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Learning is not experience

Learning is not experience

The Book of Life, January 10, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995

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The word learning has great significance. There are two kinds of learning. For most of us learning means the accumulation of knowledge, of experience, of technology, of a skill, of a language. There is also psychological learning, learning through experience, either the immediate experiences of life, which leave a certain residue, of tradition, of the race, of society. There are these two kinds of learning how to meet life: psychological and physiological; outward skill and inward skill. There is really no line of demarcation between the two; they overlap. We are not considering for the moment the skill that we learn through practice, the technological knowledge that we acquire through study. What we are concerned about is the psychological learning that we have acquired through the centuries or inherited as tradition, as knowledge, as experience. This we call learning, but I question whether it is learning at all. I am not talking about learning a skill, a language, a technique, but I am asking whether the mind ever learns psychologically. It has learned, and with what it has learned it meets the challenge of life. It is always translating life or the new challenge according to what it has learned. That is what we are doing. Is that learning? Doesn’t learning imply something new, something that I don’t know and am learning? If I am merely adding to what I already know, it is no longer learning.

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