Dante Alighieri once said, “From a little spark may burst a flame.” If anyone should know about the power of ideas and how to transform an idea into something timeless, it should be this Italian poet and author of The Divine Comedy. Dante was called the “Supreme Poet” of his day and was cited as being the father of the Italian language. His poems and literature have been passed on generation to generation and they still resonate with readers today.
What Dante was hinting at with his quote above can be applied to so many things, including our notions of education and success. For instance, if you have a great idea, it may just be a spark and nothing more, unless you fuel that spark until it ignites into a flame. Success is an abstract concept that is difficult to grasp, because it means different things to different people. However, what we can agree on is that most of our successes in life must be nurtured and fed, just as we feed a campfire so that it produces light and warmth.
The true question then, is not how do we produce the spark of an idea, but how do we fuel it so that it turns into something lasting. This concept parallels my impression of what a modern education should consist of.
You see, far too often we focus on the memorization of facts and figures (the fuel of the mind) but seldom do we focus on the spark that drives our curiosity in the first place. In this respect, the “spark” for learning will never ignite the fuel that we fill our minds with and nothing more will come from our education than the bare minimum.
The secret then is to allow our natural creativity to spark the fuel of knowledge that surrounds us, in a way that produces a never ending fire of intellectual development. This results in a small input of inspiration and a huge output of ideas, which in business terms would be called a great investment.
To close with one more quote on this subject, let’s turn to William Butler Yeats, who believed that, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Do our modern methods of instruction reflect this ideal conception of what it means to become educated? In most cases, probably not. So then, how do we light the fire? Well, it all starts with a spark.