The virtue of Wisdom

Love of Learning

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

Leonardo da Vinci

In today’s world, most of us love using the initialism LOL. For the small minority of you who still think it stands for lots of love, let me correct you. It does not. It never means lots of love. It means Laugh out Loud. That is the only way it is read these days. Full stop. So when you text: “Your dog was just run over. LOL. Mom.” No matter how you try to explain it, you are being a real ###. You have been warned. Ironically, or at least in my experience, no one who uses LOL in a text is actually laughing out loud. Just putting that titbit out there into the blog-universe in the spirit of learning.

My kind of LOL

Now a Love of Learning is a LOL I can embrace. There is nothing more empowering and uplifting than learning something new. My husband Nicholas is an information sponge. This means he is always a fun source of trivial facts, which he enjoys emitting at the most arbitrary of times. Just the other day we were taking the children for a bike ride when he suddenly blurted out, “Did you know that a cat reaches terminal velocity at 100km/h?” Just to be clear, my husband is a huge animal lover and has never tossed a cat off a seven-storey building. It is just a fact he read somewhere. Not the most useful information I grant you, but it was certainly a conversation starter.


In this time of lockdown isolation and social distancing, we have all been learning new things, mostly unintentionally. For example, cabin fever hits roughly around day fifteen of seclusion. Delirium sets in about two weeks later. That is how we now have an endless source of bizarre TikTok videos. This is not the type of learning I am talking about.

learning 101

I mean learning real new skills or challenging our minds to further study fascinating topics. My husband used this time to learn how to make croissants from scratch. I must interrupt myself here to say, that they are the most delicious croissants you will ever have. Unfortunately, his new hobby resulted in me learning that there is truth to the cliché; a moment on the lips a lifetime of the hips. Still, it was soooooo worth it.

Now to have a love of learning in the sense that it is a strength, there are a few prerequisites that have to be met. The first and most obvious is that you must get a feeling of pleasure or a sense of accomplishment from learning new things or building on existing knowledge. There is an entire cohort of matriculates learning right now, but only a small percentage of them are relishing it.

Secondly, you must actively seek out or participate in this learning. Accidental learning through consequence does not count. For example, having to Google “How to remove permanent marker off freshly painted walls” does not qualify as a love of learning. The answer is hairspray by the way for those moms reading.

Finally, the topic does need to challenge your abilities. Puzzle building is a great source of learning visual-spatial awareness and problem-solving skills, but not when you are 38 and building a 48-piece puzzle. 

What kind of brain do you have?

When I think of a love of learning I always think of the endearing quote from Winnie the Pooh. ‘…And Pooh, his back against one of the sixty-something trees … thought how wonderful it would be to have a Real Brain which could tell you things’ (Milne, 2007, p. 172).

What have you been learning? Have you taken some of the incredible virtual tours available on the internet to learn more about the fascinating museums and temples the world has to offer? Are you learning a new language? In South Africa, we have no shortage of official languages to choose from. Perhaps you are learning to play an instrument or experimenting in the kitchen.  Whatever tickles your fancy, I hope you have been using this precious time to train your brain and expand your intellectual horizons.

Last thought

Remember you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but since you are not a dog, you have no excuse. The actor, Morgan Freeman got his pilot’s license at 65.

Happy learning!!


The virtue of Wisdom


“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.”
― Frank Zappa

Dear Reader

Please forgive my long absence. As you know, I have been struggling with the loss of my younger sister. Grief is a strange thing. It is slipping in the rain. You blunder, you waver and just when you think you are in command you fall flat on your face. There is a moment before you land that you accept the inevitability of the catastrophe. It is a moment of fear and then comes the searing pain. Grief is the same. Only, the moments are slower and longer. It has taken me weeks to get off from the proverbial floor. I am not ashamed to say it took professional help and much love from my family.

Why the explanation?

I am sharing all of this with you because my experience is deeply rooted in our next topic, open-mindedness.

