Learning, in acting as a basis for our personal choices, decisions and actions, determines the difference between what we become and do not become. It helps to shape the inarticulate hum of the universal consciousness, present in all that exists and in each of us, into a unique voice, raising, for a few beats, a unique song amidst the ever performing orchestra of life.

Without learning, personality and individuality would not be possible. It is the prism in which one cold ray of light is broken into a sunset of diversity; one dark void of monochrome made into an opalescent stardust-beach of individuals washed by the sighing waves of time. Without it, we would not be able to distinguish us from others and the world would be a palace of mirrors reflecting only its own emptiness.

Because pairs and harmony can only be made from once broken fragments, learning, as the source of individuality and diversity, is the source of love and friendship and of all that gives life its beautiful vulnerability. As the source of such deep-reaching mutual attachment, learning is also the source of society and of our desire for humanity’s continued coherent existence beyond our own life.

Having such a strong power to determine the course of our lives, learning is the source of the only freedom that is unconditional and absolute. It offers shelter from the fact that we did not ask for our own creation and that we are in essence determined from without and not from within. Learning offers freedom from the unbending impossibilities of fate itself. 

Learning means much more than the memorisation of items belonging to a certain subject matter. It means to engage with the very will of the universe to evolve; to create the unexpected; to create at all. Learning means to interact with the force that is at the root of all things. Without learning, time itself would not exist, since nothing would melt its glacial monotony for its trickle to be heard

All this has, since antiquity, contributed to establish teachers as men and women who deserve respect because they devote their time and their lives to help others become meaningful individuals. Today, in a world where commodities are obtained in return for their equal value in money, it is too often forgotten that although teachers are paid they can never really be paid back for what they give.

This short article is to remind all students and all who employ teachers that the payment they make to a teacher is only a token of their respect, not a remuneration in the modern sense of the word. When asking about the true value of instruction one asks about the true value of one’s own unique personality. And who can ever hope to answer such a question?

When asking about the value of instruction one eventually asks about the value of time, and, although everybody knows that time is money, no one has yet come up with an accurate valuation of what lies between the on and off of the separators of our phone’s or computer’s timekeeper – the wand of the conductor of the ever performing orchestra of life.


Silvio Zinsstag,

teacher for ancient languages.