Monday, January 27, 2014

Life-Long Learning

I remember when I graduated high school (very, very long ago) after the ceremony one of my fellow graduates yelled out happily, "No more learnin'!"  And I thought, "Why do I doubt that?"  I figured if he wasn't going to go to college he'd have to get a job.  And getting a job meant learning the job.  I was also amazed anyone would say that because it was (and is) hard for me to imagine someone who doesn't want to be learnin'.

I say, "The day you stop learning is the day you start dying."  I have been and plan to be a "life-long learner" in popular phrase.  I can't help it.  I'm interested in too much stuff and I can never know enough.

Now, as I've gotten older I have slowed down some.  I don't seek out and devour articles in Scientific American about cosmology, anymore.  I don't try to figure out every nuance of my computer's OS anymore.  At one point I blamed this on my day job and not having the time nor energy to pursue such things because of it.  But now that I'm working as a writer, I have both the time and energy but I still don't do it.  My brain isn't as plastic as it used to be and learning isn't as easy as it use to be, so I have winnowed down what I'm willing to expend energy learning.  Plus, I used to be able to read something once and retain most of it for nearly forever.  Now I actually have to study something to learn it well.  This annoys me and slows down how much I can learn.

But I do (and did) have eclectic tastes in what I want to learn about.  Here's a partial list off the top of my head of things I do or have studied either informally or in an educational institute:

  • "Hard" sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, cosmology).
  • Technology.
  • Economics (although the esoterica of microeconomics bores me).
  • Words, their proper usage and precise meanings.
  • Cars.  Not to fix or repair or modify them, but to drive them.  To facilitate this I subscribe to Car and Driver and read it cover-to-cover.
  • Politics/government (no comment).
When I was younger I read the encyclopedia.  When the internet came out, it was like an amazing thing.  I would spend hours simply exploring, reading, learning.

My current profession is ideal for a life-long learner: freelance writer and author.  I get to learn about things (which I love) and then write about them (which I love).  Now I don't always get to learn about things I'm interested in (the plight of potato farmers is getting old) but that's okay.  In my books I tend to write about things I am interested in but am sometimes forced to learn about things that don't interest me much because of how the plot goes.  Who knew when I was writing Gods of Strife I'd have to research if Tehran, Iran has moles or groundhogs or other underground pests (apparently it doesn't).

I plan to keep learning and I plan to keep writing.  Yes, some things I learn are only good for answering questions on Jeopardy, but still, you've learned them.

I just wish my brain worked like it did when I was 20.

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