The Joy of Discovery: Designing a Learning Process for the Human Spirit

All my life, I’ve suffered from a rare and incurable condition. It isn’t terminal, thank heavens, so it isn’t what you might call a "high profile" affliction. You won’t find it on milk cartons or in the public service announcements that air during the Super Bowl. But there are a few famous people who suffer from it, so you might have heard of it. Hermione, for example–you know, Harry Potter’s friend–presents a classic case.

Cumpulsio Literosa, she would call it: the compulsive inability to stop reading.

I come by it honestly. My parents are both avid readers, although my Aunt Dorry suffers from an even more acute case. I knew it when I was just a little girl and caught my beloved aunt reading the cereal box at the breakfast table. I mean the whole cereal box. So at least I’m not alone.

There are advantages. My mother, for example, shared this laugh with me today, gleaned from a sign she read on the back of a garbage truck: "Our Service Is Excellent. Satisfaction Guaranteed… or Twice Your Garbage Back!"

And there are disadvantages.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that the art of "skimming" literary passages–and I use the word literary in the broadest possible sense, meaning all things written–has always eluded me. This was a real problem in law school. It’s almost impossible to read every word of every case assigned, especially when you include the footnotes.

Almost, but not quite. It turns out you can do it if you cut your sleep down to two daily shifts of four hours each: from 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM and then from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

There’s also the problem of interpersonal communication. I understand that most people don’t read every word of everything. I really do get that. I just have trouble remembering it.

The concept has been explained to me a thousand times. People are busy. People try to save time by reading for the gist of things. I hear, but I don’t comprehend. Rushing through a sentence makes about as much sense to me as rushing through a vacation. How can you savor the words if you don’t take them all in?

So the process of writing this post began with an old but apparently as yet ungrasped learning experience on my part. Deliciously ironic, really. But I’m starting to feel like a bit of a dolt.

I’ve been intending for a month now to write in this learning forum about the current state of our educational system–both what it is and what it could be.

I’ve done a lot of reading (again, can’t help it) about joy and the human spirit and what brings joy to the soul. And what I read I try to implement, just to test the proof of it. Turns out there’s a lot of wisdom out there, and most of it isn’t that complicated.

So for this post I wanted to apply some of these basic truths to our educational system. After all, this wisdom has been around forever; we’ve just never applied it on a societal level, and I think it’s high time we did.

Then I thought how great it would be if other bloggers contributed to the post by sharing their own principles of joyful living. I figured I could apply all those principles to our educational system at once, outlining a new system based on the joys of the human spirit. Great idea, right?

Only it didn’t work out that way.

Problem # 1: I thought of asking other bloggers for their input about two days ago. (Doh!)

Problem # 2: I asked people to send me whatever came to mind about "WISDOM … what
thoughts or modes of being move you into a place of peace, calm, joy,
self-love, inner happiness."

Maybe the problem was capitalizing "wisdom." That was probably it. But the long parenthetical phrase represented by the ellipsis didn’t help either. I was looking for people’s wisdom about life and being happy. What I got were people’s thoughts on wisdom itself.


How do I know the communication problem was on my end? Because every answer I received outlined the author’s thoughts on wisdom. When everyone misinterprets what you say, chances are pretty good that the problem lies in how you’re saying it.

Discovering my mistake, I rephrased the question, so a couple of these later responses were right on the money. But there just wasn’t enough time left to get everyone on board. My bad, and my sincere apologies.

So note to self (lesson learned): in making requests, be succinct, and for God’s sake don’t capitalize anything unless you really, really mean it.


Since I didn’t get to write the article I had intended to write, here are a few posts on joyful learning and the educational system, just to whet your appetite:

As for my fellow Cumpulsio Literosa sufferers who read every last word of this post, you have my deepest sympathies, and, as always…

My eternal gratitude,



  1. says

    Aha. The moment arrives. So that’s what they call it: Cumpulsio Literosa. Of course, you are not alone with this affliction.
    You know, we do go about our days not just hurrying through reading but hurrying through life , hence, the stop and smell the roses message hits home. I do stop frequently but I don’t always know the name of the rose or whatever other flower it is that catches my eye. And without knowing the name, some pieces of understanding are missing. Today, you have added a piece to my puzzle of understanding. Cumpulsio Literosa – thank you.

  2. EM says

    Lol. You’re welcome, but I have to make sure that J.K. Rowling and the remarkable Hermione share in the credit. Their wonderful spells inspired the name. :)

  3. says

    Great writing! I love the lesson taught of allowing a plan evolve to what It (capitalize intended) wants to be and not what we think It should be. I look forward to your October postings. Mahalo for sharing and letting me feel better about my compulsive need to read :)!

  4. says

    LOL EM! Looks like the universe guided you in the right direction. You just had to travel there via the Errant Question Trail.
    I wonder if we couldn’t think of “Designing a Learning Process for the Human Spirit,” as Life? We could but it wouldn’t be correct. Not until we open our eyes and embrace the verb of designing would it be right. Then we could call it living.
    Superb thought provoking essay EM!

  5. EM says

    toni – You’re very welcome. I hope you’ll add your voice to October’s “redesign education project”!

  6. EM says

    Dave – Lol. Not the most efficient path, maybe, but as long as it gets me there.
    And another lol. Living is surely the ultimate learning process for the human spirit. Now that you mention it, that very concept lies at the heart of Mind Unbound’s October group project. Together, we can focus on our most joyful living/learning experiences and then mirror those experiences in schools on purpose. Imagine where we could go with an entire generation of kids who had learned to expect joy and success as a result of challenging the unknown!

  7. says

    EM, this is priceless. You are such an inspired —and inspiring— spirit in our community” have been from the very first day that Dwayne (as I recall) “discovered” you for us!
    I am overwhelmed by your intention to create yet another forum of sorts for us in October; quite a delicious prospect with the bountiful talent you have as a writer. Sweet anticipation!

  8. EM says

    Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo Rosa.
    I still remember discovering Talking Story just a week or two into my blogging journey. I remember thinking right from the start how much I would love to be a part of the Ho’ohana community, and it seems to me that my wish came true in just a couple of weeks. I’m not quite sure how you found me, but it felt like wish fulfillment on a cosmic scale.
    Grateful to be a part of it,
    EM :)