The "perpetual student" mindset is one that instills the truth that there is always more to learn. It teaches us that we can still make improvements upon ourselves with the information we gather and the knowledge we gain and strive to integrate. It helps us keep open minds as we expand our understanding to be more accepting of new truths for ourselves and each other. Here's why maintaining a "perpetual student" outlook is so important to kink, both in our personal lives and in the community:
1. Accidents happen when we think we know it all.
The scary truth of it is, there are few things more dangerous than an inflated ego. When people are set in their ways about how to conduct a task-based strictly on their habits and not wholly on updated information—Murphy's Law can apply. Just because you've always said or done something a certain way, and no one's taken offense or gotten hurt yet, doesn't mean that it's not possible, and it certainly doesn't mean you must be in the right.
As kinksters, some of us take part in some pretty risky activities. There are multiple ways of interpreting the term "edge-play," and I recommend you discuss (before play) what it means to you and your partner(s). However, I changed my outlook on what the term meant to me as a result of the "perpetual student" mindset and found the revised definition worked better for my purposes. Still, I hope each of you will proceed in the way that is safest and makes the most sense for you and those you play with.
I once heard edge-play defined as "any activity that when things go wrong, they go wrong fast," and it honestly changed my whole perspective. This is because I used to define edge-play to myself as a specific list of physical activities. It is difficult for anyone to make a completely exhaustive list, so my approach was lacking. It did not look at the matter comprehensively enough to be able to extrapolate to other activities I had not yet become familiar with. It was more of a blind rule than a comprehensive assessment.
My list hypothesis, I think, was pretty dangerous for me to have. It was dangerous because it was uninformed. It was somewhat discriminatory concerning activities and was founded mostly in assumption or inference.
There is no shortage of opinion when it comes to comparing the danger of two inherently risky activities, but basing your safety and the safety of others on a layperson's view isn't reliable or responsible. My list definition of edge-play was based more on the perceived probability of things going wrong, rather than in the reality of how quickly (or severely) things could go wrong if they did. For me, that was a mistake.
Because of this, I had been excluding a whole slew of activities with risks I hadn't even considered. After all, some activities have a low likelihood of taking a wrong turn, but which also involve any mistake being disastrous—activities which (until encountering this new definition) I hadn't even considered to be "edge-play" or "risky." Luckily, keeping the "perpetual student" mindset, in this instance, allowed room in my mind for definitions other than my own.
By keeping a willingness to learn, I was receptive to an alternate definition of "edge-play" that I was not yet familiar with. Once I learned of and considered, this version of the term, I could see that it was more accurate, or, (in my judgment) closer to the truth, than what I had been telling myself. I then chose to integrate it as a new understanding of mine in the kink-realm.
Doing so has kept my play safer, and my mind sharper to recognize and eradicate my own biases of belief. I'm not perfect (by any stretch of the imagination), and I always think there is room to improve. But I am glad that I did keep an open mind, for my safety and the safety of those I play with.
When we participate in consensual risky activities, whether we recognize the inherent risk and who we choose to engage in those activities with, is up to us. But one way we can protect ourselves and the people we engage with is by espousing a "perpetual student" mindset. We are always looking for ways to expand our knowledge and understanding of play activities.
2. We can learn new skills and improve preexisting skills when we look forward to learning.
Not having a "perpetual student" attitude is placing an invisible ceiling on our skill acquisition and development. When we honestly believe we have nothing more to learn, we are subconsciously shutting out new opportunities to grow and improve. Nothing could be more detrimental to us or our skill sets.
Every day before class, as I left my house and walked to the bus, someone from my house would inevitably run to the door (which I had just taken great care to lock), fling it open, and scream after me. "Open your mind to learning!" was the slogan they inexorably shouted. Without fail, blushes and a profound lack of popularity on my part would ensue. It's up there with the top ten most embarrassing reoccurring habits of those who played a role in my upbringing, but I wouldn't change it for the world, because it changed me for the better.
It drilled into me (daily, and with considerable social excruciation) this sense that knowledge wasn't just some intangible wave to be washed over you, it was a force you had to be receptive of, to gain from it. It taught me that I was at least equally responsible for my education as the institutions of learning I attended. It instilled this feeling that I wasn't being forced to go to school, I played an active role, and I was being asked to do my part in the life-cycle of information. Maybe it's strange to refer to information as having a life-cycle, but in my eyes, it does.
