I’ve got a lot to learn. In fact, I’ve got more things to learn than time remaining in my life to learn about them. I learn new things every day. The learning process, for me, never stops. In my occupation as a social psychologist, I routinely read about the new research in my area. I subscribe to numerous professional journals and I almost always have a foot high stack of them to read. In my role as a musician, I am constantly learning new songs, new ways of playing, and amazing facts about the world of music. For example, I recently learned that tritone chords were banned (long ago) due to their dissonant sound. I have studied music theory for 56 years and, until a few weeks ago, I never knew any musical chords were banned! I am a studious (otherwise known as nerdy) person. I truly enjoy the learning process. Although, after playing the bass guitar for almost 20 years, I’m pretty good, I take weekly lessons. Why? Because my teacher, a professional musician, knows a whole lot more about bass guitar, including tritones, than I know. I keep a list of songs I want to learn. I routinely listen to the songs on my list to determine whether they are simple enough for me to figure out (such as any country-western song, any blues song, and most rock and roll songs) or whether I need the expertise of my teacher, the talented Phill Fest, to teach me how to play them. I was telling one of my dear friends about taking bass lessons for almost 20 years, including with Phill for 15 of those years, and she asked me why I still needed to take lessons. Don’t I play well enough by now? Don’t I know everything there is to know about playing an instrument that only has 4 strings? My answer was simple: I take bass guitar lessons because I have a lot to learn. If anyone who reads this is skeptical about taking music lessons, pick up a bass guitar and play, note for note, Geddy Lee’s bass part on “YYZ” by RUSH. Or, for another fun challenge, play Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” note for note, either “by ear” or by reading the sheet music. There are some people who are gifted enough to do play either of these songs on the first try, but speaking for the rest of us, we’ve got a lot to learn!
Thinking one knows everything about everything, or even everything about one thing, is usually a sign that the know it all person is badly mistaken. There are always more things to learn and those at the top of their professions, or specialities, know that. There are people who believe they know just enough to get by. But, learning is a sign of living. Life long learning has many benefits. It is mental exercise. Exercising the brain has health benefits, including reductions in dementia onset or dementia severity. Sometimes, learning opportunities emerge, such as when one encounters an unfamiliar word while reading. And, now it is pretty easy to look up that word and increase one’s vocabulary in a few clicks. But, focused learning – as Melissa describes when she straps on her bass guitar – channels the mind down a certain path. And, it provides the mind with directions to go to fulfill curiosities of how a sound came to be in a particular song. I’ve learned from Melissa’s learning – not exactly by osmosis, but by her sharing what she has learned. I know I learn when engaging with my hobbies, my photography for example. Experimenting while making images is a great way to learn what works, or doesn’t, and why. It usually leads to more experiments and testing – pushing to find the limits. And, learning about one’s vocation, not just avocation, can increase professional growth and success, as well as satisfaction. What have you learned lately?