Travis Towne: The moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying

Travis Towne: The moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying

I have to admit I am a quote collector. 

I am a history teacher and it sort of goes with the territory as I try to help my students grasp how important history is to their future.

On one of the first days of a new year in my high school classroom, I typically ask my students if they enjoy learning. Most, having been conditioned for the past 12 or 13 years of their life to equate going to school with learning, emphatically shake their heads no. 

I then ask them if any have recently read an article or magazine or watched a YouTube video about something they are interested in, such as a video game, musician or activity. Most raise their hands enthusiastically telling me about the cool stuff they just “learned” about that topic. We then proceed to have a discussion about why the learning process is vitally different than merely attending school. 

Albert Einstein is reported to have stated, “Once you stop learning, you start dying” and that quote has stayed with me for years. I often encourage my students with a variation of that quote — “never be afraid to learn something, because the moment you stop learning is the moment you start dying.” 

Our generation has become so accustomed to being spoon-fed information and then regurgitating it for a test they have forgotten the struggles and joys of the learning process. Even while writing this blog post during my summer break, I have three or four different books, articles and videos I am actively engaged with to learn more about the ins and outs of how to livestream for both the church and business worlds. 

I find myself always wanting to learn more and never quite content to just rest on what I have already learned. I absolutely love the learning process and try to encourage others to actively engage in their own learning journey.

Sadly, I think many Christians have also forgotten that God mandates that we learn, not because He wants to make us simply follow a set of rules and procedures, but because he wants us, His children, to experience the joys and, dare I say struggles and trials, of the learning process. He wants us to revel in learning about His mercies, His creation, His love, His pain.

Wait, what? His pain? Yes, that is part of the learning process as well. The painful moment we learn that our loved one has cancer, we strive to learn all we can about the disease and how to help them cope with this new challenge in life. 

The painful moment we learn the family down the street, that we have waved to for years without really getting to know on a personal level, has a child in prison and are struggling with learning how to help them with their addiction. 

The painful moment when we come face to face with our own sinful heart and learn how much we need a Savior. Oftentimes, learning that truly changes us and helps us grow stronger in our understanding not only of the world around us, but also ourselves, is deeply personal and painful.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, each learning moment (both positive and negative) causes a heart-stopping hesitancy, a critical debate of whether or not we want to or need to learn this information because of how it will impact us. Many times, we rationalize within ourselves that we have learned enough and we should just be allowed to coast through life on what we already know.

However, there is no such thing as static buoyancy in learning. The moment you decide you don’t want to learn anymore and be filled with His wisdom and truth, is truly the moment that you start dying and sink into the depths of apathy, discouragement and ultimately, death, both mentally and physically. 

The good news is much like a hot air balloon that has lost height due to the cooling of air in the balloon and a simple lever is used to release fire to heat up the air inside, the downward spiral caused by an unwillingness to learn can quickly be remedied by choosing to embrace a lifestyle of learning, even from the painful moments.

I encourage you to allow God to use the natural curiosity and enthusiasm for learning He has instilled in mankind, more specifically you, to guide your heart and mind along the journey of life.

Dr. Travis Towne is a social studies teacher at the Lenoir County Early College High School in Kinston. He has an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction from Liberty University and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Bachelor of Science in Christian Education from Lee University. He has taught for more than 14 years in a variety of settings including junior high, high school and college. He has been married for almost 20 years and has three daughters (one adopted). He also works part-time for the online Duke University Talent Identification Program (TIP) and as the Senior A/V Engineer for Magic Mile Media and Neuse News. He is an Army veteran with service during Operation Iraqi Freedom and volunteers as a drummer and technical director for Tanglewood Church of God. You can connect with Travis on Facebook at facebook.com/travis.towne.18, on Twitter @tntowne, or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/travis-towne-69106443. 

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