Love and Learning...

Accelerated. It sounds so Futurist, their love of speed. But it’s not. It’s to do with education, what’s formerly known as “skipping a grade”. Now I think they have “enrichment” or something else entirely. Anyways, it applies to me, and formed my outlook on life from school days on. Condensing Grades 1-3 in two years made me feel special and smart, but later on immensely self-conscious and oddly out of sync with my older classmates.

The fall of Grade 4, my hard-nosed old-fashioned teacher didn’t agree with acceleration, and she was tough on me. My name was written on the blackboard list of shame every day because of my poor math. The dark shadow of my name on the board made me stupid and inadequate in every other subject, too. I was scared.

But, saved by the bell, we moved, and my “records” preceded me at the new school. Whew! They treated me as if I were smart, and I was in love again - with fractions and grammar. That year my fascination with the planets went to a whole new level. I felt the difference between warm loving acceptance and harsh cold assessment, and I was able to learn.

September = Back to school, so I’m remembering those days. I’m also generally thinking about grades, categories, the systems of organization and preparing minds to follow instructions, blend in. Western imperialism and the conformation of the brain. You know: Pep.

But here’s the thing: I loved learning, still do. I literally love it - that marrying of my mind with a new idea, the exchange of ideas back and forth into new forms, the flash of insight. It’s the flash I love, the info is always just a secondary side effect. Under the pretext/pretense of looking to find out something, I really want that electric flash of a new dendrite or the release of some internal chemical that for an immeasurable moment will flood my brain, repatterning it in a delightful configuration to prepare it for “more of the same, please.”

But, like everything, nothing ever is the same. Look at the same place each day: there is no same place. What we call “time” has its way. Learning in the style of past Western centuries seemed to freeze the mind, not free it. It favoured a worldview that assembled all that could be known to deploy it in service to “progress”, an idea as insubstantial as a king in a Little Nemo comic: only a dream after all. That freezing can’t restrain all those notes in the margin, all that unheard music seeping in, the surrealistic interplay, synaesthesia, or even a retrieval of ancient pre-alphabetic ways, if we’re lucky.

What is considered true is also moving in time, waving like mermaid hair in currents and billows of seen and unseen seas. In linear time, learning, and progress, all the marching soldiers align together moving forward. The Roman legions of the alphabet and moveable type. I was taught that way, and didn’t know any better, so I loved it. In that pattern, I “did well” in school. Luckily my love of learning carried me past that brain training, to discovery, and out beyond it to the unlearning, a sphere of interconnections that can’t be laid out in a single line - they’re just too interdependent for that.

Any topic is always secondary to the flash of connection.

My first teacher took me there with her loving guidance. I loved learning, she loved teaching me. My mum had given me this happy joy before I started school, through loving play, teaching me words and jokes and all the rhymes of our language, connecting me to the dance of the mind.

But do others care about any of my thoughts or memories, ideas or observations? I soon found my classmates didn’t. By the time I was in Grade 7, a year younger than everyone else in a weird and crucial puberty time, I’d learned my lesson. I folded and flattened all that joy and love inside myself; didn’t share it for fear of ridicule, and tried my darnedest to be like everybody else, like we all did. “Back to school” meant the right clothes, the right hair, the right facial expression, a feigned disinterest.

But at the start, first grade, first school, I was accelerated! Alive with the electrical intensity of learning.

Like Hermione Granger, my hand was up and waving, “I know … I know the answer. Pick me, pick me!”

Reader question of the week: “What’s up with that?”

Okay, reader, that’s not a real question, but I’ll play along. Off the top of my head:

  • You’re trying to stump me with a standup lead-in: “____! What’s up with that?” Topic “___” is introduced. The entertainer quips, “What’s up with that?” then riffs with increasingly hilarious punchlines. A cascade of laughs brings on an audience meltdown. You’ve killed.

  • Is this just a reference to the ongoing maybe-not-funny SNL skit?

    Could this be a general philosophical query, a true question, but cloaked? It seems like a joke but, when explored further, every topic shows an underside. Ask what’s up and see what’s under.

Ask away! It’s Q&A!

Special for subscribers. Send me any question by Wednesday, I’ll answer it off the top of my head in an upcoming issue. How do you reach me? Just reply by email to the last issue.

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