There is something vitally important transmitted when one person’s enthusiasm sets off a spark in others. This sort of spirit can’t be reproduced in any curriculum. That’s why, whenever possible, we learn from people who are passionate. Potters, chemists, bird watchers, dairy farmers, blacksmiths, historians, wildlife rehabilitators, wood carvers, entrepreneurs, air traffic controllers, geologists, musicians, engineers, chefs, astronomers, you name it.
One time we drove to a part of town where we’d never gone. The address didn’t seem right, but around us friends were parking for a tour and discussion we’d scheduled at a local business. So we piled out and knocked at what looked like an abandoned warehouse. The door was pulled open by a man who welcomed us to his steel drum company. He seemed powered by perpetual gusto as he talked about the history of steel drums and his desire to preserve the music, factors which became the motivating force behind his company. He told about the shoestring nature of his own start-up and multiple problems with initial designs—- illustrating his tales with diagrams, tools and testimony from guys in the shop.
Our time there stretched out wonderfully as we played many different drums, including some extremely valuable models, and listened to recordings made in a studio he built on site. There’s no telling what particular element of that afternoon made an impression on the children and teens there. What he transmitted encompassed history, music, engineering, entrepreneurship, character-building, collaboration—all with an infectious energy.
Through any deep exploration we can uncover ever widening avenues of discovery, whether we search in archeology, cake decorating or steel drums. There are lessons to be learned that awaken us to greater wonders.
When we get a glimpse of those wonders through the eyes of others we’re not only learning. We’re sharing a source of pleasure. Asking people to impart some of what they’ve discovered and how they do it, well, that’s a gift because it lets them give us a taste of what, to them, has real sustenance.
That spark, carried from generation to generation, is how we humans have always built the future. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote. “If you want to build a ship, don’t herd people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Steel Drum image courtesy of Michael Halley