Something About Everything

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.

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Published in: on February 25, 2015 at 2:17 pm  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The are of ‘listening’ really does come with awareness and practice. Before this is learned, one is half listening and half preparing what they want to say…. so we don’t really hear all of what the person is saying…. Diane

  2. Great article LouAnn – I ‘hear’ ya!

  3. LouAnn, I’m curious. I understand wanting to know something about everything. What is the something about which you wish to know everything?

    • I want to know enough that it only seems I know everything- lol – actually you ask an excellent question–must contemplate………

  4. Interesting…..you always get me thinking. Attentive listening is something I’ll have to work on.

  5. I’m like you in that listening comes much more naturally to me than active contributing or participation. (How I hated those participation points that were often part of a class curriculum!). I think active listening and learning come hand in hand because there’s always something we can learn from someone else. Learning seems to be my topic of the day today as I was just reading this comic earlier today about learning: http://zenpencils.com/comic/asimov/

    • I hated participation points too and having to lead seminars etc–thank God those days are over–though I loved the rest of learning and like you, learning is lifelong

  6. Lou, we share so much in common as far as the topics we love to explore and write about. I admire you for taking a poetry class as I think it’s much more difficult to do than just WRITE. People always told me I was a great listener when I was growing up. So much so, I entertained the idea of becoming a therapist. I love learning about human behavior, the soul, heart, and all that that makes us human.

    I’ve had that Einstein quote near by me for years to remind me. I put it on my feel good page of my blog when I began it.

    How your readers must look forward to your column. As we all do here at this serene place, On the Homefront.

  7. A thought provoking post, so many people do not know how to listen in fact I am related to some of them

  8. It’s hard to cancel out the ” noise” and to truly listen, isn’t it? I’m impressed with your gumption, LouAnn. I like Honie’s question, made me think too.

    Have a good day 🙂

  9. A really interesting article, LouAnn. Thomas Huxley was a wise man indeed. 🙂

  10. I like this a lot, LouAnn! I wish I had more time to give it (and also the thoughtful post you just reflagged, but I wanted to take a quick look – I’ll have to come back soon!


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