Learn. Unlearn. Relearn. A catchy tune and cliche used in educational circles. But does anyone really know what that means? Not superficially. Not politically correctly. Not techno-obsessively. Who knows?
I submit to you there is nothing to learn or relearn. For there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes is a pretty wise guide. There is nothing new when you really look deep into the heart of things, beyond the fleshly eye.
But there is much to unlearn—almost everything. T S Eliot puts it well: “A condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything.” We recoil from this challenge because we fear. We fear because we cling to our identity built upon the known. We cling to our puny identity because we crave pleasure and avoid pain. We crave pleasure and avoid pain because we make a self separate from everything else. We make a separate self because of pride of autonomy rebelling against and resisting the One upon whom we are unconditionally and inescapably contingent. Primordial sin of the great divorce spins the entire gamut of reactivity to the simple truth of unlearning—full evacuation of the known and conditioned.
What is there to unlearn? Heaps. Encrustations of eons of habits of perception and thought, sensation and emotion, body and world. Mistaking what appears as what exists. Concocting independent selves everywhere. Reifying concrete entities all the time. Perceiving autonomy and self-powered existence across the board. Refusal to see the sheer contingency of ourselves and the cosmos upon the eternal self-existent One. Contempt and neglect of the sovereign God who fashioned us and flung the stars into motion.
Habits of imagining and narrating, problem-solving and strategising, deciding and planning, teaching and learning predicated upon man as the measure of all things—anthropocentrism. Our world views and metaphors, stories and traditions, souls and spirits remain stuck in unregenerate decay. Business-as-usual visioning and policy-making propelled by the old and the known even if we stridently claim new visions of the future. Without deep honest insight, nothing new is possible. In fact, in ourselves alone, even with insight, nothing really new is possible.
Our rhetoric falls flat and lands empty in the end.
Hence, unlearning. A condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything. Opening and allowing for all experiencing; dis-passioning, releasing, and relinquishing all that is false; and surrendering and falling into the Real at the feet of the One who has loved us with an everlasting love, who has rescued us from the grave, who has died for us and as us to lift us up into new life in Him. Christ. In Christ, we find our uttermost unlearning of our primordial sin to be recreated anew. This is truly new indeed.
One final thing: I was wrong. There is actually something to learn and relearn—unlearning. From moment to moment, we are invited to unlearn to self and sin so as to enter into Christ and new life in Him. And this is the kind of unlearning we must keep learning and relearning. Anything else is a waste of time.