From November to February, I regularly check on the sunrise and sunset times. It’s a seasonal obsession. This daily digital check-in, combined with my experience and a helpful explainer from Neil deGrasse Tyson has all settled in me to dispel a lie — that days get longer in the summer (spoiler: I am writing in the southern hemisphere). This is just one of many moments in my life that have forged in me a new balance. Not only am I committed to being a lifelong learner, I am equally committed to unlearning.
If you are new to the idea of unlearning, I recommend starting with a new pair of frames. You can think of these as glasses- a new way of seeing the world. I can only speak for myself, but here are two frames I carry around:
- The role of individualism is profoundly important to all manner of social, cultural and political change. For better or worse.
- Well-being — including physical, mental, relational and spiritual health — requires resources, time, care, support and models that most people do not have access to. Many who do are unaware of their privilege.
Find frames that allow you to poke holes into everything. Ask questions- ask them aloud, ask them quietly, ask StartPage. Ask questions about your questions and more importantly, about the answers. All of the institutions that we were raised to trust have agendas and there is no whole truth.
Do less judging, shaming and censoring. In fact, strive to let these all go. Make your journey your own, and support others in their own learning. We are all trapped in systems of knowledge that demand we keep up with the blurring pace of change. Systems and organizations can not, will not, slow down to ask the questions that we must. To unlearn, we must slow down, pay attention, ask questions, and understand our limits.
Our minds are precious and unique. They are also gullible and easily tricked. On a journey of unlearning it is easy to get caught in shame, disbelief, guilt and other unsavory states. Acknowledge these moments and keep going. You aren’t asking big questions to get stuck, you’re moving toward something that makes life richer and provides a day mark for your search for meaning. Be kind to your mind- it may have been fooled before but it’s also the mind that dared to not accept a simple answer.
Seek out wisdom teachers, many of whom are more accessible than ever. The best of these have questions for your questions. Some that I recommend are:
Sovereign understanding follows an arc and unlearning is on the downward side. It’s not related to age but it does require a degree of wisdom. It’s not posted on the socials. It’s not part of branding or virtue signaling but rather an important tool on the road to self-actualization. Once unlearning begins, you recognize that it is a lifelong journey, one we will never complete. But committing to be better, we stick with it and shine our lights one day at a time, regardless of whether the days are getting longer or shorter.