The first time I learned to roll and tuck a newspaper, it was in the garage at the Ballard’s house on Knecht Drive. They were the Grand Poo Bahs of the newspaper routes. Their garage, our headquarters, seemed pretty new. It was very clean and had long tables set up inside. The floor of the garage was pristine. A clean cement floor with no cracks. There were a few fluorescent ceiling lamps providing more than ample light, no matter the time of day.
Mrs. Ballard was no-nonsense. She was running a paper-delivering-business, for crying out loud. It was all work and no play. No horsing around. She had a set of rules that the carriers had to follow. To the T. No ambiguity there. But I remember the day I learned to roll the newspapers, from Mrs. Ballard. And then she taught me the best way to stuff them in my bag. The thing that stands out in my mind the most, was how dirty my hands got from all the newspaper ink.
At nearly the same age, I learned how to roll up a newspaper into a log that would burn in a fireplace. My Grandpa Wehrman taught me how to do this. It was at their house on Rugby Rd. We knelt in front to the hearth, with a stack of papers, and made logs until the paper ran out.
Those must have been the years for me to learn cool tricks with newspaper. As it was, some of my favorite books were the Curious George series. I just loved everything about the books. The stories, the illustrations, the smell of the books, even. In one of the stories, “Curious George Rides A Bike,” that little monkey got a paper route of his own. But he was easily distracted. He went to a lake and made sailboats out of his newspapers. The best part of the story was the section which gave you instructions how to make the boats. I couldn’t figure it out on my own. So my brother Ed re-read the entire book to me, and showed me exactly how to make those boats.
I’m not sure why these three stories were on my mind tonight But it reminded me, that we come into this world knowing nothing at all. We are completely reliant on others for our survival. Then, as time goes on, we begin to learn. We start figuring things out, like how to walk, and hold a fork. We move on to loftier tasks, like Quantum Physics, and knitting. But our learning…. our knowledge…. doesn’t come from only one source.
We learn as we go, from thousands of different teachers, in thousands of different places. All our lives. Much of it comes in practicalities. Boiling an egg, tying a shoe, fractions, typing a paper, painting a wall.
But our inner wisdom — our spiritual knowledge — comes from many places too. If it doesn’t, maybe it should. We don’t limit our physical and mental learning to one source. Why would we limit ourselves in this way spiritually? In the movie, The Life of Pi, I love the character of the boy. He considers nearly every religion on the face of the earth, learns all about each one, and adopts the portions which make sense to him. Profound.
Yes. We learn. To better ourselves. To be more worthwhile, as humans. And those lessons can come from anywhere at anytime. From any one.
Especially, in a newspaper boat on a lake.
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”
“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”
― Isaac Asimov, Foundation
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”