Where does our knowledge come from? Where does it start? How long will we go on learning?
Knowledge is being absorbed by our minds from the instant we hear sounds. When our eyes first open, we are taking pictures of everything we see. We are being influenced by our surroundings and taking in a world of information. The learning process begins as soon as our minds can begin storing memories. From birth up until the final hour when we close our eyes and go to sleep for eternity, we are learning.
My parents were not highly educated people. My father graduated High School and my mother had dropped out part way through her second year to help her father, my grandfather, work to pay off debt that was left to him when he was abandoned by a business partner. Her education was sacrificed because of her devotion to family. She never returned to her education and at the age of fifty, her learning stopped. My father, though not a college man was very smart. I would say his "smarts" we due in part to a childhood in the hills of Hubbardton, Vermont where innovation was part of a way of life. Common sense became a man's best friend. However, at the age of seventeen, he found a passion called alcohol and the demon took over his life until his life of learning was ended in July of 2009. He was 69.
These two people, though never educated formally, will go down in my own history as the greatest teachers I have ever had. They were the professors that initiated my goal oriented mind and need to succeed. They were the catalyst to my competitive spirit. They taught me more than anyone else ever did. They just never knew it. They were the foundation to my inner house. My parents were the introduction to my story.
From my mother I learned patience and forgiveness. From my father I learned wilderness survival, hunting, fishing, cooking, etc. I also learned from him, what I did not want to become. There's nothing wrong with that. It was, perhaps, the greatest lesson he ever taught me.
Today I look back. I see where they were when I was the eldest of five children. We struggled constantly. At the age of 12 I would often be left to care for my four sibblings. I don't regret that, because I love each of them even today as we have gone our separate ways. My sister and I stay in touch as much as we can, but I have not heard from the others in years.
High School was very rough for me. It was a time where I felt very alone, but alone felt very good. Although there were peers I wished to be friends with, I never knew how to approach them. There was a fear within me that I could never shake. That tug-of-war going on inside me between my mom's love of religion and my father's less than desirable habits. That tug-of-war between right and wrong. Which do I choose? Which path do I take? I don't like either of them, but I have no idea how to create my own. Can I do this? Such a lonely feeling. This shyness seems unshakeable.
At the age of 19 I found my way into the Army. In Fort Devens, Mass I decided to try the Chinese Goju system of Karate. Having started running when I was 16, I knew I was in shape for it. It went on for a while and then as luck would have it, I found myslef on the little Island of Okinawa. Learning the way of life of an entirely different culture was good for me. My running continued and 15 to 20 mile runs were not uncommon in my resume of training. I sought out a man we referred to as Sensei Archie. From him I learned a brief amount of Okinawan Karate and kept it a secret even from my closest buddies on the island. I got involved with things in the service. In 1984 I was the Okinawa Island Billiards Champion winning my own pool cue and a plaque I still have today. Something was changing. Something very good was happening. Self confidence. My own path. I was learning the lessons I wanted to learn. I was setting my own goals and making my own rules.
In December of 1985 I returned home and though I had goals, it was a long time before they were reached. In 1988, the completion of the Rhode Island Marathon with my friend and English teacher from the past, Dave Sanborn, was a nice addition to my accomplishments. That 26.2 mile race taught me a lot about myself.
In the years that followed I became an avid student of Chinese Kenpo and just before going to test for my Black Belt, had a fairly large dispute with my instructor and walked away from his Dojo, never to return. From then until now, and through my tomorrows, the martial arts are a part of my spirit, and a part of my inner focus. They help me deal with pain that I live with every day. My meditative state of mind has overtaken what used to be a shyness I thought would never go away. But the lessons that I learned through many of these experiences made me who I am.
I focus now, ironically, on my education. With three college degrees almost complete, and a fourth in my very near future, I feel much better about what I know and what I have learned. I feel far more complete than I may have without this added knowledge.
The struggles of life from my birth until now have been very much a rollercoaster. The ups and downs. The fast times and the slow times. The inner struggles with relationships, friendships, and my own emotional tugs-of-war have made me who I am. The success of owning a business to being homeless, to once again feeling like I am nearing the top of a hill as my mountainess future awaits, are all the things that have taught me to adapt and overcome. They are the things that have taught me that I live, not for the sake of others, but to define life in the way I wish it to be seen. To set an example for those that feel their future is hopeless. Through my parents, my sibblings, my friends, my senseis, and my college professors I have taken on knowledge that I wish to pass on to others.
In this month, in 1993 I lost my mom to cancer. She wished for so much but was given so little. For her children she wanted them to grow and be educated. She set a great example but left this world unsure of her success. I look to the heavens now, and I quietly whisper.... "Relax mom......Lesson Learned!"