by Begoña Gómez
Unlike the learning that a gannet does, human learning is rarely so directly related to mere survival. However, every time we are faced with an unknown situation, threat, or challenge, we are pushed back into survival mode, a situation where we must acquire new knowledge or risk failure. Even something as apparently simple as using a new smartphone app requires a basic form of training. We observe, imitate, or learn through direct instruction from those around us.
“We will walk this path of life together because all things are part of the universe and are connected to each other to form a unit”. María Montessori
Nevertheless, this transmission or acquisition of knowledge alone does not ensure mastery. Mastery connotes the completion of knowledge at a deeper level, actualized through self-discipline, repetitive and purposeful actions, singular focus, accepting, and retrieval of information on demand.
In humans, mastery particularly encourages independence to explore wide possibilities for action and nurture one’s creativity. But there are many ways that nature uses intentional learning and total immersion to overcome challenges, whether it’s through adapting to the environment or adopting different skills. Whether it’s tool-using among chimpanzees or song-practicing among zebra finches, the process of improving the craft lies in diligent practice.
As a result, nature inspires us to master the fundamental concepts that lead to a complex understanding and appreciation of any study or discipline we assume.
Only when we dedicate ourselves to mastering the fundamentals do we experience, directly, the intrinsic joy of owning our learning.
Nature experiences foster empathy, solidarity, a sense of cooperation and teamwork. On a more individual basis, we find challenging challenges in nature, such as risk itself, uncertainty, adventure, which teach us to manage our fears, our limitations, our frustrations, to relativize and grow as people.