Learning for the sake of

I’ve heard that a person is supposed to keep learning things to keep the mind young and exercised.  I suppose that’s true, and am trying all ways of encouraging my body to stay healthy, but mostly I love learning because it’s fun.  I’ve been on the slow track for the last few years because of my health issues, but I knew it would come back full force into my life somewhere if I was just patient enough.

It happened when my old friend from Pennsylvania was talking to me and casually mentioned that she was taking an interesting course online.  It was offered by “Coursera”, and was free, and she said that thousands of people take the courses and there are discussion forums, where you hear people’s opinions and ideas from all over the world.  She told me the course she was taking was called “Aboriginal Worldview and Education” in the Education department (taught from the University of Toronto).  You can do the work and get a certificate at the end, or you can audit the course, by looking at whatever information you like, and not doing the work.  I looked it up online, and was immediately amazed by all the kinds of courses offered, and the universities and professors represented by this incredible website.  The fact that it was free and that I can do it from home made it quite appealing to me, as I’m kind of a homebody, and have such a limited income.  I actually ended up signing up for the same class, as well as a songwriting class, taught by a teacher from Berklee College of Music.  Wow!  Did I ever get thrust into being a student again!

Although I’d recommend taking only one course at a time at first, this has been the greatest experience I can imagine!  I’m not really a computer person, but know enough to get by in these classes, and because I’m such a conscientious student, I’m doing all the course work, quizzes, activities, and posting on the discussion forums frequently.  (It’s a lot of work, and some of it is hard!)  But I love, love, love it!  For the songwriting course I’m processing the grief I feel for my good friend who recently died of exactly the same kind of cancer I have, by writing a song about our relationship.  I hope to finish it, but even if I don’t, it has helped me get through the shock and sadness of losing her.  Plus I’ve learned so much that will help me be a better songwriter, and that is really exciting.  Maybe I will even go back to some of my older songs and improve them, now that I have specific techniques.

The other course, on aboriginal worldview, has taken me by storm.  It is only a four week course, but the information has been powerful and life changing.  This week it is about education, specifically the residential schools that the indigenous people of Canada were forced to go to, and either survived with terrible physical and emotional scars, or died in, or escaping from.  I know that they were modeled after the ones in the U.S., and although I’d heard of them before, and knew that they caused problems in the realm of parenting for Native Americans who had grown up in boarding schools, I never knew the extent of the abuse and consequences they endured.  The town we are moving to has two empty buildings in it that comprised a former boarding school for the local Native Americans, and I’ve always had a creepy feeling about them.  Now I want to know more, what were they like, who went to them, and how recently did they close.  In Canada, the last residential school closed in the 1990’s.  That means that people my age and their children are still being affected.

It is interesting and terribly sad that so many people around the world can relate to the experiences that are told by the indigenous people in the videos and essays we’ve seen and read.  It is definitely eye opening, as I don’t remember it being a part of the history teachings I had when in high school.  Many people do not even know about these events, or think they are part of the nineteenth century, part of a private sector.  They are definitely part of the twentieth century, and although the schools were often run by the religious sector, it was the government that was responsible.  It is shocking, informative, and makes me really think about what I can do to contribute in a positive way as we make plans to move.

But that is just one part of my learning.  I feel my life has been changed by learning about how the worldview of indigenous people is different from the European view, and now I have more choice and understanding about my own point of view and how I decide to live the rest of my life.  Sarita has gotten interested as well, and is making changes in the way she teaches based on what we’ve learned.  It has certainly caused a lot action in the thinking parts of our brains, and I appreciate that so much.  I look forward to a World Music class next, and who knows what else?  I have told my senior center class, and will tell whoever I know about this great resource for those of us who have time, interest, curiosity, and a computer.

Learning for me is an ongoing process, as I have talked about my discoveries in knitting and rug making, and I choose books that absorb me as well as teach me something, even if it is fiction based on the reality of a different life or environment.  Sarita has been my best spiritual and life teacher, my children teach me to let go (there is such a thing as too much information, if I don’t want to know the absolute truth, I’d better not ask), and my dogs teach me about unconditional love.  There is no doubt that learning happens constantly, but I highly recommend this exciting way to connect and learn with so many other people from your own corner of the world to their corners of the world.  This is one of the best uses of internet I’ve ever seen, as well as one of the best networking resources available.  Plus, it’s really fun, and I can be any age at all, even any degree of healthiness to continue to engage. And as far as my path to Trail’s End, it gives me educational opportunities in an area where there is only one school for continuing ed and it is half an hour away.  Thank you to my friend in PA, and here’s to patience along one’s life’s road.

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