Thursday, 26 June 2008

Random Thought #2: Do You Learn?

Recently, I spoke to a friend of mine who told me about how he had taken on swimming lessons since he had never learned it properly. For once, he was excited about the fact that he was making progress but even more about him actually learning a new skill for the first time in a long time. Which made me think: When was the last time I learned a new skill? Do I still learn enough?

Learning something entirely new can be both gratifying and frustrating. For instance, my son, at his very young age of not even a quarter of a year, learns a ton of new things every day.

I am not sure whether he feels a great gratification in things like: "Yesterday I was unable to drool, today I can do it very well", but for parents it is certainly exciting. Maybe not drooling in particular, but skills like smiling at Dad go down extremely favourably in my book. It is thrilling to watch somebody starting from a clean sheet and just picking up so many things as they go along.

Then of course, you get to school where you are being told all sort of things, and since secondary school coincides with puberty, many of those things you will probably not find that useful. In particular those which aren't directly related to how you make girls fancy you. Nevertheless, this probably is the age at which you learn intellectually/academically the most, like science, languages, etc.

But then, once adulthood kicks in, it sometimes feels like many people think that they have learned enough and are happy with the skills acquired thus far.

My friend with the swimming lessons made me wonder which skills I had recently acquired and I had to think long and hard. Golf came to my mind, but that was a few years ago. Windsurfing, and albeit fun, was a bit of a one-off, surfing (without wind) even less sustained.

Computer programming, while professionally motivated, should certainly count, and driving on the left hand side of the road, although being more a modification of an old skill, does belong on the list.

So I thought, maybe I haven't fared that badly after all. My friend's enthusiasm reminded me that without a lot ado, a lot of things are being picked up along the way. While not as essential as learning to walk or learning to swim, it is still an exciting thought of being able to do things you weren't able to do before.

Being able to order your dinner in Tuscany in Italian, writing some lines of computer code that are genuinely sleek. All things that, if one can take a step back to think about it, are beautiful achievements in one way or another.

Which made me think about my son again and suddenly I realised that, while he is picking up things at break-neck speed, so am I. I wasn't able to change a diaper last year, or burp a baby, or even provide ok-ish support for a labouring woman.

Nor was I able to patiently rock a little 10-pound human being for hours to make him fall asleep until a few weeks ago.

You learn something new every day, after all.