The Education Every Child Most Needs, Part 9

[Note: In this series, we’re contrasting the education that the culture gives us vs. the education a human being most needs in this world. This is adapted from an essay by Landon Saunders.]

Last time we talked about the importance of nurturing a sense of wonder and often it’s “wonder” vs. “coloring inside the lines.” Sometimes culture teaches: You gotta stay inside the lines! Be predictable. But what we really need is an education in serendipity.

The island off the coast of India that used to be Ceylon was once called Serendip. There’s a legend about the three princes of Serendip who went on a journey looking for very specific objects, but in the process they would always discover something more wonderful than the thing they were actually looking for.

So now, we have a special word for that kind of experience: serendipity: the finding of something valuable by chance. But of course, if there’s no search, there can be no chance. So the education one needs would keep the search alive—to keep wonder alive, to keep questioning and questing alive, to keep growing as an individual.

Young people need to understand (and we do too), that it’s not enough to keep learning and growing until you’re an adult…or until you’re successful…or until you’re retired. The education we need is one that keeps us learning and growing as persons all the way to and including our last day!

A sense of wonder and an openness to serendipity can help. To approach life in a spirit of “You never know what might happen!” or “You just never know what I might learn or do next!” is better than approaching life feeling like it has all been preordained.

It’s like the story of the man who had been convicted of a great crime and was brought before the king. The king sentenced him to death, and asked him if he had anything to say. The man said, “Oh King, if you will stay my execution for one year, I will teach your horse to fly.” The king was intrigued and agreed to this. The man was taken back to his cell, and his cell mate said, “Are you crazy? You can’t teach the horse to fly, and when you don’t, the King will come up with and even worse way to put you to death.” But the man said, “Well, in a year, the king’s horse may die. Or the king may die. Or, who knows, maybe I will teach that horse to fly!”

Sometimes we get ourselves into traps in life, whether  it’s a dead end or a difficult situation, and we wonder what in the world we’re going to do. It’s good to keep a little zippity-doo-dah serendipity in our minds. Who knows what might happen? Things can change. I can change. Maybe I’ll teach the horse to fly!

 A sense of openness to possibilities is another great legacy to pass along to the young.