This is why they decided to invent Discovery Informatics ….
Archive for February, 2007
Following in the vein of the liberal arts as a tool for critical thinking, another tale for the reader.
Barriers are built for the purpose of keeping people/things from gaining access to something, whether it be a village, an economic opportunity, or University. Self-defense, self-interest, or self-improvement, all require effort to achieve. The return to school was no different. Given my documented history (recorded for posterity in the Office of the Registrar), I had to overcome institutional resistance to the notion of my return. Having overcome this obstacle…..
Redemption is the price one must pay for overcoming the Barrier of Re-Admission. As noted in Wikipedia’s discussion on Christian redemption: “After one’s sins are forgiven, the individual’s suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.” I am re-admitted, but I must pay for my past sins. Here, the penalty is not the absence of educational opportunity, but acknowledgement, during the present, that my previous acts were worthy of punishment. Having re-gained the opportunity for education, I must pay for my omissive acts of earlier decades. This penance comes, in part, through my mandatory enrollment in a class designed to help students who are currently adrift in the Bermudic Triangle of academic confusion, lost motivation, and social distractions…..
Karma is the Buddhist/Hindu concept which says, if I may be brief, that our past acts have future consequences. As I sit in my “penance” class, I am forced to listen to excuses, snores, the chatter of text-messaging, insolence, and the pearls of wisdom that drop from the professor’s mouth. That she speaks the Truth is lost on the class. That I know she speaks the Truth, and that I am the manifestation of that Truth, is also lost on the class. That I am forced to observe, closely, the kind of behavior that was a hallmark of my earlier college experience, is perfect Karmic justice.
It may be that I have been put on Earth to teach someone else this valuable lesson, only they’re not listening.
To steal a phrase from Academe, “The value of a liberal arts education, and the purpose of college, is to teach students to think, to link, and to create”. Already, in this first semester, two professors have made reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a subject that this student had never before encountered.
In a nutshell, or “precis” as Professor P******* says, Bloom developed his hierarchy of thinking in the 1950s “as a means of expressing qualitatively different kinds of thinking”. The levels are:
Well, I think we are moving up the ladder, so to speak.
Recently, our English class has been reading poetry (did you notice, dear reader?); one of our readings was T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock“. Among other elements, the poem contains references to earlier works of literature and art. In doing the “google” part of my homework, I learned that The Allman Brothers album “Eat A Peach” had been inspired by a line in the Eliot poem: “Do I dare eat a peach?”. Fair enough, the world of music shares the universe with the world of literature and art, and it’s nice to know that my favorite Georgia cracker had some book learning.
Last night, in reading “The Legend of Miao-Shen” for my Religion class, I came across a passage where the Buddha tells Miao-Shen that he will provide her with a “magic peach” for a journey, and that
“When you have eaten it, you shall henceforth experience neither hunger nor thirst; old age and infirmity will never assail you, and you shall live for endless ages”.
Well, the light bulb went on for this student. Of course Eliot would have been familiar with Daoism, of course he would have read this famous tale, and of course the theme of eternity found in the “magic peach” would resonate in his poem about time.
So, Duane got it from Eliot, and Eliot got it from Daoism. And now, I get it. I get an example of the linkage of art, literature, and religion across 2,000 years; I get that a famous piece of music (at least for my generation) is inspired by a famous piece of literature, which is inspired by an ancient symbol in Chinese religious thought.
I wonder what else is out there?
I expected things to be a little different around the campus on this journey. After all, it’s another generation’s turn to make the rules, establish the standards, and call the shots. But expecting something does not make the experiencing of that thing any less interesting.
Valentine’s Day is a case in point. According to Wikipedia,
The day is most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of “valentines.” Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid…
…which tracks pretty closely with my understanding of the event. Of course, mere love notes are not considered a sufficient expression of eternal love and adoration in my marriage, so, to the cocktail of cash flow must be added flowers and outside entertainment. But my understanding is no different from other men…until I encountered the modern orthodoxy of a politicized ritual in the Halls of Academe.
Here’s a modern, feminist take on The New Meaning of Valentine’s Day that pierces my heart…
In Roman mythology, Cupid’s arrows pierced the hearts of unsuspecting mortals causing them to fall deeply in love. Today, cherubic Cupid is a common symbol of Valentine’s Day, a holiday celebrating romantic love. While most women still welcome Cupid’s attack — or at least a box of chocolates — some feminist groups seek to transform Valentine’s Day into V-Day, an occasion to raise awareness about violence against women.
V-Day originated from Eve Ensler’s controversial play, “The Vagina Monologues.” The play consists of vignettes describing the experiences of numerous women’s vaginas: from heterosexual and lesbian sex to child birth, with a focus on violence and rape. The V-Day website states that “V-Day’s mission is simple. It demands that the violence must end. It proclaims Valentine’s Day as V-Day until the violence stops.”
