes clear when you get to the last years of your life, but you are still glad you have found it in this life anyway. The earlier you find it and are able to do it, the luckier you are. You will be seeking it until you find it. You will be searching your soul, this world, the known and the unknown fields, the trodden and untrodden paths, the recognized and unrecognized skills, different places, different peoples, different jobs. Unless you are doing it, you are never truly happy, no matter how high the income is, how sweet the wife and kids are, how beautiful the house is, how widely you have traveled the world, how competent and well-praised you are at your work. No, you will always feel an unnamed part is missing from this life, no matter how you persuade yourself that it is not so, like all other people persuade you, with seemingly solid facts, and by such common standards. You feel guilty for not being happy. This adds to your unhappiness.

A life worth living is a life engaged in the activity of your intrinsic interests and natural talents. You forget time and are immersed in it intensely. Your strengths are being fully used, challenged, and nurtured. You are concentrated, fully engaged, thinking of nothing else. Afterwards you feel not exhaustion, but a deep relaxation and satisfaction, like waking up from a good dream.

Have you ever walked the streets

Posted June 10th, 2006 and filed in Education, Human Condition

Have you ever walked the streets, taking in the buildings, the city, the technology, the system, the civilization, and feeling proud, as if all the achievement of human beings is yours? What a long way we have come!

Being educated is great, because when I look at all this, I am not just looking at the image of things, but also considering their history and meaning conjured up in my mind. I look at them with insight and awareness of their connections. Therefore I gain more from my sight of the city than an uneducated person.

The best library

Posted May 10th, 2006 and filed in Education

The best library should be highly selective, with no tolerance for second-class books, in every field. My students will be taught not what to learn, but to find out what they want to learn. During their choice-making and their pursuit of chosen goals, they should be supplied with the best material. Among the first skills they will develop is the essential skill to discriminate among the readings, to identify good from bad, genuine from pretentious, original from imitation, fresh from academically stale, real complexity from muddled thinking/writing, truth from lies, meaningful from meaningless, great minds from feeble, honesty from deception, caring from indifference, serious from make-believe, hard work from make-shift, nutritious from poisonous (or harmless but a waste of time).