The Pleasure of Leisurely Learning

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , | Posted on 1:42 PM

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The semester has been over two days. Enough rest, it's time to crack the C book.

The older I get, the more intellectually restless I am. I'm oddly discontent to have single specialties, or just do one thing; for this reason, my breaks tend to be full of reading something new, trying a new style of cooking, picking up fragments of a new language, practicing a skill I have.

People I know roll their eyes when I talk about my plans for the summer break. Why, they ask, don't you just stop for a little while.

The answer is that this is what I desire to do.

It's very different than the semester. The semester is full of competing demands: this is due 5 pm tomorrow, this is due 6 pm tomorrow, that is due 1 pm Thursday, etc. I can't enjoy what I learn, nor properly test it out. Each goal is followed by the next, and the next, and the occasional nasty surprise.

I can get up, drink a cup of coffee, open a book on philosophy, or in this case of programming, and read at my own pace. If I can be allowed to concentrate on a subject, that's frequently faster than I would for a class. At my own pace, to nibble an idea and then bite it. To take it in, turn it over, to find the assumptions which tie it together.

To touch the mind of the author in his or her words-- I don't believe in telepathy, but this is what I'd imagine it to be like. To see some trace of the author's desires, their hopes and the way those things have affected their message.

I suppose I can blame the love of learning on so many years of being forced to learn by hiding under the table in the public library and reading things forbidden to me. Books on human anatomy, books of human sexuality, science texts, philosophy and anything I could drag off the shelves. I lacked the ability to make a narrative or sense out of the information I read, but, like a miser hoarding gold, I kept reading.

There is no pleasure quite like knowing the answer to a question. Even if I did not dare raise my hand and answer a teacher, nor an adult, the child me loved the fact that I knew. No one could take knowledge from me, even if they could force me not to express it (by beating me, or the sandpaper of being told that I was stupid and could never expect to be anything.) I could treasure knowing, even if I could not share.

And now I can share. I can't convince everyone I understand, as some people are just not going to take it from me, but if I am listened to, I can show people what I understand.

I can share my treasures with anyone who will listen.

I still collect books. I lend them out, as well. With rare exceptions, I can't bring myself to throw anything out (Christian fiction/nonfiction go right into the dumpster.) Moving my apartment is 1/2 books and bookshelves.

I want to tell people often that it's a luxury, this learning. College is a luxury. My book collection, a luxury.

Learning to program in another language-- this, too, is a luxury. I am grateful to crack that C book, to be able to learn something else. It is, in a real way, a profound pleasure.

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