Learning From The Inside Out

A Butterfly Learning The Taste of Fruit

Why can children learn languages better and faster than adults?

Science would tell you that it has to do with the brain, neurons, neuroplasticity and words that get progressively longer from there. Objectively, that may be true. How about subjectively?

When we learn the word for an object, say a peach, we see the peach and hear the sound “pee-ch” together. We may have a taste to associate; a smell; the soft firmness of holding the fruit in our hands. Additionally we have the emotional feeling that we’re experiencing at the times of encountering peaches, all of which combine to form a peachy feeling-sound-taste-touch-smell identity. Wonderful!

As we grow up and gain knowledge about what it means to learn, how to learn, the process of “trying” to learn something, etc. we start developing mental shortcuts and automatic responses. The brain likes to make things quick and simple, precisely because our society values time efficiency. All good so far.

To illustrate this next point, a metaphor:
I once listened to a book where one of the characters was a sentient tree. In order to communicate and interact with humans, this tree has a pot with wheels and a translating computer built into it.

After a particular ordeal, he decides to plant himself near the ocean to allow his organic consciousness to process the ordeal beyond what the translating computer is capable of. A post-workout rest period, if you will.

The organic consciousness of the tree represents here our heart; our inner knowing. The translating computer represents our brain. When we learn things, we need to connect with them on a level of feeling.

Why are some people good, like extremely good, at maths?
Although it’s abstract, there’s an excitement about the possibilities and the challenge of piecing the puzzle together.

Why are others bad at math?
Because there’s the idea that it’s something that needs to be learnt, without a particularly inspiring feeling behind it…

When we try to learn or even do something because of “should”s, we resort to trying to make it easier — paradoxically, by putting in lots of effort and trying and elbow-grease (or acute-angle-lubricant, as the case may be). We resort to learning rote, memorizing and filing away details, to the avail of frustration.

When we’re truly inspired to action, we focus on the larger picture. Sure, the details are important. But it’s the trees which make up the forest, and the forest includes not just the trees, but also the space between them.

An example in practice:

In Dutch, there’s a word for the feeling of an impending task that one really doesn’t want to do:

tegenzin (Pronounced: TAY-ghen Zinn.)

If we were learning Dutch with the feeling of tegenzin, we might just memorize the word and move on… However with inspiration we might see that it’s composed of two words:

“tegen” which means against or counter to


“zin” which can mean:
the sense in something (compare: senseless) 

the meaning we give to something

Also, “zin” is the word for sentence. If we’re learning in an inspired way, we might pick out other patterns, such as the presence of “zin” in

the word for family:


the word for “sense” in the sense of taste, touch, smell, etc.

“Tuig” is something which embodies or witnesses.

To recap, we now know a bit more about:

  • the inner process of learning
  • the sense in resting and connecting with our inner-sense while learning
  • why some of us are good/bad at mathematics (and a breadcrumb about how we might change that if we so desire)

and through a lesson in Dutch:

  • how inspiration can help us find the fish in a sea of words.

All of that through being inspired to read an article on the internet! Or perhaps we’ve just muddled through a sea of words trying to see sense in the meaning of these zinnen. (Sentences)

P.S. I was going to put a quote here about learning at least one new thing every day, however this is my first actual article on Medium and, well this one caught my eye:

“Art doesn’t just happen by accident. It is about pulling out new tricks and trying new things.” — Nicholas Meyer