I credit my dad with my love for learning; growing up our house was littered with books- Dad had run out of bookshelves, and so the floor became just as good a place as any a home for the books that bred en masse.
Still today, not much has changed for Dad, books now occupy not only shelves and floor space, but sit patiently, precariously piled in room corners, or trail like great pythons around desks and chairs; they have taken over the dinning room table, and claim a double bedroom for their own.
Needless to say, literature has played a major part in my own life. I thank Dad for giving me Plato to read in my earlier teenage years, for encouraging me to take up Philosophy (because, as he said: ‘I couldn’t wait for you children to grow up, so that we could have real conversations’); for John Stuart Mill’s for ‘On Liberty’, which quite literally changed the direction of my life; for the exposure to religious literature that I received from a very early age, a literary foundation to which so many texts allude, and from which so much of our cultural ideas about life have been informed. I am so indebted to my literary education for shaping who I am today.
Like many, I have used books for escapism, for knowledge, for insight; the incredible power of a novel, poem or play to evoke epiphany- a sudden uncanny yet undeniable experience of connection with an author and something greater across space and time, the awakening of a dormant seed, watered by the word.
There have been definite periods where I have felt like I am eating books for breakfast, ravenously reading from first light with an accompanying coffee that’s strong enough to induce a panic attack, totally at ease, engulfing words and words and words. I can’t help but feel that this sounds a bit self-indulgent (I blame my genes).
And so we share. We share what we have had the privilege to learn and experience ourselves, and we continue to learn together. To cultivate our innate capacity for growth, to foster our natural curiosity, to inspire and ignite the spark of imagination, to move beyond what we thought we knew, this is what teaching and learning is about.
How do we manifest this as teachers, as parents? We question, we probe, we go beyond; we communicate in a way that acknowledges the openness of experience; we recognise the limitations of our own views; we work to broaden our understanding through thoughtful discussion and collaborative study.
Learning occurs in relationship, whether in relation to a text, a film, a piece of music, a person, or nature, we are dependent on the world around us for our own development. Seen like this, the world is a rich playground to explore, or Borges’ library, an ever-expanding universe, with unlimited potential.
So, let’s learn together. Let’s share our worlds; let’s expand our minds and indulge in the rich world library that’s on offer.