To learn

I’m not going to turn this into a Masonic blog, but this year I’ll be doing a lot of study in Freemasonry, so it’s going to pop up here from time to time with lessons to generalize to all of us.

Because we don’t write stuff down, there is occasionally a debate — sometimes running for centuries — as to what something means. The phrase, “to learn to subdue my passions and …,” is one such piece that causes confusion.

The question concerns whether there should be a comma after “to learn” — are we instructed “to learn to subdue our passions,” or are we instructed to learn and to subdue our passions? I didn’t finish the phrase above (Masons will know how it finishes), but is it a two-item list, or a three-item list?

The arguments are interesting, particularly the more recent writings. Those who believe it is a three-item list tend to have an argument along the lines of, “Of course we’re instructed to learn! How else could we improve?” while the people on the other side have an argument along the lines of, “Of course we don’t need to be instructed to learn! How insulting to think we would need to be told that!”

There’s a clear admonition, then, from people on both sides: Learn.

The word learn has been with us for a long time. Since Old English, in fact, which was very much like German and was spoken in England until the Norman invasion led to the Great Vowel Shift of 1066.

Put simply, to learn means “to acquire knowledge.”

Almost everything we do is, in some way, learning. We take in new information all the time. Even driving the same road to work every day, you pass different cars parked along the route, trees missing their leaves, houses being painted, grass being mowed along the highway, you get the idea. We take in new information, we process it, it’s something we’ve learned.

But does it make us better?

If we’re always looking to improve — and it’s my opinion that we should — we should seek to learn more.

Some people say make your strengths stronger; some say shore up your weaknesses. I say it doesn’t matter. Be curious. Learn new things. If you come across something unexpected you enjoy, go deeper. Use your library. Spend some time on YouTube. Sign up for The Great Courses Plus or Udemy or get yourself enrolled in some MOOCs.

Get smarter, get better.

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