Deciding to Learn
I’m sure you have read the articles informing us Baby Boomers that we need to exercise our minds if we even hope to ward off the loss of memory and brain acuity as we age. Sales of brain teaser games are on the rise as Boomers, who as a generation heartily believe there is a product for sale that can fix anything, try to ward off what is considered a given: Your memory, your mind will desert you as you age.
It’s frightening to think that just as we have begun to notice minor, and then more major changes, in our bodies as the years pass by that our brains -- ourselves really -- are also experiencing changes and not the good kind.
That’s why I read with such relish a magazine article written by author Ann Patchett in which she ‘fesses up to wanting to learn for learning’s sake. The author of Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, both of which were read by my book club, admits that her love of learning borders on geeky, but she is past worrying about that.
“I decided to learn,” she says, when she was faced with a character she was writing about in Bel Canto who was an opera singer. Knowing nothing about opera (who does?), she undertook the task of learning everything she could about it. It was slow going at first, but she finally arrived at a point where she felt she understood opera and therefore, more about her character. She has since done this type of deep learning in projects about author Henry James and ichthyology (the study of fishes) which is featured in her latest novel, Run.
I think we can all learn something from Ms. Patchett. What fun it would be to dive deeply into a subject of interest, something we know nothing about -- much the way we did when we were children, and come up on the other side of the pool knowing more than we thought we could. For many of us, with our children grown and gone, now may be the best time to embark on such learning journeys.
What have you always wanted to know everything about? Photography? Mayan culture? The Civil War? There’s no time like the present. Then you and I can insert our names in the author's mantra, “My name is (Ann) and I’m a Poindexter.”
By Teresa K. Flatley