Despite the cliche about old dogs and new tricks, we are never too old to learn.
Gaucho was our golden retriever. We named him in honor of our eldest son’s mission to Argentina. Smart, loyal and gentle to the end of his life, Gaucho adapted to three different houses with each move we made. In the last two houses, our wonderful dog never let age or arthritis cripple his quest for learning.
For example, Gaucho learned to identify a banana from three rooms away. He then connected his keen sense of smell to the fact that if I peeled the banana near his bowl, he could come running, or limping. However, if I peeled the banana in the kitchen, it was ours, not his.
Keep in mind that our aging dog learned to make this subtle distinction without a voice-prompt, even when he was resting at the other end of the house and out of visual range.
Education and learning
One of my college professors used to say, "Never let education get in the way of learning." He wasn’t anti-education; quite the opposite. He understood that students often develop a shoot-for-grades mentality at the expense of real learning and application.
Over the years, I’ve watched smart people resist new things because they allow previous learning to define their limits. Thus restricted, even a university degree can’t pierce a learning-resistant shell.
My wife and I are about to embark upon a new adventure. This summer we will begin a three-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 8,000 miles from home. Ensconced in a new culture and language, the notion that we can’t learn, adapt and blossom isn’t in our natures.
Still, if we allow routine or age to define our learning limits, we miss the opportunity for growth.
Marcel Proust said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
Isn’t it amazing how changing routines can freshen focus. Read a poem, re-examine your favorite scripture, dance, dream and take time to ponder.
As you do, the old dog in you will emerge Gaucho-like: willing to learn and eager to grow younger with each new aroma of adventure. Besides, our eyes only see what our hearts allow.
William Monahan graduated from BYU law school. An Air Force veteran and former Phoenix stake president, he teaches law and serves as a high councilor for Queen Creek Chandler Heights Stake. He will begin service July 2012 as a mission president.