• Tag Archives learning
  • Anco Impari (I’m Still Learning. Goya)

    Beltane                                                                 Waning Last Frost Moon

    We continue sliding toward summer, a cool, moist descent, not at all like the sudden, blazing ascension we often see, usually full on in place by now, with sun screen and hats and pitchers of lemonade set out on patios.  At some point it will warm up, at least I think it will.  There have been years without summer, years when the weather remains much like what we have now, days cool in the morning, warming in the afternoon and falling off to cool nights.  Could be this will be one of those summers.

    I’ve worked this morning on Pentheus, the first few verses proving difficult for me, almost as if I’d entered a different text altogether though it’s only 300 verses away from Diana and Actaeon and in the same Book, III of XV.

    Something captivates me as I get into the Latin flow, the world tunes out; the text and I begin this tug of war, me digging, using dictionaries and online aids, the text resisting, remaining stubborn, not allowing its meaning to emerge without a struggle.  The tension between the text and me lies in the language of an ancient people and my learning, a tension requiring both, learning and the language.  Without some knowledge, there would be no tension.  If I had no learning, the words in Latin would sit immutable as stone, as strong a barrier to me.  If my learning were to the level of fluency, the text would not be a barrier at all, I would read as I do in English.  Instead, I’m in a middle place, knowing and learning at the same time, so the text became enticing, pulling me further into the journey, not only of Ovid’s texts, but of the others:  Cicero, Caesar, Livy, Martial, Tacitus, Horace, Seneca.

    The feeling reminds me of how I reacted to serious study of art history.  At first there was so much information, so many different aspects that I felt overwhelmed, as if I could never get my head above the surface of this great ocean of learning.  As time passed, as I walked the halls of the museum, read texts and looked at more and more art, a shaky gestalt began to form.  There was a rough chronology, even a global chronology.  There were styles and forms and methods and instances of all three.  At some point the Song Dynasty became separate from the Tang and the Han, just as the early Buddha images became distinct from the later ones of Tibet, Thailand, China.  Neoclassicism and impressionism began to tease themselves apart and appear as separate, thought related movements.  Beckman and Kandinsky and Monet and Barye and Poussin and Church and the master of the embroidered foliage sorted out into times and influences and basic tenets.

    (of course, like most of us, I’m a combination of autodidact and schooling, but since college, the autodidact part has definitely taken precedence.)

    Now I have a scaffolding on which I can hang new learning, it fits in a large gestalt, which, while far from comprehensive, at least describes the outlines, the places where there are gaps and the places where some new learning easily fits.

    Right now Ovid and his Metamorphoses are my teachers, aided by my tutor Greg Mambres and my own reading, learning.  My scaffolding is up, but it’s very shaky.  I have verb forms, conjugations, nouns, declensions, adverbs, participles, clauses, imperatives, word meanings, poetic forms but often I revisit and revisit the same learning, still not seeing with clarity where on the scaffold something belongs.

    It was the same with the garden, first flowers and then vegetables and is still now with the bees.  Large tracts of unknowing papered over by fragments of knowledge.  In bee-keeping for example I look at cells.  Hmmm. Those look like drone cells but maybe they’re queen cells.  Or maybe not.  Is it time to put on the second hive box?  Or, is it too early?  Should I use full-sized hive boxes or should I switch to honey supers to keep things lighter?  In gardening.  Just try planting garlic in the spring some year.  Won’t work.  It needs to over winter for a late June harvest.  Want a colorful spring and early summer?  Plant in the fall.  In the orchard I’m practicing IPM, integrated pest management, which means at this point, killing bugs by hand.

    What I’ve learned is that knowledge accumulates.  New knowledge needs a scaffolding, a chest of drawers, a memory palace so that it can become integrated.

