July 28, 2011
Posted in Education
“Well what did you dream of doing in retirement while you were grading those papers or in all those faculty meetings?,” my son asked. I told him that I dreamed of learning to play the piano in my sixties. I have been a music fan all my life (mostly jazz, R&B, blues) and being a participant and creator rather than a consumer in anything is a worthy pursuit. If I just wanted to learn to play the piano however I could have done so while I was working, but there was more to it than that. I wanted to learn something new in my older years. I wanted to live out my commitment to lifelong learning and to challenge myself. It could have been anything new that I wanted to learn: Spanish, drawing, ballroom dancing, and it still might be. The important point was to keep building pathways through the neurons in my head, training parts of my body (in this case my fingers) to do new things, and proving to myself that I could still learn. It was also what Bill Murray learned in the movie Groundhog Day. You need to keep improving yourself if you are going to be of any use to others.
Nevertheless I had hemmed and hawed about doing it. Is this really the thing I wanted or would it lead to another thing gathering dust like that treadmill that was in the corner? Was I willing to make the commitment of time, money and energy to such a years long project? While I was in my Hamlet-like phase unable to make a decision, my son bought me a keyboard. It was like somebody else suddenly killing Hamlet’s uncle before he had worked up the courage to do it. All at once all my objections dried up. So what if I lost interest in it. That was what e-bay and Craig’s List were for. I could even donate it to some worthy cause if I wanted to. If I did it only for a few months that was a few months of learning I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
As I thanked my son profusely I realized that he had just done for me what we had done for him so often while he was growing up. He had provided me with a chance to pursue a new learning opportunity. We had come full circle. My new keyboard is scheduled to come today and I begin lessons in about 10 days. I can hardly wait. Education never ends.