Have you ever learned something new that made you stop and say, "How in the world did I not ever know about this before???"
I had one of those moments last week when I came across a documentary on North Korea. I was curious about it because I once had a friend in the military who had served on the North/South Korea border and I'm always hearing about Korea in the news and Lisa Ling was involved with the program and I think she's really cool. So I watched. And I was SHOCKED.
For those of you who are not familiar with the situation in North Korea, you would probably be as astonished as I was. Imagine the world of the Hunger Games only worse- much worse. In the simplest of terms, it would appear (though it's hard to say because this "inside look" was just a small percentage of the population) that the entire country has either been brainwashed to worship one man, a communist dictator, or they are so afraid of him that they don't speak out even if they hate the man. There are no cell phones or internet allowed in the country; the only images or photos displayed anywhere are of this leader; the only books are those written by either this leader or his father (the dictator before him) and should anyone dare to speak one false word against this man their entire family will be killed. There are concentration ("work") camps all over the country, children are dying every day of malnutrition, and the only communication that comes from North Korea is propaganda in which every citizen is pictured as being happy-go-lucky and thankful to their great and wonderful leader for the beautiful life he has provided for them.
Lisa Ling traveled with a talented doctor who was teaching surgeons there how to perform a simple surgery to reverse blindness caused by cataracts. He gave many patients their sight, and when they were able to see, what did they do? They fell down and worshipped the image of their "great leader", praising him and thanking him for giving them their sight, promising renewed devotion.
At the time of filming, Lisa Ling was told that she was the only American in the country. No other countries even have embassies there. They have essentially shut out the entire world. (Can I insert here how brave I think Ms. Ling is?) The borders of the country (the "demilitarized zone") are a death trap of land mines and electrified barbed wire fences. The dictator has basically imprisoned an entire country of people.
So...what does this have to do with writing?
Well, I had another little epiphany this week when I was working at my children's school. I was just out in the hallway, taking down artwork, and I watched these little second-graders scurrying around from one thing to another, and I thought about how much they learn in a few weeks' time and how remarkable that truly is. They start out the beginning of the week not even knowing what a fraction is, and by the end of the next week they're taking tests on it.
I thought to myself, "What do I learn in a few weeks?" I suddenly felt a little bit sad, because I knew that even though I have aged and my brain is not as nimble as these sweet little 7- and 8-year-olds, I still have that incredible capacity to learn. What am I doing with it?
So, to sum up, ladies, this world is full of knowledge. We might think that as women, wives, mothers, and writers, we know all that we need to know. And perhaps we do. But does that mean that we're done learning? I'm talking about more than just trying out that new method for making bread or that new parenting technique- these things are important, and certainly should be a part of our daily learning. But I would like to challenge all of us to thirst for more. We live in a big world, and there is so much for us to learn. You don't know what you don't know, and once you find out...well, it could change your whole outlook.
I challenge you to make this summer your summer of learning! Follow your curiosity, let it lead you to increased knowledge and increased awareness of your world.
Have you ever been shocked to discover what you didn't know you didn't know?