As a family we have had a habit of subscribing to recycling initiatives over many years. The first was paper and cardboard, but when other materials were asked for, we added that to our list. It has been very convenient to have containers placed within reach in the hub of our home (dining room adjoining kitchen!) in which to place articles. At one time there were kerbside collections, but now we have to take our recyleables to points of collection – which is fine. It has certainly caused our household waste to be significantly diminished in volume!
However there is another kind of recycling that I have been reflecting on. In 'sorting out' the house, now that all our sons are married and making their own homes, and coming to the time of life when we will soon be moving to a smaller abode in a retirement complex, there is the inevitable need to go through what is in all the cupboards, sort through what belongs to who, and make plans to either deliver it to them or pass it on to others who need and will make good use of the various articles.
One of the tasks was old school and university notes stashed in the top of cupboards - emptying files and putting the paper in waste bags. The paper will be recycled, and the files, plastic sleeves and file dividers will be 'recycled' to an under-resourced school or children's home.
As I was preparing this material for recycling, I began to think about all the 'knowledge' and mechanisms that were on the paper, that had been given through teaching to empower my sons to learn how to think, analyse, make connections, be creative, be comfortable about thinking 'outside the box', have an urge to explore mentally and in other ways, to develop memory and practical skills. This lead me to ponder on how we 'recycle' what we have learnt in the years of our lives – how we have interpreted what has come to us in the way of studies, practice, experience, circumstances, relationships (with teachers/ lecturers, tutors, fellow students, role models). To what extent do we make use of all that we have been taught and learnt?
I was challenged to reflect on whether my many and various interpretations had lead to a relatable insight into life in general, that could be used to encourage, guide, empower, and provide a 'spring-board' to launch others into their own unique journeys through the experiences of their lives.
In a nutshell: Has our 'learning' been stuffed onto the top shelves of our lives, out of sight and gathering dust? Do we keep it in a rigid framework, immovably fixed by our perceptions at the time of receiving it?
Do we hang on to it as a source of pride or wield it as power over others?
Or do we 'recycle' it, by reapplying it creatively into different contexts, share it and reinterpret it in varying situations, circumstances, and relationships in the present?
Do we make it available, in a usable manner, to others who need it, who could make good use of it, and who would benefit from it in their own journey through life?