The Simplicity of Life and the Complexity of Learning
In about two weeks, my time at Goddard College will officially be over, with a thesis presentation, graduation ceremony, and hopefully one last wonderful night of celebration, with those whose educational passions are similar to mine. And as that moment approached, I am reminded with the very first moment that Goddard College came into my conscience, with a pamphlet that was handed to me at a graduate fair…on the pamphlet read…
“Goddard College: Simple Living; Hard Learning”
This pamphlet was intriguing and the words even more so, but it was not an awe-struck moment when I read it. Now I understand it as one of the important philosophical guidelines of my life, but at the time, it simply caught my interest; why you ask? Because the phraseology seemed backwards to me; it should have read, “Hard Living; Easy Learning,” that seemed more accurate of my understanding. The idea that life is hard, that struggles are constant, but learning, if you followed the rules is easy, formulaic, and uniform.
What I came to discover, over the following 18 months, was that the right “formula” was the one on the original pamphlet. By living, I have begun to understand it is the idea of inner-peace, of simplicity of scenarios, of going with the flow and, if I could be any more cliché, trusting the process. I have also learned that hard means, critical, challenging, outside of normalcy and comfort. That the essence of learning itself, is complicated, that facts are usually far more complex than are originally described, that ideas and ideology have been discussed and reviewed thousands of times over, and that originality, creativity, and innovation takes work, partnership, community, self-discipline and self-reliance.
When our decisions are simplified, when our life choices are processed with a level of acceptance and faith, when we take the time to smell the roses, gaze at the sunset for one more minute, and forget all of the little things that are pet peeves or get on our nerves, and simultaneously, we think about ideas, we work through our own biases and assumptions, we put thoughts into actionable deeds and new discoveries, then we have found the answer. Then finally, we have found the answer both to an enriched, joyous, in-the-moment existence, and the answer in how we discover new ideas, new thoughts, the complexity of the world and perspectives within it.
Then it dawns on us, we are let in on the secret, we are given the game plan, the blue print and the layout of the land. Goddard is currently in the process of removing this phraseology and its original mission statement, looking for something more, 21st century if you will, that represents the college as it stands now, as a low-residency institution. However, to me, it was never only a symbolic phrase of rural living and thinking hard about subjects. No, instead, it taught me to simplify life in order to find happiness within myself, through interactions with others, and by relishing in the complexity, critical analyzing and multiple perspectives of all things new within the mind and within the heart.
The simplicity of life and complexity of learning is, I believe, the balance that one is desperately searching for. This is the formula that speaks to the soul, the inner-self that refuses to let dreams die, or can view dreams in a different lens. If we as learners, schools, administrators, teachers, state boards, national departments and international learning communities, followed the idea that simplicity of life may guide our bodies and our responses to actions within or from without our control, while maintaining a focus on multiple perspectives, differing thoughts, new and creative ideas, then we may just find learning in the process, and save humanity as well.