My weekly newspaper column:
“Try to learn something about everything and everything about something” said scientist and philosopher, Thomas Huxley back in the 19th century. His words hold truer than ever today—as the world gets smaller and our vast reservoir of knowledge bigger. Superficially, science and philosophy are two disciplines that seem at odds, but I contend that we need to meet somewhere in the middle in order to lead a good life.
We all have a different definition of a good life—but I think one of the best ways to define it is to accept the guidance of someone who knew “something about everything and everything about something”—Albert Einstein. He said that “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I choose the latter—it makes life all the more interesting and lends it some depth.
In an effort to be a lifelong learner, sometimes I find myself mired in the minutiae of everyday life. But it is in the little things that we learn. As I have mentioned before, I have a blog, and one of the lovely things about the blog is that it keeps track of the topics I write about. The subjects that I write about the most are in bold print and big letters. They consist of humour, bliss, poetry, life, Christmas, holidays, family, writing, and home. I find it odd that poetry is such a big subject for me, as I often rejected it when I was younger as too abstract, hard to understand, and well, boring. As I have grown up, so have my tastes—and I find a lot of poetry now “speaks” to me, and much of what I like is transparent enough for even me to understand and relate. And, I am finding reward in puzzling out even the more opaque.
The topics I have written about on my blog are very similar to many that I have shared with you over the last 16+ years. The one topic I write about that makes me laugh a bit at myself is the fact that I try to give advice—but I comfort myself in knowing that much of the advice I give is couched in the findings of others much better versed than I on various topics. I write about the seasons: autumn more often than the other three; the various months—November being the surprising winner; and snow more than any other climatological phenomenon; and, of days of the week—Friday and Sunday stand out.
Being a cat owner, the topic of Kitty Bob has come up several times in my writing as have chocolate and coffee, art and change, cooking and recipes, happiness and hope, inspiration and joy, Halloween and parties. Magic and memories, spirituality and God, along with nostalgia and love are all topics I have explored. I have touched upon philosophy, gratitude, Shakespeare and Santa Claus. Faith and friends, wisdom, reading and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as television and dreams have all been delved into. Tradition rounds out list—so while I may not know “everything about something”, I will continue to attempt to “learn something about everything”.
In my endeavour to learn “something about everything” I attended a poetry workshop over the weekend. One of the things that the workshop leader, Dorothy Mahoney taught our group of ten women was “attentive listening” which made us appreciate each other’s work so much more. We were encouraged to first tell the writer what we liked about their poetry, but then we were urged to ask a specific question about the work. We were expected not just to listen and like, but to show we had listened “attentively” or actively by asking a question.
I think that this is a life lesson. I tend to be a good listener but not contributor. When you write a piece, you often wonder if it is hitting the target, and by getting feedback via questions you know what others find interesting. Once you know that, you can expand on it. I went away with several pieces of work that may now take a different direction than I had originally planned.
Attentive listening is something I want to cultivate. I have seen it in action, and if used faithfully will make learning “something about everything” more attainable.