August 21

I think everyone should go to college
and get a degree and then spend six
months as a bartender and six
months as a cabdriver.  Then
they would really be educated.

Al McGuire


Today's Meditation:

Having gone through many, many years of college and then taught college for another decade or so afterward, I would have to agree completely with Al.  Students leave college programs well acquainted with information and theory, but very few social skills, very little wisdom.  Knowledge does not equal wisdom, yet many people stay completely satisfied with knowledge their whole lives through.

Bartenders and cabdrivers have jobs that demand that they deal with other human beings their entire shift long.  Much of their contact can be negative, of course, and neither job is necessarily a dream job, but they sure can teach you valuable lessons about how to deal with your fellow human beings.  They can teach you how to be tolerant of others' shortcomings and mistakes, and they can help you to learn to judge less and listen more.  They can teach you to value the truly important things in your life because in those jobs, you have to deal with many people who are going through many different experiences themselves, and often having a very hard time of it.

Perhaps the most important element of these jobs, though, is that they put people in positions in which they have to listen.  Listening--and truly paying attention while doing so--is a skill that can prove to be one of the most valuable skills of our lives, if we ever actually cultivate it and practice it. 

We all have people in our lives whom we tend never to listen to, but if we can strike up conversations with the janitors, the vendors, the waitresses, the mechanics--we just may find that we learn something about life and living that we haven't ever learned from the people who are already in our lives.  And if we ever do learn to truly listen when others are speaking, then we can really enrich this experience that we call life.

Questions to consider:

What's the difference between learning information and theories and learning about life and living?

When was the last time that you had a conversation with someone you don't normally converse with?  Did you learn anything about that person?

Why do we tend not to stretch our limits by finding new people to listen to and learn from?  How are we biased in choosing which people we'll listen to closely?

For further thought:

The teaching which is written on paper is not the true teaching.
Written teaching is a kind of food for your brain.  Of course
it is necessary to take some food for your brain, but it is more
important to be yourself by practicing the right way of life.

Suzuki Roshi


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