Little Lessons

Seek What You Don’t Know

Posted by Mark Fallon

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Mar 8, 2019 5:01:00 AM

supernova
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo

In September 2014, astronomers discovered a supernova in the constellation of Ursa Major. A supernova occurs when a star explodes, causing it to become brighter than 100 million suns. Typically, a supernova shines for about 100 days before going dark.

This supernova remained bright for over 600 days.

The more scientists studied the phenomena, the less it followed any known pattern. There were no known models or theories that could explain why this supernova burned so brightly for so long.

Instead of becoming frustrated, the scientists became excited. Stan Woosley of the University of California at Santa Cruz explained, “the supernova offers astronomers their greatest thrill: something they do not understand.”

When we’re young, our lives revolve around learning. It begins in the home – walking, feeding ourselves, speaking. Then the classroom, where teachers unveil the mysteries of books, math and science. In our social lives, we fumble through the more challenging mysteries of relationships.

At a certain point, we may think we know enough. We’ve completed school, maybe some additional training, and worked as a professional for several years. We’ve acquired enough knowledge to do our jobs and get through the daily grind of life.

Yet there is so much more to know! Scientists discovering phenomena that defy explanation. Historians uncovering more about the ancient – and not so ancient – past. Authors sharing stories that are hidden treasures waiting to be found in bookstores and libraries.

If reading doesn’t get you excited, there’s been an explosion of podcasts covering everything from postal affairs to politics to personal development. I recently listened to a discussion on how the Panama Canal was built and operates. While I normally avoid heat, humidity and boats, I find myself searching websites on trips through the canal.

Perhaps you prefer video. This has been called the “golden age of documentaries”. New movies are being released in theaters, on television, and through many on-demand services. Filmmakers are pushing the boundaries on topics and styles to tell stories that captivate, entertain and inform.

Many times, when we learn something new, we’re like the astronomers looking at a supernova that doesn’t fade. We don’t understand. We may not understand why a certain event occurred or why people took certain actions. We may not understand the science or historical context of the subject. We may not understand why we didn’t already know what we just learned.

Those feelings only mean that we’re growing, and we’re beginning to understand that we’re responsible for continuing our personal journey of education.

There are so many opportunities to learn more. Most are no-cost, low-cost, or already covered in our monthly cable and internet bills. However, that information won’t come to us – we need to go looking for it.

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Topics: learning, little lessons, Reading and Books