Letter: Expand your consciousness with lifelong learning

Graphic by Lori Deaton

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
— Robert Frost

Mountain Xpress has published information on public schooling, and I’d like to expand this to a conversation on adults learning throughout life. We are failing many families and children in developing the social, emotional and civic skills needed for success and happiness. Why are higher American values and principles such a hard sell to Americans beyond the realm of formal education? Schooling is not enough.

There’s an old saying: A teacher affects eternity, and one can never know where his or her influence stops. Let’s expand this: We citizens affect eternity. We never know where our influence stops — we are always affecting the energies around us in either a negative or positive way. What you do today, this moment, can affect the trajectory of your whole life into retirement years. If we are skeptical, suspicious and close-minded, it narrows our life. If we are active, caring, hopeful and trustful, our lives continue to expand and enrich us.

Do mental and spiritual growth stop after schooling? Athletes know that practicing is necessary. If their skills are not challenged, their skills and muscles will atrophy. And it is the same with you if your inner growth is not challenged.

Do yourself and our society a favor by participating in some way, in whatever your life situation allows. Don’t limit your ability or imagination or neglect your dreams and ideals. Your journey on Earth requires lifelong learning. All of us may not be able to actively participate in demonstrations, but each of us can daily leave our comfort zone and social class and inform yourself on whatever issues are close to your heart. Move toward a world of love, justice, generosity, empathy. It will contribute greatly to your personal life.

Change must be spiritual because the threats we face go deeper than politics and economics. It cannot be imposed from above but can best be spread from person to person, friends to friends, family to families, and hopefully from differing world views in mutual respect and kindness.

It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old; they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams. The goal for an adult’s lifelong learning is to expand your consciousness. Make your life big enough. Get out of your comfort zone. Make your own choices rather than follow lockstep, secondhand news and cement yourself in ideologies like conservative, liberal and anti-this-and-that.

There’s a beautiful world right here now to discover. Yes, it is a slow process of ups and downs, failures and successes, but hold onto your ideals and prepare yourself at an early age to thrive rather than merely survive. Focus more on growing and changing yourself than changing others. Pay attention, study, reflect in some form of meditation or prayer, and act in ways that energize you. You will discover a meaningful life that transcends today’s challenges.

Sigh — I say this with boldness as I’ve discovered that service to others in the interest of an ever-expanding truth, goodness and beauty is ever present. And for me, the local community is a good place to practice this.

— Ed Sacco


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