“Follow your heart and use your head to guide you, Mister Rico.
This is the way of the lifelong learner.”
Lua was well aware of all these ecological assaults and was clear-eyed about the difficulties we faced in re-educating ourselves to be able to address these global issues intelligently and effectively around the world. She had traveled extensively throughout her life, she told me, and had observed the same unfortunate pattern in higher education everywhere: universities turning out young adults whose chief interest was to find financial security, to become somebody important, or to just have a good time and seek happiness and pleasures with as little serious thought and concern as possible. Tragically, this conventional education and complacency snuffs out truly independent thinking and creativity and breeds conformity, which inevitably leads to mediocrity. To be different from the group or to resist the current cultural story is undoubtedly not comfortable and is often risky, as long as conventional notions of success are the goal.
The urge to be successful in the pursuit of reward — whether in Tucker’s material world or in the so-called ‘spiritual sphere’ — is essentially the search for inward or outward security, the desire for comfort. And this perfectly natural instinct unfortunately smothers discontent, denies spontaneity, and breeds the type of fear that blocks the intelligent engagement with the whole of life. Then, for people like Tucker, mind and heart become disconnected. They get duller and more disenchanted as the years unfurl.
Too many people, never leaving their comfort zone, find a safe quiet corner in life where there is a minimum of disturbance. They finally attain that, and then they are naturally afraid to step out of that hard-won place. This fear of life — this fear of struggle and of new experience and of learning — kills any spirit of adventure and any passion for living and solving difficult problems. Socialization, upbringing, and education have made them afraid to be different from their neighbors. They are afraid to think contrary to the established pattern of society and are thus unwitting slaves to corrupt authority, wasteful ways, and obsolete traditions.
In contrast, lifelong learners are creative people who are not afraid to struggle in pursuit of new experiences, sensations, and frames of mind — and openness to novel experiences is a significant predictor of creative output, of original ideas that have meaning and value. Lua explained,
“Openness to new experience is a strong predictor of creative achievement. A mind is like a parachute; it only functions when it is open. You know, Mister Rico, well-educated people have the best options in life and are far less likely to be cheated or misled or to wither and become dull in their later years. Education is related to freedom — the more education you have, the more choices you have. And culture and knowledge are what build great and lasting societies, not riches. I am afraid Tucker’s narrow self-serving education has made him unable to grasp the true calamity before him or appreciate the beauty of the Living Earth that we are destroying with our careless and reckless ways. It is really very sad. We all still have so much to learn and to understand about how to live intelligently — with head, hands, and heart in alignment — on this good and beautiful Earth.”
With the confidence and conviction of a passionate lifelong observer, learner, and teacher; Lua professed,
“Education and learning should ideally be a never-ending, organic process of discovering and developing natural talents and abilities so that we can make our way confidently, effectively, and joyously in the world. It is about continuously gaining knowledge and skills for understanding the past, navigating the future, and developing the capacity to contribute novel solutions to challenging problems. One should live as if this day could be your last, but learn as if you were going to live forever.”
Lua went on to say that education only succeeds when it nurtures curiosity, improves performance, and stimulates creativity. And it clearly fails when it stifles talents and abilities and kills the innate motivation to question, to learn, and to create original ideas that have value. And this would be a real tragedy considering the great ecological challenges we will be facing in the coming decades.
Lua believed that everyone should be continuously learning and willing to examine human problems without prejudice or fear and with fresh minds. Without a proper education, though, there is no real spirit of discontent — of revolt. When we yield to our current environment without questioning, any spirit of discontent that we may have dissipates. She explained that there is a deep psychological form of discontent that is the product of the intelligence of the head, heart, and hands operating in alignment with the evolving universe. This form of discontent is desperately needed in the world today, she believed, to address the mounting problems of human civilization.
And finally and most importantly, self-knowledge — the real fruit of lifelong learning and education — must begin with an awareness of the origins of one’s own thoughts and feelings. When we can fearlessly face experience as it comes and not try to avoid every disturbance, we keep intelligence highly awakened — which is intuition. And intuition, which blossoms from a life of continuous learning, should be the only true guide in one's life.
“Follow your heart and use your head to guide you, Mister Rico. This is the way of the lifelong learner.”