posted by on Career development, Learning, Parenting

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Merlin_(illustration_from_middle_ages)

My crazy Greek relatives believed in folklore and wives tales, like treating a stye by putting earwax on it, or rubbing garlic on your chest for a cough. The one belief I did like was treating a toothache with whiskey, but that’s another story. With my family, everything came in 3’s—deaths, births, omens. After 2 funerals in a month, we’d all be holding our breaths for that third relative to kick the bucket.

I don’t do those things passed on to me as a child, but I do believe in 3’s. This week, the same message came to me from three different stories, all basically saying the same thing. The message: if you really want to be happy, try learning something new.

Check out this link, sent to me by a friend. The video’s gotten about 700,000 YouTube views. In it, a child is just born, then is shown moving through stages of early childhood. The narrator tells us “Nobody’s born smart. We’re born to learn. . .we try, we struggle, until one day, we walk.” And oh what a wonderful feeling that is!

Later I listened to an NPR interview, and the poet being interviewed quoted advisor and magician Merlin, known to many who have read tales of King Arthur. In T. H. White’s most famous Arthurian novel, The Once and Future King, Merlin imparts wisdom to a young, frustrated Arthur saying: “The best thing for being sad is to learn something.”

A day later an article about retirees and happiness caught my eye. The writer found the happiest retirees did simple things, like going to the library, and at leisure’s pace, reading the magazines and books on display. Simple kinds of learning, either creative, intellectual or spiritual, were all these folks needed for happiness. Anne Morrow Lindbergh tells us in her timeless book, Gift from the Sea, that “all living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.”

It seems: from birth to retirement and on, learning something new is a great tonic for all of us.

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