Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Value of An Education"

                                          
Steve Jobs' Stanford Graduation Speech has gotten alot of play lately, following his death.  It was a great speech.  His three chief points were "stay foolish", "stay curious", and "don't waste a minute of your life".  Well said.

Ironically, those points crossed my mind as I was watching Sinatra's "Concert For The America's" on PBS tonight.  Sinatra was singing "Send In The Clowns" by the great Stephen Sondheim.  It was lovely and the world was lovely and my thoughts jumped to thoughts again on education; my own, to include knowing who Sondheim is.

Far too many people deprive themselves of an education.  I'm not talking about formal education, although that is equally important; school provides the discipline to learn what you need to learn, but, if you're fortunate, an education will inspire you to continue your education long after you have completed your formal education.  That's really the "education" I'm speaking of; a continuation of learning throughout your lifetime.  As Jobs said, "stay curious".  Don't stop reading books just because you no longer have to.  And embrace the world, flirt with it!  See what turns you on!  Value your formal education as well as the education that comes from the life experience!

I am so grateful that I can appreciate a Puccini opera, Broadway plays, Bach and Beethoven and John Lennon!  I can get chill bumps listening to Hank Williams just as easily as listening to Bach!  I even know that, in Hawaii, they call chill bumps "chicken skin" and I think about how lovely that localism is because I was lucky enough to live there!  And while I would never choose to live in New York City I love to go there and see a Broadway show, eat in a NYC deli and intermingle with those crazy, fast talking New Yorkers!  I have been fortunate to work and live in the Middle East and in Asia and diverse places in America.  In every one of those places I have learned! 

Through my love of reading I have experienced "virtual travel" with Bill Bryson and William Least Heat Moon and Steinbeck and Twain!  I have learned through reading Thomas Wolfe that prose can indeed also be poetry!  By contrast, I can appreciate the simplistic elegance of Ernest Hemingway.  I have learned to read and understand Shakespeare; until I took a Shakespeare literature course his writing was totally foreign to me and now I can read him and appreciate that he was perhaps the greatest writer and the greatest storyteller of all time.

I was blessed with a natural love of history and have studied the history of every major culture in our world.
I am blessed in that historical characters literally walk off the page and come up to me and say "hi" every time I read about them.  They are truly real people to me!  History has enabled me to see and understand current events in a more accurate frame of reference.

I was the first person in my extended family to finish high school.  Hungry for more, I was also the first to have graduated from college.  It doesn't make me superior to anyone in my family; it doesn't make me smarter; it means I was more fortunate!

I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of professional people during my two careers.  I have socialized with them.  I have interacted with them at work.  I'm sorry to say the vast majority of them closed the books and never opened another one once they had a degree in hand.  They literally "stopped learning" and it soon becomes clear that the breadth of their knowledge suffers as a consequence. 

An education is one of the most valuable assets you can bring to the world of living.  It not only keeps you properly situated in a rapidly changing world; it enriches your soul and makes the world so much more rewarding.  When one stops "being foolish", "being curious" one is really just slowly dying...and dying in a world heartbreakingly foreign to both your mind and your soul.

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