No matter what you think about the play, raising awareness about violence against women is a worthy goal. Ensler’s depiction of the horrors of a Bosnian rape camp highlights the appalling abuse too many women suffer in today’s world.
But why the assault on Valentine’s Day? The clear implication is that violence and male/female relations are somehow naturally linked. It’s part of a disturbing strategy by the women’s movement — and particularly by women’s-studies departments on college campuses — to convince women that traditional institutions like marriage are inherently patriarchal and oppressive.
So this is Valentine’s Day on my campus. A week of the “Vagina Monologues”, rape prevention and awareness issues, and a sex-toy party for the co-eds, who are invited to “spice up their love life” with some unmentionables. Guess I’ll be getting off lightly if all I have to do is buy supper and a few roses.
I wonder if the college will, according to tradition, be holding Sadie Hawkins Day later this Spring?
We wear the mask that grins and lies
Through chains of fog and smoke
With you we have no special ties
Vision blurred and speech hindered
Not even you have the courage to approach
We scare you because we’re different
We scare you because we’re unique.
You want us to be afraid
You want us to be inferior
And even in your game of love vs. hate you wanted us to play
Even then we laughed and shouted
For we knew that we would come a very long way
From dusk til dawn we’ve triumphed even over you
Still now you stare and you wonder
How could they possibly do the things they do?
For we wear the mask that grins and lies
So who’s fooling who?
Because we know you don’t know shit
Because we are strong and we are courageous
And we always find our way through
Beautiful and bold with heads held high
We wear the mask that grins and lies.
We sat together at one summer’s end
And took it to heart that we’d only be friends.
We said all was well and we walked away
To haunting reminders of that summer’s day.
What seemed to be fixed now only seems broken
By the words that were then so easily spoken.
What once seemed to be what would set us both free
Now only gives way to a thirst not to be.
For if my old lover is now my friend,
Then why did affection all suddenly end?
If we as lovers no longer must be
Then pray I this cup be taken from me.
We gained not a friend but lost our own souls
Attempting to rid us the smallest of woes!
The chill of the night goes down, down my spine
When lying and mourning him, only to pine.
What have I now but this small pen in my hand?
How will it ever stir change with this man?
We passed on the way and his eyes said it worse–
Our pride will remain our love’s only curse.
We sat together at one summer’s end
And took it to heart that we’d only be friends.
But realized we not how lovers will burn!
For each other with passion we now only yearn.
In the dream, I enter the house.
It is cold and dark inside.
I creep inward as if I were a mouse,
Daring to make the slightest sound
That would give my presence away.
As I continue to make my way inward,
I find that this house in which I dare enter
Is filled with a strange presence.
The air is suffocating me.
I cannot breathe,
I cannot move.
Questions arise in my mind.
Why is this house angry?
What have I done to be treated so?
I find myself breathless and motionless,
Desperately seeking my way out.
I wake up.
I am freed from the oppression of an angered house.
I am freed from the oppression of everything,
I am freed from the dream,
From a classmate, a comment made in class and recorded in my notes (found when studying “Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot):
“You’re a poet, welcome to Hell!”
With apologies for the language.
And this will be the last poem, for a while……
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And some extra , just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one anothers’ throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Test time is upon me. Two big tests on Monday. As I somewhat frantically study, write notes, re-read the anticipated important passages in my readings, and try to store the information in my long-term memory, I can’t help but think about this situation as it occurred many years ago.
Back then, I did not know what I did not know, but I knew that I did not care.
Today, I know what I do not know, and I care (a lot).
One question is whether or not I learned more easily and better for not caring. Now, so much of me is invested in a process which says “success is a measure of this man“. Then, I relied on native intelligence and the power of a young mind to master enough material to do just well enough. Now, although still the proud possessor of native intelligence, my older mind has not yet earned its full measure of my trust. In other words, the belts and pulleys of my brain are moving, but are they powering the engine?
In a conversation with one of my professors yesterday, where she asked how I was doing, I revealed that I thought I would earn a passing grade but I wanted to do well. She noted that my remark was typical of adult students, who want not to learn but to master material.
This, simply, opens another can of worms. Yes, I want to master the material, but I do not want to get bogged down in my review to the extent that I over-prepare and thus miss something more important than the things I have studied. I think you could say that this is an expression of my lack of confidence.
Which leads to another question. Which is the key to success, confidence or fear? Can I relax enough to let my brain do its job, or will my fear cause the mental processes to lock up?
Ah, this is the manifestation of the old mind…………..spinning madly and moving nowhere.
In my mind, I can barely hear the other students saying “Just go for it, dude.”