I took Karen to a nearby museum to celebrate our anniversary this weekend…the museum has only opened in the last two or three years, and it was one of those excursions that we had been planning to take and never quite gotten to. Being a relatively new museum, there weren’t a great deal of exhibits. One installation, however, was really fascinating. It was a sculpture of Poseidon and several sea nymphs and dolphins charging forward, entitled the Corrugated Fountain. What was striking was that the installation nearly filled an entire room, such that you could walk through it, and was sculpted from cardboard. I learned about the sculptor that the piece was modeled after, an artist with which I was previously unfamiliar. I also refreshed my European history a bit during an exhibit of paintings commissioned by the Medici family. One of the reasons I love museums is because you learn. They are a place where art (or science, or whatever the medium to which that particular museum might be dedicated) and history meet. There are even museums of history, of course. The point is that it is an interactive learning experience, from which I always walk away richer.
In my free time, I’ve been reading back over some history of theology to get my brain back in gear for PhD research proposals (go ahead…yawn). I look back over the four or so years since finishing grad school, and think about the things I’ve learned, and it’s surprising how many new discoveries have occurred since I finished…that is, while I wasn’t in school. On our first real date, I loved how challenged I was by Karen’s intellect. She has forced me outside of my own perspectives, and pushed me into new areas of discovery.
Call it being enrolled in the school of life, or the university of hard knocks, or whatever you like. I just find it ironic that both grad school and my undergrad were more catalysts than complete and self-contained educations: they forced me to think and explore, and those thoughts and explorations solidified once I had finished and was back in “the real world.”
Now, its no secret that I have enjoyed being a student much more than I have enjoyed the “real world” to date. However, I think I needed to be free of the stress of assignment deadlines and research paper edits to let things process through my brain. After a certain point, any student knows that you reach critical mass, and nothing else is going to make it in for a while. Similar to eating a delicious meal, you have to give it some time to digest before taking in anything else.
Karen is the educational theorist of the two of us, and she tells me that this is how education works: that you are presented with and work through the subject matter, and then you must give it time to “sink in.” This is apparently not a short process, or at least it has not been for me. I’ve only recently arrived at some idea of how my myriad interests connect, and even still the ideas are in the process of solidifying rather than being a finished product. This is a journey that I have been on for years, and continue to travel.
Even from a purely “book smart” perspective, though, I find that only now can I truly connect many of the concepts that I crammed in for exams or projects while in school. Now, those ideas and theories meld and make sense. Then, they were more information that I needed to be able to reproduce mechanically or write about with some coherency. This is not unlike the way a technical education (which I had studying theatre technology) requires some time after learning for one to become proficient.
I made a comment a few weeks ago that I had to go back and learn the things I should have learned when I was in school. I don’t think that’s really accurate, though. I think that I’m just experiencing the full digestion of the meals I’ve eaten, and am beginning to be ready for the next.
So, tell me: what have you learned after years of letting something percolate? I don’t believe for a second that this is confined to the classroom. “Real life” lessons are a long time in the learning, as well.