Learning: The Greatest Virtue of All

Learning: The Greatest Virtue of All

the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught
“these children experienced difficulties in learning
“the importance of the library as a centre of learning 

synonyms: study, studying, education, schooling, tuition, teaching, academic work, instruction, training; research, investigation;


Such a simple textbook definition for such an intricate masterpiece of anthropology that even our labyrinthine brains with its gyri and sulci cannot even begin to fathom the depths of all the latent connotations that this simple word contains within it. The mere process of learning goes on to define who we are. It shapes our inner psyche like the divine hands of a potter. An omnipresent act that goes by unnoticed and uncredited, at every day and in every moment of our lives. If only we could truly understand and appreciate the true forbidden fruit which holds untold potential for world peace or mass destruction, the conclusion of which, lies solely in its mode and medium of propagation.

Few might be able to recognise the Socratic paradox: “I know one thing: that I know nothing”. A brilliant view into how deeply scholars and academicians of yesteryears, revered the craft of learning. Words fall short when one tries to convey the passion with which people with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, yearned for a whetstone to enhance their wits and skill sets. One might also bestow upon them added credit for achieving what they had with the limited resources available to them as compared to the people in today’s world.

When it comes to me, I bless the Almighty or the Universal Power which I believe orchestrates the stochastic moments of our life. I was bequeathed teachers and professors, who never, not in their wildest dreams, ever chose to restrict themselves to the syllabus. They went far above their call of duty and what was asked of them both out of their job profile as well as their paycheck only for the passion of learning and teaching. From being taught about the subtle differences between words like ‘astonish’ and ‘surprise’, to enthralling word etymology stories behind the words ‘many’, ‘often’ and ‘several’; from the workings of air pressure to molecular density, atomic spacing, the workings of the DNA, all elucidated in a concise and reproducible manner to an abecedarian such as myself, at the tender age of eight.

Another growing plague that uninhibitedly mars today’s collective intellect is the nudging and manoeuvring of young children’s minds towards a learning stream that we deem most appropriate for them. One cannot begin to enumerate the dastardly consequences of such an arbitrarily illogical act perpetrated by supposed adults. What happened to the Gurukul system of learning wherein a child’s entire upbringing would be entrusted upon a saint of sorts and his learning process itself would be kept devoid of any and all worldly attractions (read: distractions) as he invests his very being into acquiring utilitarian skills at an ashram. How does one even remotely expect their ward to choose the right path for themselves, one of soulful fulfillment, unless and until they expose him or her to all the different styles of learning out there, until they let them wade in all the diverse and uniquely flavoured pools of knowledge just waiting for the right minds to undergo symbiosis with.

The growing trend of enrolling students into coaching concentration camps designed to render their brain totally useless apart from the ordeal of clearing joint entrance exams is one of great concern. The widely popularised belief that it is utterly futile to enroll children into sports, arts, dance, music, karate (or other self-defense classes), and co-curricular activities as they like to call it, is one that eludes me like none other. I am in no way trying to belittle the STEM academic disciplines, I am in their support for the various inventions and discoveries that they have so judiciously brought to us. However, no matter from which angle I look at it, the current treatment dealt out to non-STEM fields is just pathetic, especially so in India. The whole mindset of the demography here has gone to the dogs, to the extent that Rajkumar Hirani has had to make a movie about it, which is just one step away from Aamir Khan stepping in to take up the mantle of exposing our country’s greatest flaws in his next edition of Satyamev Jayate.

Some people stand by the saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, I say otherwise. A little knowledge at least gives you some viable ground of holding out on your own against the proponents of false beliefs and ideas, all for the petty gain of swindling you. It is sad that people would be demonically crafty enough to play upon another’s lack of knowledge, especially the ones who could not even think about acquiring the same because of their racial, financial, social, or other problems. If only the road to learning for the underprivileged wasn’t ridden with potholes that stretched all the way to the centre of the earth. If only the farmers of today, wouldn’t be hoodwinked so often, for them to literally go out on a limb as they enroll their children in schools, and beg them to get good grades so that they don’t have to take up the profession of farming. Considered to be one of the 3 divine professions alongside teaching and medicine, I hope that this profession goes on to receive its much due appreciation and acknowledgment before we find ourselves in a downward spiral beyond the point of no return.

Somewhere down the line, our demand for materialistic comforts, our uncapped greed to amass wealth and fame and all derived avarice thereof have led us to forget that power is gained by sharing knowledge and not by hoarding it. Patents, copyrights, trade secrets, all pseudonyms to the blatant compartmentalization of information in its truest form for the personal gains of a chosen few. Like Damascus Steel, history would lay witness to how many creations or marvels stemming from human ingenuity will be lost to the sands of time.

The world at large, need not fear apocalypses, world wars, or mass extinction but must cower in despair from the sheer unbridled devastation that the lack of respecting ‘learning’ can exact upon humanity. Never has a generation accepted mediocrity as more commonplace and acceptable a happenstance than ours. The strive to gain knowledge is far superseded by the strive to have the most knowledge, and although these might seem very similar, it takes a fine discerning eye to differentiate between the two.

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Aayush Poddar

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