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Peace, Love & Anxiety

The Freedom of Learning

by Christy Gualtieri

It’s very possible that everyone else in the world but me knows this, but I recently learned that the origin of the term “liberal arts education” was based around the idea, long ago, that when it came to learning, if you did not have to learn things to work in order to make a living (because your family had a lot of money, say; or because of other serendipitous circumstances), you were free to learn more about things for the sake of learning them – things like the humanities, the arts, etc. The Latin word for freedom is “libertas,” which the English word is drawn from.

Learning for the sake of learning – learning just because. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? It’s different from how a child learns; a child learns in order to understand the world around them. It’s different, of course, then how a scholar learns, or how a person who works in a trade learns – all of those types of learning have ends to them. Anyone who’s watched a YouTube tutorial (*raises hand*) has learned for the sake of a particular goal in mind.  But learning something just because? There really is freedom in that!

And these days, it’s so easy to do that because of the sheer volume of information that is so readily available to us. If I wanted to, right this minute, I could look up how to create those amazing Japanese fluff-ball edible desserts that are designed to look like a cherry blossom suspended in a raindrop. (I’d make it and I’m sure it would come out looking nothing like it is supposed to, but I could try.)

And I should – and so should you. Not the Japanese cake (although, it does look challenging and delicious; and if you do it, please post a pic in the comments, because you’ve pretty much just become my personal hero), but learning something new – and not because you need to. Because you’ve always wanted to, but never did. And you may not have time (I feel you – I’m a mom of two young kids, and so personal time is an extremely foreign concept to me), but I think this “liberal learning” would be beneficial. And you can find the time, because you can learn new things during your self-care time; the time you take to practice taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

What’s that, you say? Self-care? To quote that ever-famous meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”  Indeed. But you and I both know that it is essential to our mental health to find some time, even if it’s just a sliver of a few minutes. And just like looking at glossy Instagram pics of beautifully-plated, delicious whole foods does not make you a nutritionist, neither does just thinking of delighting in something new make you more learned in it. We live in a time period full of accessible knowledge that was unthinkable to people not even a generation before us. We have more time than they did to think liberally (meaning freely – no politics here!) about things; and so I really encourage you to take a few minutes to learn something new just because.

So, take a minute. Close your eyes. Smile, and think of something that delights you. Now, research how to do it / build it / pronounce it. For no other reason than that you delight in it. After you’ve done that, smile again. You’ve learned something new.

Wasn’t that fun?

Until next time, be well!