Friday Musings: Learned vs. Learners

We revere educated people. We revere those especially who have developed their wisdom beyond or entirely apart from the formal educational system. Everyone from innovators in a given field to “self-taught” musicians seem deserving of especially high praise.

From this reverence comes a term: learned. He or she is a learned person.

While seemingly complimentary and reverent at first, the last thing I wish to be described as is “learned.”

Learned is past tense implying completeness and finality, implications completely contrary to learning. True learning is an ongoing process and the mere suggestion that one could ever reach an endpoint betrays a complete failure to understand the true nature of learning.

Learning is humble. Learning is seeking. Learning is “I don’t know but I want to find out.”

Learned is ignorant. Believing yourself learned is itself a demonstration of ignorance. You are never done and the moment you believe you are, you root in place only to have the flow of experience continue to rush past you. The moment you cease to move forward you grow further and further from where you could have been.

Learned is dogma. It is the scientist clinging to previously “true” theories and denigrating new information and its proposers. It is an older person protective of old ideas when the progressing ethics of the day deem the old ways immoral.

Perhaps this Friday I am musing about a silly distinction but I propose you drop your reverence for the learned. Those worthy of our admiration are the learners. Fortunately, learner is not on a pedestal. You can be a learner right now. It is a simple commitment to move forward with humility from wherever you are.

Ironically, most of whom we revere as our “learned” class would be the first to declare themselves as humble learners. We say that wisdom comes only to those who seek it. I add that wisdom only comes to those who never cease to seek it.