Please note that I start with "A" in the Title of this post. I often think about how Christopher Alexander got his book at the head of the list on the left of this page by using "A" rather than "The". This distinction between "a" and "the" happens to be critical to my philosophy on life and living.
..."Thinking, reading, and art require a cultural space," writes Russell Jacoby in Dogmatic Wisdom, "a zone free from the angst of moneymaking and practicality. Without a certain repose or leisure, a liberal education shrivels." [p.122 of The Twilight of American Culture]
The university may look like an institution for the advancement of higher culture, in other words, but its content and organization are corporate, and the result is that the coinage of education is severely debased. ("Another bad effect of commerce," wrote Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations, "is that the minds of men are contracted, and rendered incapable of elevation. Education is despised, or at least neglected....") [p.123 of The Twilight of American Culture]
The key to life and living is to have the time to learn in a liberal arts -- and sciences -- sort of way. However, this learning must continue throughout our lives and indeed this learning -- in my opinion -- is the meaning of our lives. Any time we think we know "the" way, we stop learning and transition from an active mind to a closed mind. As indicated in the excerpt above, the corporate nature of our learning -- and living -- contracts our minds. The expectation is for us to be clever rather than wise.
The Jesuits were [are?] fond of saying, "Give us the child for the first seven years; after that, nothing much matters." [p.241 of Dark Ages America]
This is true of our culture in general. We indoctrinate our young through required pledges in our public schools. The result is a nationalistic and close-minded perspective that thoroughly inhibits our ability to be humble. The mind closes down early and stays shut down for the remainder of most people's lives. Most end up believing in a Supreme Being rather than experiencing the joy of being -- and the joy of not setting any boundaries to our learning.
A Related Note on the movie An Inconvenient Truth:
The suggestions for reducing your carbon footprint at the end of the movie are not enough to make a difference. Our only hope for getting closer to a sustainable world is to dramatically change the way we live. Rather than buying a hybrid car, for example, we must do without a car or share one with dozens of other people. I've found that one of the consequences of the on-going learning that is described above is that the more you learn the less you need. In other words, there is a practical reason to initiate a philosophy of expanding your learning boundaries.
Learn and Live. Matt