Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why is learning so difficult? A meditation

It’s cram season, and I’m just wondering, do we appreciate what we learn, or do we focus too much on grades and consider our education just a mere obstacle to a career?

Do we abhor exams because we consider the routine studying and refining of our skills a waste of time? Do the delightful feelings of mastering certain equations, biological models, and writing skills become lost to the incomprehensible novelty of the internet?

Here’s a question for you upper university students: How do you keep rediscovering the things that brought you glee when you first entered university, when faced with redundancy, a more deliberate pace, and an emphasis on refining instead of discovering?

I think, as exam season hits us we should take the time to reflect on why the things we study interest us, or ever did so in the first place; how much more serious and realistic our ambitions have become; and to really acknowledge that we’re getting better at exactly what we want to do.

For me, entering university was the most exciting time of my life, I could study art, computers, psychology, English, and science all at once. I was enthralled by learning all subjects at such an extreme pace, and my mind was always reaching for new ideas. The social Reddit-like internet was still young and could easily provide unlimited entertainment through the most interesting personal stories upvoted from all around the world. Funny cat pictures were ACTUALLY funny.
There was an old lecturecast that I watched, where the psychology profesor said that when you’re 18 you’re at the smartest you’ll ever be. Then, as you begin to shed useless and redundant neurons, you slowly lose the ability to process new information quickly. However you become wiser, and the experiences you will gain will give you different abilities that younger people don’t have.

I considered this a moment to really seize the day, carpe diem, or #YOLO, whatever your experience leads you to call it. I knew that university would be the best time of my life to grasp at as many straws of knowledge that I could in order to give myself a knowledgeable base to forever stand on.

As I’ve progressed I’ve settled on the humanities, especially English, focussing on the act of learning to write personal stories, poems, and essays that would hopefully allow people to connect over shared experiences and learn with me. I will always be grateful for the breadth of a university education, and for the forced lesson that, learning to love what you want to do is not an easy task, and you will often find yourself hating what you used to love, but when you can stand back and see how much you’ve grown from this forced progress, it’s all worth it in the end.
My girlfriend ripped a poem out of a pocket Rumi book and gave it to me. I think it’s worth sharing at a time when we all feel like we need to surpass our expectations and get the best marks we could ever strive for.
The mouse-soul is nothing but a nibbler.
To the mouse is given a mind
proportionate to its need,
for without need, the All-Powerful
doesn’t give anything to anyone.
Need, then, is the net for all things that exist.
A person has tools in proportion to his need.
So, quickly, increase your need, needy one,
that the sea of abundance
may surge up in loving-kindness.
-Mathnawi II, 3279-80; 3292

1 comment:

  1. I like this.

    I read somewhere that even while you are pursuing your dream, there will be bits of it that are dull, or boring, or difficult, and it is part of life to get through those times and (with luck) learn something from them.


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