I think most of you agree when I say that that acquiring knowledge is important. Some of you might even agree when I say that it is as necessary for a good life as is eating. For me it is. A day when I'm not learning anything new is a wasted day. But the terms “learning” and “knowledge” must be interpreted in the widest possible sense. I would rather include this need in a general need of mindfood. (I have previously called this brainfood, but I changed my mind about that. Now I prefer the term mindfood, associating the word brain with the biological organ and mind with the mental faculties. Thus brainfood would be ordinary, physical nutrition for the function of the brain as an organ, while mindfood is the immaterial input into the nervous system.)
The mind needs its specific nutrition and its exercise just as the physical body (including the physical aspect of brain and nervous system) does. Moreover, the mind is somehow stored in the physical vehicle we call body. Unless the body functions well, and remember that brain and nervous system are parts of the physical body, the mind will not. But even with the perfect physical organism, the mind will not function well unless it also gets its own immaterial food and exercise. This immaterial food is what I hence call mindfood or immaterial nutrition. It consists of knowledge and experience in the widest sense; every sensory impression, every mental input – and it is digested and metabolised analogous to physical food. Its output is mental as well. It is thinking and imagination, creativity, maturing and wisdom.
When the mind is not fed anything digestible, it starts to develop deficiency, a deficiency of immaterial nutrients. Such a deficiency might in a longer term become a mentally based degenerative disease, where intelligence, memory, creativity, and thinking in general are declining. This degeneration should not be confused with senility caused by material deficiency - that is, degeneration of brain and nervous system as biological-physical organs due to deficiency of essential nutrients understood in the ordinary material sense - but it is something completely at the mental level.
It is a well-known fact that under-stimulation of the mind leads to mental problems. It is one example, albeit a very primitive one, of an immaterial deficiency and its immediately noticeable consequence.
One thing the mind needs is new knowledge to further develop its thinking. A mind that doesn't keep learning, stagnates. It stops growing and soon it atrophies. We need new knowledge as long as we live. The necessity of learning is not limited to young age.
Neither is learning something for which schools are very efficient. Indeed, schools are very inefficient tools for delivering knowledge and they often hamper development of intelligence and kill the the pupils' desire for intellectual growth. On the other hand, schools have never been intended to deliver knowledge, although that is what most people believe. Schools are primarily a tool for pacification and indoctrination, for brainwashing and ideological programming. In short, their purpose is to create obedient slaves and societal conformity. Unfortunately, they are efficient for that purpose. They are totally devastating for the human mind. (Here the word school is understood in the common contemporary, modern sense, as a class (or classes) with a teacher and a number, often quite large, of pupils of a similar age.)
There are many ways to acquire knowledge, briefly I want to contrast two main branches of methods. Experience and reading.
Experience is everything you learn by doing. Reading is to learn without doing, to learn from what others have done or thought. Don't underestimate reading, it can considerably expand your own mind. For your own experience, you are a prisoner in time and space, but for reading you are not. You can learn from the experience of people in other places and at other times. Not only read about it, you can read the actual words of someone who lived thousands of years ago. When you read, for instance, Plato, especially if you read the original, he speaks directly to you without any intermediary or interpretation. He has been dead for more than 2000 years, but you can take part of his very own words, mind-to-mind. Time is irrelevant. It's only a one-way communication, but a communication it is.
The ability to learn from reading is well worth developing. You can learn almost anything theoretical from reading, and you can learn it at least 10 times as fast as those who require another human being to explain the same material to them. This is the most valuable ability you can forward to your children. Teach them to learn efficiently from reading and how to find high quality literature, and they need no schools, except for certain practical things where manual instruction is necessary. (In an employment society people need certificates and diplomas and need schools to achieve those, but that is another question, one of an absurd society. Such documents usually have very little connection to knowledge anyway. Yet it would be easy to issue documents by tests, without any regard for how the pupil has acquired the knowledge.) The ability also consists of being able to digest a read material and transform it to practice. And even when practical instruction is required, you need much less of that if you are first duly prepared by reading.
How about fiction? Is it worth reading?
Yes, good fiction is. Apart from being enjoyable (which is also a valuable property), there is much to learn from good fiction. But, as with everything, a high quality is necessary. Not every pile of paper behind a cover (or digital file) is worth spending time on.
Reading might be important, yet don't spend all your time reading. It is just one part of what provides valuable mindfood. It must never be a replacement for reality or for personal experience.
Experience comes in many shapes. Here I will mention only one: travelling. Why I choose to discuss that? Because people travel more and more, still they experience less and less. The modern tourist industry has created an assembly line tourism, where everything is pre-arranged from beginning to end, and where nothing is genuine. A form of stage play where you run from view to view. Moreover, many travellers are seeing only airports, hotels and beaches, doing nothing but tanning, drinking and whoring. This is the same on every continent; you have not been anywhere but in some “nowhere touristland” that could be anywhere. If that is what you want, okay, but don't believe it provides the genuine experience of travelling.
Travelling can be a very rich experience, but then you have to forgo all the pre-arranged tours and views, go on your own, enter local life, and not rush too much. You must have time fully to absorb the local atmosphere, to know the locals, and to learn about the local culture – both by observation and participation. Rich travelling is done slowly and with mind and senses wide open.
Learning Languages - How I do
The Cult of the Green Fairy; La Fée Verte
Mindfood & Drugs, Creative Genius & Insanity.
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