I taught thousands of college students over the years. The biggest challenge was not helping students learn; it was first getting them to unlearn the things wrongly buried in their psyche: that rote memorization rarely creates understanding; cramming is foolish; being in class is a critical necessity; classmates are not just co-learners, they are also your teachers; the internet is not always the best source of information; talking to people face to face is an important skill… believe me, there’s more! But, the point is that
we have all learned things that we need the guts and determination to root out and unlearn before our growth as a whole, helpful, and happy person can develop and mature.
When we take the time (that in itself is an important learning skill) to seek out the grandeur and solitude of the wilderness, we become students of nature- wild and human. There is so much we can learn if we are also willing to unlearn the things that make us small, harried, worried, unhappy, and vexed (oh how my grandmother the writer loved that word!)
I believe that all of learning is rooted in love.
And what does the wilderness teach us out of love about love? That this world was created by design, with an Artist’s eye and a passionate Hand. What we find in the wilderness is that the world, as created, is infused with a holiness that transcends all the things humans can do to ruin it. The wilderness teaches us humility, and to affirm the good that we see and can be to others. It teaches us to love the Creator.
If love is the root from which all learning blossoms, then it follows that the things we’ve learned wrongly do not shoot forth from love. When I take the time to seek out the solitude and teaching that creation offers, I ask myself what I need to unlearn first-those things the world pushes me to think, say, or do that are not things to be proud of. First, I must unlearn haste. It’s one thing to hurry to get dinner on the table for a hungry tribe; it’s another to live each day as if God did not create enough time. The wilderness teaches me that I must slow down.
The world has taught us to hate. We distrust anyone who is not like us. We spill our hatred over onto social media.
We grind our axes and our teeth. Hate is the rot at the core of our discontent, and it cannot possibly grow out of a heart steeped in love.
If you find yourself impatiently fuming at (fill in the blank), you are not acting out of love.
We have also learned to hoard from this consuming and consumptive world. We make and we take and we guard it closely with our tightly balled up fists- our time, our money, our very selves.
The wilderness teaches us all this: that our haste, and our hate, and our hoarding are ugly and shameful, and utterly pathetic in the face of the humility and holiness we encounter in creation.
I don’t know about you but I have much to unlearn in order to learn rightly.