As we discussed before, we all have a belief system that governs our perspective. The question, however, is what happens when we are confronted by information that threatens those beliefs? What do we do then? For me, I lost my identity when I lost my sister. Who am I if I am not Marisa’s sister? Well, I am still a wife and a mother and a daughter and a blogger, but somehow the roles altered after my sister’s death. Why? The shock, the trauma, and the loss; it has changed me. My outlook on life, death, belonging and time has evolved. I had to open my mind to a new future and a new self that does not include my sister.

New World Views

COVID Lockdown transformed all of us. No one will come out of this experience unscathed. We all had to re-evaluate our belief systems. There has been a difference of opinions about every element. The transference of the virus, the lockdown procedures and all its rules and restrictions. I would imagine that along the journey you changed your mind about the crisis in one form or another.

Two scenarios make it easier to be open-minded. The first is when new information confirms your underlying convictions. For example, if you believe a stringent lockdown procedure is essential you will be more willing to accept other measures such as curfews. The second scenario is when new information is not critical. For example, you enjoy traditional malva pudding but you are willing to try chocolate malva. Unless Malva pudding is where you draw the line. Then this is a bad example. They can take your alcohol and cigarettes, but they can never take your Malva.

A true test of mind over matter

Therefore, the true test of open-mindedness is when fundamental beliefs or values are challenged. This usually takes place in chaotic circumstances. Events outside of your control. This is when open-mindedness has a chance to shine as a strength.

Peterson and Seligman (2004) suggest that to be open-minded one needs to be able to observe situations from all stances and think carefully before drawing conclusions. As you have experienced, this is particularly difficult during a time like this Pandemic. You would have noticed; prejudiced people are unable to perform this strength. What is worse, their bias becomes more apparent during stressful times. Even those of us who are striving to live positive and tolerant lives must consistently monitor ourselves to prevent bias from inadvertently rearing its ugly head.

My mistake

I had to temper my intolerance towards people with hysterical reactions. I had to remind myself that from their perspective their fears and actions were justified. I should rather focus on my own behaviour and reactions because positive resilient living is contagious. You change yourself. That is how you make a difference in the world. As your influence grows, changes will occur around you spontaneously.

Be open not gullible

Now let me point out that there is an important distinction between open-mindedness and blind acceptance. It requires strength to be open-minded. It takes courage to access new information and adjust your value system accordingly, or not, depending on how you accessed the data. The importance lies in the willingness to review the information.

 To use my favourite example of Winnie the Pooh, Kanga is the character with the greatest control over this strength. When Rabbit kidnaps (Joey-naps) her baby, she is quick to see the situation for what it is. A prank! By playing along with the ‘joke’, she wins over all the animals in the forest and gets her baby back. Her ability to perform this strength is what makes the other characters admire her so much. Her influence affects all her neighbours. This is the consequence of strengths in general.

Are you trying?

The real question is how often are you truly open-minded? Do you review several sources of information or are you prone to being influenced by mass opinion, or worse, so steadfast in your ideas you do not even consider conflicting information? Do you quote the media, or do you do your own research? The reverse is equally dangerous – disagreeing just so that you do not appear mainstream. Yes, unfortunately, this adolescent logic is upheld by adults too. Whoopsie, is that my bias coming through? Again, we always need to be cognisant.

Therefore, this is my challenge to you. Pick three things you believe about the Corona Virus or Lockdown and actively search for articles or publications that argue against your beliefs. Read them with an open mind. I am not saying change your beliefs. I am just asking that you review conflicting information in a value-adding way. In other words, be open to the idea that it may alter or adjust your belief system. I would love to hear how you experience this experiment.

My lesson

I was convinced that lockdown was a terrible idea because it put the most vulnerable at more risk as they would be the ones forced to go into work. They are the front-line health care workers and the people at the grocery tills. I now see that lockdown did slow down the disease but at a great economic cost. I have not changed my opinion entirely, but I do see now that I was wrong about being dead-set against the lockdown. 

t is not the worst idea to debate with yourself from time to time. Please take the time to read these short poems by New York poet, Ronell Warren Alman.