“You learn something new everyday.”

We often hear that phrase uttered, but is it actually true?

Lessons don’t appear everyday. In fact, as hard as it is for people to accept, there are days in life that may teach us nothing new at all. For the simple at heart, I don’t think this is ever really a problem. But I suspect, if you’re a voracious learner (thank you fourth grad teacher who first used this as an insult for me asking her questions during class)–continually learning something new matters.

In her recent book, Changing My Mind, Zadie Smith examines a 2005 graduation speech given by fellow writer David Foster Wallace. Followers of Smith are familiar with her admiration of him, the man who she believes brought something truly original to fiction writing. In the speech given to Kenyon College graduates, Foster told a story about, of all things, fish:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually, one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”
…[T]he real value of a real education…has nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential. So hidden in plain sight all around us–all the time–that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: “This is water. This is water.” It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.

Staying conscious and alive in the adult world is truly one of the hardest things to do. So often our lives become one locked and loaded routine and the hours seem to leave us behind in a blur. Choosing to chase knowledge in a world like this can feel like it’s never enough.   We can find ourselves seeking meaning but missing the most basic lesson the world has for us.  Sometimes, it’s important to remind ourselves of that the simplest lesson can be a mere appreciation for what surrounds us.

Today, be aware of the people you cross and the spaces you travel through. Taking none for granted, acknowledge and appreciate them all.

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