Sell your cleverness, buy bewilderment.
Rumi, the 13th Century Persian scholar, wrote this short poem. It’s one of his more mystical exhortations. Type this sentence into Google, and you’ll immediately discover the rich, rewarding world of interpretations and perspectives that Rumi's entreaty evokes.
Here, in this blog on learning partnerships, we’re sharing Rumi’s entreaty with you as a way for you to frame the insights Etienne Wenger is offering in this YouTube video. Dr. Wenger is one of the world’s foremost authorities on learning partnerships, especially professional communities of practice. And here, with Brantlee Underhill, he’s explaining the importance of having both a "place for engagement" and a clearly defined "learning community" as key features of the “long term connections” that we, as adults, need if we’re truly going to learn.
Dr. Wenger is worth listening to. In a few short minutes, he highlights three or four important learning partnership issues. But, for us, his discussion of learning partnerships is too clear-headed, too rational to fully convey what our experiences with learning partnerships have been. So we’re adding a touch of Rumi at the beginning to round out, deepen, and enrich the sense and feel of Wenger's observations.
Rumi’s phrase, Sell your cleverness, implies that authentic learning is something that can never be completely realized through the simple acquisition of new information. Rather, authentic learning flourishes in the real world only when we each loosen our appreciation of facts and figures, and allow ourselves to "Buy the bewilderment" that is always part of our confusions, frustrations, and doubts. To truly learn anything, we need to be willing to struggle with our own emotional realities until, out of the skirmish, we fashion new ways of thinking and perceiving. This is the kind of emotional breadth and depth that contemplating Rumi’s short poem can add to the story Dr. Wenger is telling when, in the video above, he suggests that effective learning happens for us when we, in the presence of others whom we trust, are courageous enough to “bring our questions and our challenges” into what he calls a community of practice. What we're calling a "learning partnership."