Learn the Pattern

It’s hoped that your accumulated education would enhance your cultural value.

The hierarchy of education seems to be (1) expose yourself to vast amounts of facts and knowledge, (2) process that knowledge into some level of understanding, and (3) endeavor to transform that knowledge and understanding into practical wisdom before you die. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, “By nature all people are alike, but by education become different.” Except for DNA, and a handful of other abstruse factors, he’s no doubt right. Never before have we had the ease of access to such a vast accumulation of information. Many colleges and universities have far more enrolled in their adult education and extended education programs than in their regular on-campus classes. And one of the reasons most often given by the students is the fact that unless they enhance their formal education, they are stuck in the “lower salary box.” They are made painfully aware of the presumption that your level of education enhances your cultural value. 

In the last decade I have spent considerable time in Asia and along the old Silk Road. On one of my trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan I was hosted by a medical doctor named Malik Kasi, who lived in the border town of Quetta. Dr. Kasi was in charge of the large Pediatrics Department of the main hospital, and a major professor at the Bolan Medical School. He invited me to his historic home to have dinner and meet other leaders of the Baluchistan tribes. 

A fireplace was smoldering in the reception area, taking the chill from the old building. All the floors were covered with gorgeous Persian carpets, and the room walls were lined with pillows constructed from small woven Persian rugs about 36 inches by 20 inches, sewn together and stuffed with raw cotton. Tea and condiments were quickly served on the floor, and each man of the welcoming families took a pillow and pulled it up close to the fire. Some, including me, sat on the pillows, and some sat on the carpets and leaned back against the pillows. 

As we were all getting acquainted, I commented to Dr. Kasi about the spectacular oriental carpets. Some looked like they had gold fibers woven into the fabric. He was very pleased that I had asked. I explained that I would consider it a great honor if he would teach me how to assess the value of Persian carpets. That led to a complete tour of the home, and a university education on how to buy Persian carpets. Some of his carpets dated back to the 1500’s. He said I could determine value by the number and quality of knots on the reverse side, the designs, styles, weights, quality of either the silk or the wool, and by the different geographical areas where the carpet had been woven. He then asked if I would like to go with him to one of the rural villages were the family made carpets. 

At the village home there was a large horizontal loom set up off the floor about eight inches. When the family understood that Dr. Kasi had brought me to see them do a little carpet weaving, one of the daughters jumped right over to the apparatus. She pushed the shuttle mechanism forward and began stringing, through the lateral base strings, woolen threads that had been wrapped around sticks of wood.. She was very confident and quick. Then, with some wooden tools she beat the new strings compactly into place before she pulled the shuttle handles back to align everything. It would take months for the completion of one carpet. 

“Dr. Kasi,” I said, as I watched the daughter work, “I see her work so fast and so confidently, but I do not see anywhere a pattern from which she is working. The design in the carpet is very complex and intricate. How does she know what she is doing?” 

“Good question, Dr. Jackson,” Dr. Kasi replied. “There is no written down design. The pattern has to be memorized. The instructions are handed down from generation to generation. You see, the grandmother and the mother choose a particular girl in the family, and that girl is allowed to memorize the design and instructions. Because she has been chosen and the secrets have been shared with her, she is considered very valuable, and is honored and respected within the tribe with the assurance that she will marry well. There is a great incentive for her to learn and perform well.” 

We are admonished, “If given the opportunity . . . learn the pattern. What you know increases your intrinsic worth, so determine within yourself to become an aggressive ‘Life-long Learner.’”