Do we live to learn or learn to live?
These type of questions, the existential type, are the most controversial ones in most of our minds. We constantly try to elucidate them by looking at both sides and trying to decide which one of the two is better or perhaps more exact. But what if I told you that trying to find the answer this way is wrong?
One of the biggest mistakes of all humanity and especially of philosophy is that we have been taught that when solving something the answer is either black or white, never gray. Because of this there are millions of unanswered questions, the question ‘do we live to learn or learn to live?’ included. I, on the other hand, like to think in a different way. I believe that there is gray, maybe not in every occasion, but in most.
If we try to limit ourselves to only one side of this question then it would be impossible. You may ask, why? The answer is simple. When we see the ‘live to learn’ side we can appreciate that there are people that actually live to learn, simply because they are lovers of knowledge. This is true for most of the geniuses out there for whom life is just a means to an end, the end being knowledge. Hence they are constantly learning. On the other side there is the ‘learn to live’ party. On this side of the table people also see learning as a means to an end however this time the end is money, not knowledge. A good illustration of this could be the person who will go to university simply to receive a respected degree, start making money and then enjoying life. The point that I am trying to convey is that we can’t fall into the mistake of limiting answers and possible solutions; we shouldn’t have to choose between black and white – in this case learning and living. If we don’t fall into one of these categories say default, we should be able to say that we learn to live and also live to learn. We should be able to say that both sides are correct, because, in the simplest of terms: without life we cannot learn, and without learning we cannot live.
However the biggest problem is not the limiting itself per se, but on taking one part of the equation out entirely. If we take the ‘life’ out of the equation we can’t learn, and likewise without learning we can’t live, and that is exactly what is happening in the world right now. Our society is not providing us with lifelong learning opportunities we need to grow intellectually and personally. It’s only providing the new generations with the basic concepts of the world that are acquired at school.
After school we are supposed to get a degree and start working, at a factory, for the government or other organizations. Society is using education to persuade us that the right way is the ‘learn to live’ side. By doing so, lots of people become puppets of society that are born, live, produce and then die, this way being beneficial for the economy. They make money for the leaders of the world and politicians who are the ones who, without knowing anything about education, constantly use it to their advantage. At the same time they, manipulating the people by cutting the gray area out of the equation and forcing us to live out lives a certain way, all without our realising. They take away our free will to decide which of the two sides we want to be on, and completely eliminate in our minds any possibility of a grey area existing between the two.
We do not realise any of this is happening to us simply because we were taught not to. Since a very young age, the education system has progressively eliminated individuality and creativity from all of us, as we have been taught not to think differently. We have been persuaded to believe that by thinking the same way as everyone else we are going to be accepted. This comes from the fact that a long time ago when humans had not even thought of civilizations, and we were nomads. Staying in groups was safer and therefore preferred and promoted, but now that we do have civilizations they are still trying to inculcate us with these ideas; this way becoming easier to be handled by the people who really can think.
You may be thinking that ‘society’ is actually created by us and on this I will have to agree completely. That’s precisely why we need to stop thinking the way we do at the moment, and start changing the society so that we and the future generations can have good education as a right not a privilege, the liberty to think, to speak, and have lifelong learning opportunities. If we can achieve this society we will only then have democratic countries whose governments do not manipulate the masses. Education is one of the most powerful things on earth and although you have probably heard this being said numerous times, I implore you to consider it once again from my point of view. With education a human can question his surroundings, and he gets to decide the which path he wants to follow in his life: the black, the white or the grey.
In conclusion, questions like the aforementioned are very controversial but also relative today. Any side you choose is the correct one, as long as you do so using your free will. There are not only two paths but three to decide from; you can ‘live to learn’, ‘learn to live’, or you can just learn and live, this way taking our society back from those who had it and used it as a playground. They are the ones corrupting our education and limiting the knowledge available. As many people say ‘knowledge is power’, and a man with knowledge and idealism is a very powerful weapon indeed.