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Lifelong Learning – Lessons from a Seagull

By Combi31 @combi31

Lifelong Learning – Lessons from a Seagull

I guess most have heard of the seminal books by Richard Bach, notably a story of a gull, called Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. If you haven’t, then there is still time, it is an allegory, almost a parable for learning and especially for lifelong learning.

I won’t speak too much about Lifelong Learning (LLL), as there are many posts on this blog about this subject, but suffice it to say that LLL begins where school leaves off and continues throughout our lives.

The book is about a seagull that decides to break the mould and discover other things in life, away from his limitations, to the dismay and puzzlement of his parents and those around him, who see no point in learning anything but survival. Jonathan believes otherwise, so, let’s have a look at a few quotes from the book.

Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating.

How often is this the case? Where people do not even attempt to reach their full potential due to beliefs that learning is for others and not for them, as they continue to survive on a day to day basis. The point is, that technological change, in work-life, means that one of the highest valued skills, is the ability to learn, change and adapt throughout life – anyone who remains stagnant, risks being left, very far behind. We all know the expression “Work to live” as opposed to “Live to work” – where are you on this one?

Wrong turns are as important as right turns. More important, sometimes.

Mistakes are inevitable, mistakes are sometimes good – if we can learn from them and mistakes are an integral part of any learning process – it is what we do with what we learn from our mistakes that is the crucial point. I am not suggesting that blindly making repeated mistakes is good, but using mistakes as a way of reflecting, experimenting and ultimately, learning is what we are aiming for.

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.

Things aren’t always as they seem and it is so easy to place barriers in front of ourselves that can seem unsurmountable, but a great many are in fact self-imposed, they can thus be removed by ourselves. Limitation is what keeps people within their comfort zone and away from taking chances and developing – say loud enough that you cannot and you will end up believing it!

Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that gull’s life is so short and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.

How often have you heard people saying that they are bored – right, it’s boring isn’t it! The question to ask is, “What are you doing to make yourself bored?” Others are curious, seeking out occasions where they can learn and grow, finding that 24 hour days are not long enough – it’s a shame the serial borers cannot donate some of their time to a good cause.

“Come along then.” said Jonathan. “Climb with me away from the ground, and we’ll begin.”
“You don’t understand My wing. I can’t move my wing.”
“Maynard Gull, you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.It is the Law of the Great Gull, the Law that Is.”
“Are you saying I can fly?” 
“I say you are free.”

Excuses and received ideas are perhaps one of the biggest hold-backs that learners encounter – mainly due to the fear of failure or from the fear of taking risks. All good learners are by definition risk-takers, and this does not leave room for excuses.

“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”

No comment, you can make your own meaning from that one and the next ones.

The same rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world through what we learn in this one. Learn nothing , and the next is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome”

“Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows meaning, a higher purpose for life? For a thousand years we have scrabbled after fish heads, but now we have a reason to live – to learn, to discover, to be free!”

For me, this deals with the essence of learning – not necessarily for anything else than personal development in the broadest sense of the term, and the desire to learn for learning’s sake. Many lifelong learners cause puzzlement in their own social circles of family and friends who just don’t get why a person continues, or has the desire to continue learning.

“When you have come to the edge of all the light you have and step into the darkness of the unknown, believe that one of the two will happen to you - Either you’ll find something solid to stand on or you’ll be taught how to fly!”

Either way you are on to a winner – learning is not just about content and context but more about process, which can then be applied to other life situations.

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you´re alive it isn’t.”

If you are still breathing, you should still be learning – curious and with an appetite for discovery – enjoying all that life has to offer and learning from the adversity with which life challenges us…

Thank you Richard Bach for this inspiring book.

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