We have two lives; the life we learn with and the life we live after that. Bernard Malamud
If that is so, what have I learned about life, and living, and loving in these sixty-four years? What is there left for me to learn?
My greatest life lessons did not come from text books. I don’t ride along the wave of life on things I learned in school.
Maybe I did pick something up in the humanities and arts–music, literature, history. Maybe something about the beauty, the nobility of humans. Maybe I embraced at some point the magnificent ability of this human race to be loving and generous and rise like angels in heroic acts– to create from a piece of lead and sheet of paper, or from pigments and parchments, or from simply plucking taut strings, blowing brass horns and grass reed instruments–something wondrous where there was nothing.
Even the sciences had something to tell me about this world –through mathematics, how beautifully ordered it is when seen in its essence. Through the sciences I was awakened to the remarkable design of creation and the development of life itself–to how an egg and sperm become a zygote, a sliver of pulsing flesh that will follow the intricate instructions of its DNA map to become a one of a kind organism–a living thing growing and taking in nourishment while excreting waste, all on the way to becoming what it was meant to be–to take its place in the dance of the universe.
So, now that I have been out of the formal classroom for some time, without a required text on my lap, or a teacher and whiteboard in front of me, where do my lessons come from?
It was a hard thing to learn outside of books that these same beautiful humans also have the capacity to turn on themselves with vicious hatred and disdain, and over the centuries commit unspeakable acts of cruelty on their fellows. Suffering and pain also became a patient instructor. Pain is the touchstone of most all of my growth.
Will I allow the universe to continue to instruct me today, through both its light and its dark side? Will my final years continue to turn again and again with the gradual change of the, on display everywhere– in parks and forests and sides of interstate roads and tree-lined streets? Do I hear my lessons in the voices of my fellows who weep and worry and laugh their way through life?
The day itself prods me along from one lesson to the next, from the crack of dawn to the night watch where I sleep but my heart stays awake. The entire universe continues as my professor-I go out each morning to find my desk wherever it may be, sit down, open my heart, listen, watch, and realize what a privilege it is to be a student.