Becoming a Lifelong Learner

CLOCK2.jpgWhen we lived in Alabama, I spent several hours a month at the library at the University of North Alabama.  Generally, I would spend part of that time skimming through the Sunday editions of the London Times and The New York Times.  Then I skimmed through a dozen or so of the most recent issues of popular magazines.  I was looking for themes, intriguing titles, and most anything that for some reason seemed interesting.  Some of these themes were found in articles. I saw other themes in advertisements.  I either made notes of these themes and ideas or copied entire articles.  Often, I would glance at the table of contents of a few journals (usually in the area of the social sciences) looking for certain themes or common threads.

I began this practice because I found it was stimulating.  I came away from the library those afternoons with seed thoughts, questions, and a theme or two that had my interest.   It was a good exercise for my mind.

My body needs regular exercise but so does my mind.  Yet, there are men and women who shut down long before their physical death.  I remember once visiting in the home of a couple who were in their mid-sixties.  There was something eerie about their house.  It was as if time had stopped a few decades earlier.  The furnishings, the pictures, everything about the house seemed to stop when their children finished college.  (That had been at least fifteen years earlier.)  To hear them talk, it was as if they had experienced the best years of their life and so now life was basically over.


  • Why is it that some 70-year-old people seem so alive while some 40-year-old people live in their recliners, mindlessly starring at the TV for hours and hours?
  • Why is it that some women laugh and enjoy life while their husbands seem miserable (and vice versa)?
  • Why is it that some adults continue to audit classes at the community college while others seem to have no interest in learning anything new? 
  • Why is it that some people in their 40s and 50s constantly talk about being "old" while some 60-year-old people seem energetic and full of life?
  • Why is it that some men and women seem to ask so few questions?
  • Why is it that some people continue to exercise and stay in good physical condition while others just let themselves go?
  • Why is it that some people have no interest in learning anything new?  Meanwhile, others seem to come alive with curiosity when they are in new territory.

I do not talk about "getting old."  On the other hand, I’m not trying to act as if I were younger than I am.  (No red sports car.  No new wife.  No radical change in dress.)  You’ve seen these men and women.  They have looked in the mirror and seem desperate to stay young.

What I would rather do is stay fully alive.  Alive even with an imperfect body.  Alive even with a changing landscape.  Alive even when there might be physical limitations.  After all, as a Christian, I have the very life of Christ in me through his Spirit.

As a human being, created by God, I want to be a good steward of all that is my life, for the remainder of my life.  I want to be a good steward of my time, my money, my body, and my mind.  In essence, I want to remain fully alive.

Have you noticed in your world the people who shut down long before their physical death?  Is there anything you do to help you remain fully alive? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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10 thoughts on “Becoming a Lifelong Learner

  1. Good thoughts.  It would be so easy, especially after getting off work, to park in the recliner.  I’ve found, with the empty nest thing going, that my activities are now more planned, more intentional.  When the kids were here, they activities dictated mine, so this is very different.  But I refuse to rot in a chair.  I always knew you were a fellow life-long learner! 

  2. I might be too young to answer, but I think it’s important to remain teachable.  A lot of the people who have shut down emotionally/ physically/ intellectually in my life seem so set in their ways, opinions and philosophies on life/ theology/ etc.  I certainly expect to have a more formed set of ways, opinions and philosophies the older I get, but in order for my mind to be fully engaged, I think we need incentive – not just gathering up knowledge, but letting it shape and transform us.  So my prayer is that I’ll remain teachable my whole life. 

  3. It seems to me that attitude toward learning is established at an early age.  And another factor is that a lot of people these days have to work very hard and for very long hours to scrap out a living, leaving very little time or energy for such activities as you describe.  I feel very fortunate to have grown up with parents who set a good environment for learning and who set the stage for me to enjoy it.  Also to have had the opportunity and level of intelligence necessary to go to college and prepare for a job that doesn’t require 12 hours a day, 6-7 days a week just to make ends meet.  Most people I interact with on a daily basis haven’t been nearly so fortunate.  I sometimes get frustrated with those who seem to give up on life too early, but I have to remind myself that their genetic and environmental background is so different from mine and may account for many of the attitudes I see.
    As far as what I do to keep myself stimulated, reading is a big part of it.  Also, trying new things that make me get out of my comfort zone.  As a simple example, lately I have gotten really sloppy with my eating habits and have gained a few pounds.  I am trying to learn the Weight Watcher’s way of eating and have found it quite challenging to stop and count up points before I put a bite of food in my mouth!  It is making me eat in a more intentional way – something quite different than I am used to doing!  Learning Yoga is another thing I have found that is helping to keep my body flexible and makes me feel more youthful.
    Thanks for this topic.  I appreciate the reminder that it is up to me as an individual to do the things necessary to continue to live life to its fullest right up until my Father takes me home. 

  4. I used to be a non-learner or I could care less about anything else besides what was going on in my life at the time…Then, at 27 years of age, I entered into a real relationship with Jesus and committed to following and serving Him, and I became a learner…
    Now, twenty years later, I love just being awake and learning and teaching throughout the day…The more I learn about God, the world He created, and the people He loves, the easier it becomes to relate to people where they are and be God’s love with skin…
    Corny sounding I know, but its true…

  5. Becky,An older friend once told me that after her kids left home, she became very, very lazy.  She went on to say that she regreted that but needed the encouragement to not live that way.  I’ve not forgotten that.

  6. Connie,Thanks very much.  Thanks especially for the specific examples you’ve mentioned.  I am convinced that the activities that help us stay alive are as varied as we are creative.  I knew one person who got serious about fly fishing.  I knew another person who started working with wood.  Still another had a special interest in stain glass.  All of these people were intentional about learning something.