We open ourselves to the outpouring of information, or education is thrust upon us (whichever comes first). Then, once open to the knowledge, we receive it. Next, we integrate and apply it. Finally, we look for ways to improve upon and expand it. In this way, the information grows, changes, adapts, or "levels up." Then, if we have been successful in this "leveling up" of data, the new version of the information is circulated and disseminated. That is the version thrust upon new learners, and when they are open to it, they will receive it, and so one and so forth. This is the life cycle of information, and it is the method through which every field comes to great new heights.
When I was in school, we learned Pluto was a planet, that was the education thrust upon us, and we were open and received it. But later, astronomers who had grown up on that belief, too, continued to research and explore. They recognized that it might not be the whole truth. So, they searched for ways to improve upon and expand the information we had all been given. It was then determined Pluto was not a planet, and this new version of information became the accepted one, which was circulated and disseminated. Now, this information is the standard.
Here, we see, information has lived out its life-cycle. It has then been revised numerous times. This is how it goes in every area of learning—kink included!
The people to whom information and education are essential will almost always seek out ways to test, research, explore, or otherwise delve for new truths and new information. It is their way of stepping forward and bringing innovation and improvement to themselves, and later, to others. It is an excellent contribution to the community.
When we are receptive to information (and willing to do our part in learning), our understanding and skills in our areas of interest will always be better for it. Whether you partake in impact play, bondage, blood play, or any other kink, there are always things to learn. Learning things can improve our knowledge and skill in the areas we care about most, such as where it's safe to be hit, secure bondage locations, cleaning, and sterilization. If we want our expertise to improve or expand, we should be accepting of (and, preferably, enthusiastic about) learning, because that is the only way we will be able to absorb and incorporate the new information out there.
3. To never close the door on learning means never closing the door on opportunity.
In kink, especially being open to learning about new activities (or new ways of doing old activities) is a great opportunity. It leaves you free to meet new friends, finding new kinks, and igniting (or reigniting) passion. The kink community can be a rabbit hole of exhilarating and titillating experiences to be shared. Learning is just the thing that can turn "falling" down the rabbit hole into "floating."
Learning supports us in forming connections. It can reverse ignorance and help keep our community safe(r) and inclusive. Education facilitates conversation. Conversation can easily yield connections, and bonds (with the right nurturing) can become friendships.
Friendships can last lifetimes. They can also develop into partnerships, dynamics, and more. The critical point is that friendships bring people together around the interests significant to them- and being open to learning makes you open to those endless possibilities for friendship.
Learning also enables new experiences, which, as many of us know, can guide us towards finding new kinks. This, in turn, can spark excitement about that activity or experience. Much like a "frenzy," that excitement can fuel a whole new surge of learning and knowledge.
Learning also ignites passion. Whether you are learning about your partner, a subculture, an ideology, or an activity, the influx of new information and material can unearth many surprising truths which you may relate to on a personal level. This can rekindle a passion for a relationship, a person, a group of people, a movement, or an interest.
Learning has a way of shedding light on the things that matter to you. Finding what is important to you helps you know yourself better and helps you find others to whom those same interests matter. In that way, learning is a genuinely uplifting, enlightening, and unifying experience.
Maintaining a "perpetual student" outlook isn't always effortless. It can be easy to fall into habits or patterns of thinking and acting. But remaining open to new understandings, information, and activities can benefit us in so many ways.
Being a "perpetual student" helps keep us grounded. It can guide us to reflect on the bounds of our knowledge. It can keep us and others safe. Being a "perpetual student" also primes us to develop and grow in our skills and hobbies. Learning facilitates a level of practice and proficiency, which can aid our safety in (and enjoyment of) activities we partake in. Knowledge also brings people together and provides ample opportunities for community, experience, and passion.
Knowledge, safety, growth, skill, practice, enjoyment, shared experiences, and passion are just a few of the pillars of the theory and practice of kink. All of these are bestowed to us in spades by engaging in learning. Keeping the mindset of a "perpetual student" ensures we are open to the gifts education has to offer to our community and us.