a Personal Philosophy by Awen Eldorath (Dennis Danielson)
Some years ago, a buddy of mine in the Army once referred to me as a “Student of Life.” I have found after much study, introspection, and contemplation, that this is one label that I actually feel comfortable with for many reasons. I even began to refer to myself as a Student of Life, and I continue to do so today. This title has led some people to ask me, “What is a Student of Life?”
The simple answer is that it is someone who strives to learn as much as possible from every aspect of Life. In the book, Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard, the authors list the characteristics and qualities of a Wizard, the first of which is to be “A constant student of Life.” The authors also stress throughout the book the importance of trying to learn from all of life’s many experiences. Many books–not only those on magick and the occult but also several on self-help, self-improvement, and psychology–similarly stress the significance of learning from Life.
Part of being a Student of Life involves introspection; seeking within oneself to determine what is best for any given situation. This introspection also requires the honesty to evaluate one’s mistakes in order to determine what happened and what might be done in order to avoid making similar mistakes, because the greatest mistake is not to learn from an experience. Introspection also allows us to look at our successes in order to see how we accomplished them so that we will have a positive foundation to build future successes upon, though if we become selfish and egotistical about our successes, this can lead to physical and mental dis-eases. After all, even wealthy people can have nervous breakdowns and commit suicide, and no amount of material success can prevent death.
A term that is synonymous with Student of Life is Life-long Learner, which is sometimes used by those in the teaching profession to describe someone who strives to continue learning throughout their life. After all, as the old adage states, “To teach is to learn twice over.” Though it is true that almost everyone learns from experience to some degree, this is by no means the only method of learning from life.Any fool can learn by doing, but those with discretion learn also from contemplation. In other words, we do not have to learn only from our own personal experiences, we can also learn from those of others. We have the ability to think through and plan our actions in order to work for that which is most desirable for us at any particular time.
Learning with Intent
The difference between a Student of Life and all the greater and lesser fools of the world is that the Student of Life works to conciously learn–instead of just letting life happen to him/her, the Student of Life lives intentionally and combines intellect with experience. In various schools of magickal thought words such as Magician, Wizard, Witch, Sage, etc. are used to describe such a person, with much the same definitions: one who intends to learn and grow in every way, and who uses his/her acquired wisdom and knowledge to Intend (or Will) changes in oneself or one’s environment.
The Responsibility to Life
The Student of Life also has a responsibility to Life, because if he/she is truly seeking that which is best, most necessary and most positive for him/herself, then he/she will also strive for that which is best for his/her environment and surroundings–including helping those around us, by striving to exemplify all the best qualities of a Student of Life so that they too might learn from our example. By taking care of his/her environment, the Student of Life actively works to create surroundings that are conducive to his/her goals. If we neglect our environment or those around us, great damage can be done both physically and emotionally, and soon we too will eventually fall into disrepair (or despair). These are not the goals of a Student of Life, who is always aware of the Cosmic law that ‘As you reap, so shall you sow.’ A lesson sample from ‘Global Village School’ on The Buddhist Path to Peace serves to further clarify this subject:
This is the law of karma, which teaches that what we put out is what comes back to us. If you think of what happens when you throw a boomerang, you will get the picture: if you are not careful about what you do and how you do it, you can end up getting hit pretty hard. This is the good news and bad news. It means that by the power of what we do, that we can create our own happiness or our own suffering. Sometimes it takes a while for what we do to produce an effect, but the Buddha said we all have plenty of time due to our habit of taking rebirth lifetime after lifetime (reincarnation). The Buddha taught that all the conditions and experiences of our lives are created by our own past actions of body, speech and mind. Again that could be good news or bad news, so the Buddha taught methods of living and meditating to train us to produce peace of mind and lasting happiness. As it turns out, our own peace and happiness is directly related to our attitude and treatment of others, so what the Buddha taught is also how to live in loving relationship with all living beings.
The Student of Life is also a student of world religions, seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the common or Universal Truths inherent in the various religions, thus bringing us to a deeper understanding of the Source. The study of world religions can also give a deeper understanding of others through understanding their beliefs and worldviews.
The Student of Life should be aware of the causes of suffering in order to avoid them and choose instead to seek the Source of true happiness. Though this admittedly leans heavily towards Buddhism, it is a concept found in many major faiths: avoid that which is harmful or negative, and seek that which is helpful or positive—pretty simple advice, really, but because it seems so simple a thing we sometimes have difficulty in practicing it, which led to the development of various schools and institutions meant (at least originally) to help people learn how to live well. This is why faith or religion plays such a large role in life, because it seeks to teach us how to live well.
All in all, a Student of Life is, above all else, someone who actively strives to learn from all of Life’s lessons and to constructively apply this learning for the benefit of self, surroundings, and others. In some ways, the Student of Life also plays the role of teacher by leading by his/her example, but he/she always keeps in mind that as long as he/she is alive, then he/she does not know everything, and there is always something more to be learned.
If one were to avoid learning in any way, he/she would be quite a dullard and would be shunned as an ignorant fool, as he/she would continuously fall into negativity and suffering while wondering why. This is why when we stop learning, we stop living (at least in any productive or healthy way); and it is only when we stop living that we stop learning.
Gelsheimer, Ann. The Buddhist Path to Peace, from
Global Village School at
Retrieved August 5, 2006.
Zell-Ravenheart, Oberon, et al. Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard. New Jersey, New Page Books 2004.