When We Fail to Learn

14 February 2006: Tuesday of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time
Mark 8, 14-21 When we fail to learn from our experiences

The Gospel is best approached with a background. Yesterday, we heard that the Pharisees were looking for a sign. Here the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, and forgot to bring loaves of bread with them --- except for one loaf. And they told Jesus. Probably Jesus was exasperated or disappointed, “Do you not see though you have eyes?”. The truth that the Messiah was already with them --- and therefore there was no reason to worry about food --- did not still sink into their consciousness. So Jesus reminded them, “Do you not remember?” He brought back to their memory the miracle of the loaves: five loaves for five thousand, twelve baskets were leftovers, and from seven loaves for four thousand, seven were leftovers.

In other words, the disciples have not learned from experience. How many times have we failed an exam, and didn’t learn from that experience? How many times have we been hurt, and never learned from it? We have continued our patterns of behavior or our bad habits and we have seen their effects, but we refuse to abandon them.

It is said that all of life teaches us lessons. We just didn’t learn from them. I guess we breeze through life without evaluation. We are intimidated by all of forms of evaluation, because we cannot separate our actions (or work) with our person: to criticize our work is to criticize ourselves; a comment about our action is seen as a personal affront. And therefore, if we shun evaluation, there is little chance that we would learn from our experiences. And at worse, the much needed creative change and a faster development towards a better person and quality service are not met. Learning from life is like fertilizers: they improve on growth. An unexamined life, Socrates said, is not worth living.

* picture by Neo Saicon SJ

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