Teaching versus Learning

“Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible for yourself.”

– Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

This was one of those passages that stopped me in my tracks, just last night, as I lay in bed reading a few pages of my latest Paulo Coelho dose. The Pilgrimage is the predecessor to Coelho’s most acclaimed bestseller, The Alchemist, and is an autobiographical account of his journey by foot through southern France and Spain, a path called the Road to Santiago. The geographical details of the journey aren’t the point. It is the learning of the journey that Coelho so beautifully illuminates in his storytelling.

So the question is, how is each of us both a teacher and a learner?

Each of our lives tells the story of what we demonstrate to be possible. In other words, each of us is a teacher. What we demonstrate through the way we live – whether or not we try – is teaching.

Each of us is also a learner. What we make possible in each decision, each change, each effort – this is learning, and it also becomes part of what we teach.

This suggests that teaching is a constant part of our being, whether it is conscious or unconscious. Each of us is a living example of what is possible, and we teach (or influence) every person that we come into contact with.

But learning is active. In order to make something possible for ourselves, we have to believe in that something, and then believe in ourselves in order to make it happen. To learn what we wish to learn – not just what we are taught – is a constant active process of believing in greater possibilities for ourselves.

I’m going to spend the rest of today pondering Paulo Coelho’s words. They are powerful. I know this when I say the words to myself again and again in my head, and consider the questions: what am I demonstrating to be possible? what am I making possible for myself?

Wishing you a day of both teaching and learning.


One Response to Teaching versus Learning

  1. eekim says:

    I absolutely loved this post. In a moment of serendipity, I also received this quote in an email from my friend, Gail Taylor, which seemed so complementary to this post. It’s from F. David Peat’s Lighting the Seventh Fire (1994):

    “Western education predisposes us to think of knowledge
    in terms of factual information, information that can be structured and passed on through books, lectures, and programmed courses. Knowledge is seen as something that can be acquired and accumulated, rather like stocks and bonds. By contrast, within the Indigenous world the act of coming to know something involves a personal transformation. The knower and the known are indissolubly linked and changed in a fundamental way. Indigenous science can never be reduced
    to a catalogue of facts or a database in a supercomputer, for it is a dynamic and living process, an aspect of the ever-changing, ever-renewing processes of nature.”

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