“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” — Socrates
It has been a little while since my last blog, and as promised, I want to fill you in on what I’m trying to change in my life since returning from Europe. Easier said than done, of course.
On one of my breaks during my last week at Leonardo da Vinci, I took the time to rip out a sheet of paper from my notebook in order to write down things that I wanted to do once I got home, aside from getting back in the gym and sleeping in my own bed. I wanted to share some of the things that I wrote down.
At the top of my list there is a number one with a bold word right next to it.
Oh, man. There are so many places that I want to go in this world. But being in Europe where everything is so close and traveling to other countries is not uncommon, I realized that I had seen very little of my own grand country. America is beautiful, blessed with many different types of terrain and scenery, and I have seen next to none of it. I plan to take some trips to see some friends who live in different states, and I just returned from a very short road trip to British Columbia (more on that in another post). But if you really want to know the places I would love to go most, here they are in no particular order: Prince Edward Island, Alaska, Germany, France, and Maine. Traveling, aside from being very expensive, is a fantastic way to learn so many things in a short span of time. Now is the time for me to do it.
2. CONTINUE LEARNING A LANGUAGE
I was both frustrated with and surprised at how much Italian I learned. I was frustrated because I felt that it was taking me forever to pick it up. It took me a few weeks to get my gears going, but near the end, I thought I was able to piece a lot together quite well (not that I was anywhere near being fluent). And now, of course, I am sorely out of practice.
Many Italians wondered why we Americans bothered to learn another language at all , considering most of the world wants to learn English. To them, we have no need to learn another language. Most Americans seem to think that way as well. We don’t take our foreign language requirements seriously.We may have no immediate need to learn Italian or French, but throw yourself into another country for a few weeks and see how frustrating it is not to be able to understand what anyone is saying. A little peak at what the Tower of Babel must have been like.
Way back when, an accomplished person could speak more than one language. We’re losing that learnedness. I admire people that can speak more than one language, and I’ve met some people who are trilingual. My host family’s cousin could speak Italian, English, and Russian! It seems to me that speaking more than one language can do naught but help make you more learned and intelligent. I regret not taking Spanish in high school more seriously.
When I first got back, I would devote some hours out of the week to keeping up with my Italian and even learning more, but I have let that be put on the back burner. This post now both convicts and reminds me that I need to get back on track and continue learning.
3. READ MORE EDUCATIONAL LITERATURE
Closely related to my previous resolution is this one: read more educational literature.The half a year before I left was so busy that I rarely had time to sit and read anything, but I like reading English and American classics. While I was abroad, I came to the realization that I rarely read anything other than typical English major books or the Bible. I came across painters, musicians, places that I knew nothing about. What could be easier than to pick up a book about them and learn. So since I have been back, Thriftbooks.com has taken quite a bit of my money. I have been searching for books on anything that might interest me. Books on the American West, Pompeii, and Thomas Hardy are my reading list. I am currently reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, a book on the West’s obsession with nutrition rather than eating real, nutritious, unprocessed food.
I am also getting back to studying for the GRE, a type of SAT for graduate schools, so prayers for that would be greatly appreciate.
4. RUN 10 MILES
I was separated from my gym life while I was abroad and was forced to run the hills of Campiglione for exercise. It’s enough to make one suicidal. But for some reason, I resolved to make running 10 miles a summer goal. Every so often I get a runner’s burst of energy, but typically, I’m a HATE-cardio type of girl. So it came as an incredible joy and surprise when I hit my goal of 10 miles about 2 weeks ago! I almost died; therefore, no plans for a half-marathon as of yet.
5. PLANT A GARDEN
Palmira, my host grandmother, had a garden in her backyard which she was just started to plant for the summer when I returned home. I helped her plant some lettuce heads (insalata) a few days before my departure. She told me that she grew her own tomatoes and always made a huge batch of tomato sauce in the summer, enough to last most of the year. For a while, I have been interested in eating better, living more simply, and this seemed like another way to work that interest into my life. She inspired me to plant a garden when I got home. My dad has always liked gardening, so with his help, I have a decent summer garden. Our tomato, pepper, basil, oregano, mint, and lavender are doing beautifully! I wanted to learn how to can this summer as well, but I never seemed to have enough spare money to buy that equipment. Perhaps next summer.
6. MASTER A PIANO PIECE
I was blessed enough to have parents that made me stick with piano lessons until my senior year of high school, so, after a while of plucking away, I can teach myself a good amount of a piece. After being in Vienna, a classical music capital, I resolved to get back into musical learning again. I decided to teach myself a Chopin song that I had always wanted to learn. I came back and practiced and practiced until my family got so sick and tired of this song, but until I could actually play it well. I have taken a break from it, but I have the notes down. Faster playing is the new focus and probably the hardest part for me.
I guess that is about it for relevant resolutions right now. Now that I look at them, it doesn’t seem like much, but reading, studying, playing all take an exorbitant amount of time. There just isn’t enough time in a day anymore.
Voltaire once said, “The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.” I think that sums up everything quite nicely. In high school, I thought that I was a pretty well-rounded student. I did sports, got good grades, sang in choir, took music lessons, worked. I didn’t have time for much else. Now that I have experienced a little more, learned more, I realize just how unaccomplished I really am. Experience is a key idea for me right now. The more I see and experience of the world, the more there is to learn. In comparison of what there is to learn, I know nothing. God knew what he was doing when he created so many different places and peoples. Because of these creations, human beings should never be bored, never tire of learning, which is infinite. The flame should be ever burning, the vessel never full.