Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Learning Cull

Louise Erdich opens her novel Tracks with these words: "We started dying before the snow, and like the snow we continued to fall."

I've been thinking about death and the act of learning. The gathering of knowledge doesn't strike me as an accumulative practice, where wisdom piles up into overflowing abundance we get to roll in at the end of our lives. Learning has a cost. Loss tied to its gifts.

I don't know that I would describe the loss as that of innocence, but each branch climbed on the tree of life puts the ground further below. The possible fall more dangerous.

When learning happens pieces of the old are sheared away. Knowledge gained leaves a mark, beautiful but painful. A tattoo on your essence, exquisitely drawn yet it still cuts, burns, and bleeds - part and parcel of creation. And learning is nothing if not creation, birth and death hand in hand.

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