Knowledge and understanding


by Kelly Pontsler –

The older I get, the more I know how much I don’t know. Has that thought ever crossed your mind? It has crossed mine. Often!

The human brain is an amazing thing. Apparently all of the connections our brains need to function are established in the first few years of life, and our brains actually stop growing about the age of 18. So it truly amazes me that at the age of 47, I still seem to have some brain cells available to learn something new every day.

I was in Merced the other day with some time to spare before attending a meeting at the corps. After driving around town for about half an hour, I ended up at the Merced County Courthouse Museum. It was open, it was free of charge, and I went in.

I love museums of all kinds, big and small. I’m fascinated by the things people choose to collect and by the threads of local history. Upstairs in this building dating back to the early 1900s was a room featuring local schools. On one of the display panels was a diploma of 8th grade graduation, issued by the State of California to a young lady in 1942. It came with a message from the Superintendent of Public Instruction who wrote:

In your planning for the future it is well to remember that human beings are not static. Each person continues to grow, develop, change, and learn so long as he lives. Personal improvement and adjustment to changing conditions require a continuation of purposeful education throughout life.

I chuckled. I’m not sure that would be taken as gripping communication by most of the 8th graders I’ve ever known. I share the superintendent’s opinion, but here’s a question: How do you define “purposeful education” and isn’t learning just for learning’s sake good enough?

I have a long list of things I’d like still like to learn: How to play the cello or the violin (or both), how to ballroom dance (incredible but true), and how to paint (pictures—not walls) among them. Watching a “how to” video is good or reading a book about it is good. But actually attempting it is better, and I suppose that’s the rub. Converting head knowledge into heart understanding requires some action and interaction on my part. And that takes intention and commitment and time, which is probably why my list of things I’d still like to learn is so long.

Getting past head knowledge and finding heart understanding is probably something we all have to work at from time to time. I was read in Mark 12 the other day about Jesus’ encounter with a religious scholar. The man asked Jesus to identify the most important commandment in all of scripture. Jesus replied there are two: Love the Lord your God with the best of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. The man said he knew that. And Jesus replied, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Not far but not quite there.

The scholar was a student of the scriptures, a learned man, I’m sure he was well respected. But I think in his final response Jesus was trying to tell him that head knowledge is great, but heart knowledge is better. It’s not just about reading books. (Point taken.)

With the summer approaching quickly, I’m feeling my inspiration growing! Time to get out and get going…! I’ll keep you posted. (Now if I could just remember where I put the information about that cooking class)!

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