I may have chosen to be born, but I have no memory of that now.
I also don’t remember asking to learn things, though sometimes I feel that I came into the world begging to learn.
Eventually, something happened. I started to realize, as we all do, that living is experiencing and experiencing is both having and learning.
And learning is growth, even as we want to choose so carefully what and how we learn, and we don’t want to collect experiences like playthings.
(Part of learning is also trying to ‘undo’ a lot of this learning, or conditioning, and try our darned best to live moment-to-moment, remembering that we are really dying every moment, every day, just as we are remaking ourselves again and again.)
Precisely when does this happen, this road to cognition?
Between infancy and childhood, a lot happens to us, as we all know. We go from sleeping and crying (or knowing without knowing, in a way), to living little beings who can laugh, enjoy things, recognize objects, tell things apart from one another, and remember things.
In other words, at some point along the way in this journey of ours, we begin to understand that we have a life story, and become able to tell the story of us.
What a lucky thing, this learning is, this being able to go back and put pieces of the puzzle together, and then put them together in ever new ways in our search for the meaning that is relevant to us now.
More than that, it’s such a humbling experience, to know how much of who we are comes from our interactions with others. Memory can become intimately connected with gratitude, and gratitude can save our lives.
Gratitude gives life meaning, and gives us a purpose.
It’s easy to complicate things as we try to analyze, interpret, get-to-the-bottom-of, and organize our self-perceptions.
But let’s try to uncomplicate them, in a little exercise that combines remembering, learning, humility and gratitude.
Sometimes paring things down to the basics is essential and a great building-block to a positive construction of life. There may not be one singular heart of any matter, but there are probably more basic truths than our over-reaching minds want to admit.
There are surely some foundational truths of me, despite the ever-changing quality of who I am, which I’m so thankful to re-awaken myself to (repeatedly, because the human mind can be a faltering one and forget that which is good). This process of “re-minding” helps me sift through the often chaotic battlefield in my brain.
Which gives me a little piece of (my heart) ground.
So here goes—What I Have Come to Know and Be Thankful For:
I don’t remember being not-yet-born, but I realize in hindsight that from being in the womb, I learned that there is someone to feed me when I’m hungry.
From my little sister, I learned that someone could love me with enormous, trusting eyes as someone brought into the same storyline, and sharing the same blood and a history as me. I eventually learned that I should do everything in my power not to betray that trust.
From my parents, I learned how love frames and fills a life and only expands with time.
From my friends, I have learned that family is a very large and beautiful, all-encompassing thing.
From my partner in life, I have learned about the insane resilience of love: how bursting to the point of no return the heart can feel, and also how terrible breakable.
From my school teachers, I learned that I could use words, numbers and symbols to build my own vision of the universe.
From some more recent teachers, I learned that intelligence can only take you so far, and that reaching for wisdom can take you farther.
From great movies—The Wizard of Oz is my favourite—I have learned that there are endless, genius ways of constructing and expressing (sharing) a world view.
From my extended journeys from Canada out to the big, wide world, I am learning every day that the only way to really experience is with eyes gaping-wide, and directly connected to the heart.
From life itself I have come to learn, in my best moments, that I am life and not just in this life.
I’m still learning. Learning never stops.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s Own