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Zhu Xi

Even though I’m no longer in school, when September rolls around, I get the urge to buy notebooks and pencils, excited by the potential and fresh energy that a new, cooler month brings. Even when we aren’t formally enrolled in school, we should still make learning an everyday part of our lives. So, what can we do to keep that sense of learning and excitement in our lives?

The Chinese philosopher Mencius argued that while human nature is fundamentally good, only with education can it be cultivated positively. The Mencius scholar Zhu Xi put it thus:

At its beginning, 

human nature is fundamentally good. 

Human natures are close to one another, 

but become far from one another by practice. 

It is only when there is not education, 

that their natures deviate.

In other words, try something fun, new, and non-lucrative. I interpret this to mean that education is not simply a means to an end; a tool to gain wealth or prestige, but important for its own sake. It’s important to learn things that will not benefit you materially but add a different kind of richness to your life. How can we keep learning? Some ideas include podcasts, ceramics classes, book clubs, or trying newrecipes.

It is always best to keep it fun and simple. My friend Maya is taking a ceramics class, and although she is not planning to pursue a career in pottery, she has acquired a new skill and some beautiful pottery that means a lot to her. See our past article on Stardust Advisory Board Member Lily who also does pottery. 

Besides the benefits listed above, adult learning has cognitive benefits. Writer William Alexander, who spent a year learning French as an adult, didn’t gain extraordinary conversational proficiency, but did find remarkable cognitive benefits when he took certain tests, and enjoyed himself in the process.

Between the cognitive, emotional, and philosophical benefits of learning, picking up a new hobby is a great thing to do!  And unlike the learning we were obligated to do in school, there’s no pressure to get a high grade – it’s pure personal enrichment.