Pentecost 98

Pentecost 98
My Psalm 98

Value of Experience

We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes according to plan. The plan was good – well-though, researched, outlined, etc. Still, success was not ours. Those with a poor locus of control, as psychologists call it, might be inclined to blame others. The simple truth, though, is that while sometimes we don’t plan adequately and other times perhaps others have had a negative impact, there are just those days where nothing goes as planned. In other words, there are no hallelujahs to be heard. Some days it just seems that one would be better off staying in bed!

Francois Auguste Rene Rodin begged to differ: “Nothing is a waste of time is you use the experience wisely.” Even Mahatma Gandhi praised the value of experience: “Knowledge gained through experience is far superior and many times more useful than bookish knowledge.”

Experiential Learning has become the new buzz word in educational circles, although it has been around for almost a century. Even at the turn of the twentieth century when many became teachers after attending a two-year collegiate program, student teaching or practice teaching was part of the curriculum. This allowed the would-be teachers to take their learning into an actual classroom and “practice” teaching while still officially students. Experiential learning has simply broadened that concept into other realms of study at all levels.

In his paper on this in 1984, David Kolb explained the concept. “Immediate personal experience is the focal point for learning.” He went on to explain that experiential learning consisted of four elements: active experimentation or doing; concrete experience or experiencing; abstract conceptualization or thinking; reflective observation or reflecting on the experience as a whole. He refers to the work of early twentieth century psychologists Dewey and Lewin and their similar concepts but it was in 1970 when the famous Piaget proclaimed these steps as the basic foundation for the development of adult thought.

In other words, one can study and read all the books one can touch but until the gained knowledge is translated into action, it really serves little purpose. So how does this play into making the world a more humane domicile for everyone? How do we translate our beliefs of faith and spirituality into practical exercises, into experiential learning that develops a better world for both nature and man to thrive and proclaim the glory of each and every creation?

You might think such a lofty goal would involve equally lofty ideals and impossible mountains – literal and figurative – to climb. In truth, it simply requires living that faith daily. Kolb noted: “Learning occurs primarily in the association between stimulus and response.” Experiential learning is a process and each new experience alters the correct response. Answers are not absolutes but steps toward a greater knowledge and mores successful experience ultimately. Today’s objective might not have been met but knowledge was gained so the experience had value.

When we think of life that way, then the one with the most toys simply has more to learn. When life is viewed not as a contest but as a learning process, then resources are dedicated to beliefs and not material objects. Basic needs are met, not for the purpose of bragging rights but simply to serve their purpose. In that way, a house suffices when it is adequate, not when it is the largest showcase on the block. Space is not wasted and environmental impacts are reduced. Less time is given to taking of those possessions and more time is spent living a humane life.

How we leave this earth says a great deal about how we spent our time on it. No one can pretend their carbon footprint will not impact the future. It does. Experience and experiential learning affords us the chance to develop a footprint that doesn’t step on the toes of others – animal, vegetable, or mineral. We best live and proclaim our beings and our faiths, our beliefs, when upon our passing, the world shouts Hallelujah for our being here and the impact we made while learning the course of living.

My Psalm 98

I rejoice in you, O Creator!
I sing your glory in my life and living.
May the birds join my song.
May the green pathways I walk flourish as I pass.
May my steps lead to joy and not destruction or life or nature.
You, O Great One, are the great teacher of all living.
Help us to learn and experience your love, sharing it as we walk on this earth.
May everything we do shout hallelujah for the life of all.

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