Learn and Live / Live and Learn

For most of my life I’ve had a “learn and live” approach: learn these subjects/skills/ideas so that you can live them out and have a better life. After all, that’s what’s drilled into us through our educational system, isn’t it?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it’s hard to live well if we haven’t learned well. Knowledge equips us and others to lead more enjoyable and productive lives. For example, aren’t you glad your doctor went to med school before opening a practice? Way better than if they just started cutting people and seeing how it went!

But the “learn and live” approach can only take us so far. In fact, it can be downright stifling. There’s a lot we can’t learn apart from first living it. So much of life is experiential.

Take walking. Your parents didn’t make you sit through four years of instructional videos before “releasing” you to try it on your own. You just did it, and you got better through practice, and now you do it without thinking about it. You lived and learned.

Think about it: if someone were to try to learn everything before ever doing it, they would never leave the library/internet/classroom. AND, they would still be woefully under-prepared for the real world.

Jesus invited his disciples into both forms of learning. Sometimes, he sat down and gave them instructions and then released them to go do them. Other times, he invited them to first do/experience things and then reflect on them afterwards.

The point isn’t that one’s better than the other. Both are needed. It’s about knowing when and how to move between the two.

Traveling through downtown Chicago lately has been a great opportunity for me to practice both. Coming from a relatively small town, there’s been a lot to learn. Of course, there are pamphlets and websites everywhere, and I check that stuff out sometimes. But I’ve also gotten more comfortable with the bus/train/hostel/city simply by trying it out and learning as I go. That’s been freeing.

How about you? Are you more prone to a learn and live approach or a live and learn approach? Do you agree that both are necessary? Which one are you weakest in and why might that be?

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