Education is a lifelong process. It essentially has two aspects: the school of everyday existence and formal, academic structures of learning. It begins with our birth and ends with our death. Education has three great phases of learning, encompassing three fundamental aspects of our living: physical, mental and spiritual.
In the beginning, the first learning comes to us from our parents. It is forced upon us, although in most cases and normal circumstances education is imparted to us with caring and love.
As we grow up, we gradually and increasingly gain more freedom to choose as to what we want to learn. In our grammar school, we still have little freedom to select. However, as we go through this process of formal education, this freedom becomes more apparent and real to us. At this point, we truly and inevitably become responsible for our own education. We begin to have choices as to what we wish to study, what subjects we prefer, how interested we are to explore and go beyond the everyday classroom education formally given to us.
Our early education predominantly involves the task of learning about problems associated with physical survival and material existence. As we grow and mature, mental/intellectual learning followed, gradually and slowly.
The greatest mystery and challenge and task of our learning is to first and foremost learn about ourselves, as we are learning about others, about things and other conundrums of our existence. The basic questions to be answered are: Who are we? What are we? Why are we here, and what is the purpose of our life?
Our formal education in schools and university opens many doors to learning about ourselves. While it can point to these, we have to cross the threshold of this intricate knowledge. It is a serious mistake to believe that the formal education, even if reaches its apex with a PhD diploma in a chosen field, will make us educated about ourselves. This formal knowledge we gain must be all along applied to us and carefully integrated within ourselves. This is how we build our character, identity and personality. How often it happens that we meet people who, for example, know all about Shakespeare, or intricate mathematical formulas, or medicine or various sciences, yet know so little about themselves or their true purpose in life and its meaning.
As mentioned, there are three progressive links in this chain of education and learning about ourselves: what, who and why.
The easiest part to master is obviously the first: “what.” Here we deal with tangible and easily identifiable aspects such as our ethnic origin, nationality, occupation, physical properties of our being, status in the society, and the like.
The “who” question is much more demanding and difficult. Here we must begin with sorting out our emotions (learning formally about poetry and music, for example, may help); we have to deal with our desires and our fears, where learning philosophy or studying classical literature will certainly help. Questions of love and hate, generosity and selfishness, temperance and indulgence, courage and cowardice, faith or disbelief, and many others demand our answers and understandings. By fusing and applying our formal education and everyday life experience on these and related matters will in a great measure help us determine our understanding and views on these questions and will ultimately determine “who” we are.
“What” and “who” constitute the two foundation points of the process of education. The apex is “why”. This one can only be defined and found in how we view and understand our purpose and our role on the earth which is but a speck in the vast, infinite Universe. Are we only physical and intellectual beings who only strive to master the sciences, philosophy, technology and various other professions or skills to have a good, interesting and decent life, or our feelings and thoughts bring us to faith and lifts us beyond the material into realms of spirituality, faith and immortality?
Only a person who knows “what” and “who” and “why” in an integrated way, may claim to be educated in the true sense and fundamental meaning.