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Brave to be learning

Brave to be learning

Two art trips since the last blog and I have been inspired to write again. Inspired by the wonder of watching people grow.


I have felt like a  gardener  inheriting plants that have been in the same place for many years,  they still bloom but the colours are less vibrant, the flowers smaller.  As a good gardener, I move the plant, change its aspect a little maybe feed it and encourage it to grow in a slightly new direction.

The next time it flowers the blooms are bigger, colours brighter it’s as if the whole plant has been reborn!

What has been happening is a well known phenomenon that of learning and gaining new insights makes us happy really happy. The chemicals in our brain actually change when we learn something new. Gary Marcus is a cognitive psychologist and writes about this phenomenon in his blog ‘learn something new – your brain will thank you’.


The people who have been joining me on the art trips to Bali are brave, I know they are because I write to them while they are thinking about joining us and I hear their worries. Some have never traveled so far or to such an exoticKollwitz drawing destination, some have spent most of their lives working in one discipline and are fearful that the art will be too difficult for them, most of them are facing a fear and putting worries to one side, I admire them all for that - even before I have met them in person.

  When they arrive in Bali, tired and apprehensive learning seems a way off destination but as the days pass they start to relax and learn. Weather it is learning about Bali, the food, culture and the people or whether it is learning how to draw using a brush, batik a line of wax using a chanting or how to use the camera they bought last year and have never had the time to understand. The learning happens and the guests start to grow!


This begs the question, ‘if learning is good for us and to get into a learning situation we might have to be brave, how do we become brave?’  The Oxford dictionary defines Brave as ‘late 15th century: from French, from Italian bravo 'bold' or Spanish bravo 'courageous, untamed, savage', based on Latin barbarous’, so what makes us courageous? Untamed? Savage? Or more simply when do we steal ourselves and break out of our comfort zone?


 Perhaps it is important that we decide that being brave is a scales of justicevirtue, something that elevates us as people, rather than savage or untamed. If we decide that by being brave we are being virtuous it is probably more likely that we will indeed be brave and take that step into our unknown.

 In his article ‘Which Beliefs Contribute to Virtuous Behavior? ‘Christian Miller discusses virtuous behavior and what might cause people to behave in a virtuous way. He talks about what we believe and how those beliefs influence our ability to behave in a virtuous way; do we believe that we should be virtuous because our much loved granny always did? Or perhaps we think an all seeing knowing power will be pleased by our behavior?

 It is not clear what it is that motivates us to behave in a virtuous way however we do know that in some circumstances we do behave bravely.

I think I see bravery as a virtue and I have put my money where my mouth is by organizing art holidays to Bali that in some way big or small require people’s bravery. I hope that my hunch is right and I hope that if you agree with me you will activate your braveness right now.

Sandy Infield


“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.”
Stephen King, On Writing

“To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing.”
Mark Twain, Joan of Arc


‘Learn something new – your brain will thank you’ Written by Gary Marcus MD

Gary Marcus is a cognitive psychologist is a research psychologist whose work focuses on language, biology, and the mind. Dr. Marcus is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at New York University

Which Beliefs Contribute to Virtuous Behavior?’ Written by Christian Miller

(Associate Professor of Philosophy and Zachary T. Smith Faculty Fellow at Wake Forest University)

g here.

3 comments | Add a New Comment
1. Vickie Bond | May 17, 2013 at 03:27 PM EDT

I love your words and your motivation. Bravery is made so much easier when you have some one walking by your side. Exploring a new skill and revisiting old ones refreshes the soul and inspires further exploration. Your holidays are more than just learning to draw or take on that challenging chanting!! I for one commend others to take that step as I did, you will not be sorry. Thank you Sandy for being you x

2. Mark | May 26, 2013 at 04:21 AM EDT

The question of courage in creativity is an important one. We need courage to take ourselves outside of our comfort zones generally, but this is perhaps even more so in relation to creative action, because there are no lines or confines to guide us. There is no box to think out of. Though courage is needed to challenge ourselves, creativity itself is innate, as Sir Ken Robinson points out in his latest TED lecture on creativity in education. We all have it as children and it takes a lot of hard work to crush it out. So courage is needed in the education systems to change this. The idea that exposure to new ideas and the process of learning makes us happy is interesting. A recent Earthwatch lecture on Why Emotion Matters in Conservation Science had Dr Wallace J. Nichols talking about a new area of research, neuroconservation, which is showing that exposure to nature reduces stress and encourages creativity. I like these emerging links between happiness, learning, nature and creativity. They bode well for both the arts and the sciences.

3. sandy Infield | May 26, 2013 at 05:12 AM EDT

Thank you both for good comment, Mark I am adding the links you talk about.

Ken Robinson manages to say so much without being boring, perhaps its because he is very creative when he thinks about how he communicates. He uses humor and tricks us into listening in fact entertains us into thinking..I love the quote we are educating our children out of their creativity! a bit incisive well watch it and see....

Sir Ken Robinson 'Creativity in Education'

Earthwatch Lecture'Why Emotion Matters'

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