I am in the process of negotiating for some further study. It’s a bit of scary process – getting started in study again will mean changes about how I spend my money, my time, and perhaps most fundamental of all, the study will – as ever before – change the way I think, forever. That can be both liberating and frightening at the same time. Overwhelming even. Whenever I mention undertaking more study, friends and family always ask me, ‘Why?’, and ‘When are you going to finish studying?’. People used ask me when was I going to grow up. The answer, of course, is: NEVER!!!
I digress. Walking down Lambton Quay in the sun at lunchtime today, I was thinking about the biblical story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). I remembered a key concept was that the prodigal son went off to some interesting foreign parts and squandered his inheritance. His snipe-y brother stayed home, and well, I guess, didn’t get his inheritance until later.
I started to wonder about nature of the inheritance (and the squandering of it). It occurred to me that the prodigal son actually took his share of the inheritance, and invested it in education. Sure, being hungry enough that pig swill seems attractive isn’t the easiest lesson, but it probably leads to a thoroughly unforgettable education nevertheless. I bet it changed how he spent his money, his time, and perhaps most fundamental of all, changed the way he thought, forever. His older brother, peeved at the welcome his father put on for the graduate, missed the point entirely.
So, here I am, with further study in my sights. What is my inheritance, and how and what exactly am I going to squander? It occurred to me that the one inheritance I do have is my collected culture – values, attitudes, knowledge, and stories unique to me, passed on from my parents. I have the intellectual abilities and genetic inheritance, courtesy of countless generations of ancestors who didn’t expect me to show up in some unimaginable future, but I like to think they selected mates with the pragmatic intention of producing the best, next, generation. I guess there might’ve been some ‘whoa, look at that hottie’ thrown in as well.
And this is my best reason for studying. No, not the hottie, but because I can. Because I have to. Because if I don’t I’d be like the prodigal’s snipe-y brother – I’d be squandering my inheritance if I didn’t study. All the efforts, the sacrifices, the pain, the adventures, the happiness, sadness, decisions good and bad – the sum of everything that my ancestors have done to put me here would be in vain. Standing on the shoulders of my ancestors, I have to study. Have to. Because I can, therefore I should. I must.
No pressure. None at all.