  • Books Along the Way

    Fall                                  Waxing Harvest Moon

    I have begun to accept that I will never read everything I want to read.   Books sit stacked up on the floor in my study; they lie on top of rows of other books on bookshelves;  all my 6702010-10-09_0461bookshelves are full and many have books piled on top of them.  Each one I want to read.  Some I want to use only as reference, but most I want to read cover to cover.  The books range in topic from fairy tales and folklore to basic scientific texts on biology and geology, from philosophy to theology, art history to renaissance life, china, japan, india and cambodia to single dictionaries and the multiple volumes of the OED and the Dictionary of Art.  Of course there is fiction, too, and poetry, works on historiography and works on the enlightenment.  This doesn’t count the 90 books I now have on my kindle, many fiction, but many non-fiction, too.

    When it comes to books and learning, I seem to not have an off button.  Maybe it’s a pathology, an escape from the world, from day to day responsibility, could be, but I don’t think so.  Reading and learning feel hardwired, expressions of genes as much as personal choice.  So it’s tough for me to admit that I have books here, in my own house, that I may never read.  A man has only so many hours in a day and I find spending any significant amount of them reading difficult.

    That always surprises me.  I love to read, yet it often feels like a turn away from the world of politics, the garden, connecting with family and friends, so it takes discipline for me to sit and read for any length of time.  Instead, I read in snippets, chunks here and there.   Even so, I get a lot read, finishing the Romance of the Three Kingdoms took a lot of dedication, for example.  One year, I put the books I finished in one spot after I finished them.  I don’t recall the number or the number of pages, but it caused me to sit back and wonder how I’d done it.

    Sometimes I fantasize about stopping all other pursuits, sitting down in my chair and begin reading through the most important books, the ones on the top of my list.  Right now that would 6702010-10-09_0460include the histories of Herodotus and substantial commentary.  The Mahabharata. Several works on Asia art.  A cabinet full of books on the enlightenment and liberalism.  Another cabinet full on calendars and holidays.  I will never do it.  Why?  Because I do have interests, obsessions maybe, that take me out into the garden or over to the State Capitol and the Minnesota Institute of Arts, the homes of the Woolly Mammoths and our children.  Kate and I will, I imagine, resume at least some of our SPCO attending when she retires and there will be travel, too.

    This relates to an odd self-reflection occasioned by Lou Benders story of my first day on the Ball State Campus.  According to him, there was a picture of the Student Body President, I reached out and touched it and told him, “I’m going to do that.”  Three years later I ran and lost for Student Body President.  The year was 1969.  Recalling this, I wondered if my intention, my ability to clarify my direction had waned.  Had I defocused, living my life with no clear intentions, drifting along, letting life happen?

    Then I recalled the moment I told Kate I wanted to write, the moment four years ago when I realized I had to put my shoulder behind the Great Work, creating a benign human presence on the planet, the moment I began to pester Deb Hegstrom for a spot in the junior docent class of 2005, the time when Kate and I decided to push our property toward permaculture-the harmonious integration of people, plants and animals in a specific spot in a sustainable way.  No, I’ve not lost my ability to focus.  Not at all.6702010-10-09_0462

    This life, the one I’m living now, is the one I’ve chosen to live, a life Kate and I have made together.  And that feels good.

    Who knows, maybe I will finish these books?  Who knows?

  • Whee!

    Imbolc                                    Waxing Wild Moon

    Here’s a revelation it’s strange to have this late in life:  I enjoy learning for its own sake.  Now I knew that at one level or another before, it’s true, but here’s what I’ve just learned.  After I finished my workout this evening, I went back to working on Latin translation.  At first I approached the Latin like school, do the work, get it right, then do more work, get it right.  So on.

    But tonight as I sat there puzzling out the meaning of the sentences and the word endings, I realized I was having fun.  This was no longer a goal oriented, hoop-jumping exercise, but something I simply enjoyed.  Like, I don’t know, playing checkers or basketball or chess or dancing.  Strange, huh?

    Maybe it’s always been this way for me, I don’t know.  It feels like a secret, something I shouldn’t tell, but there it is anyhow.  At 63.  There’s always something new around the corner.

    Kate and I had an African evening.  We finished the first season of the HBO series, The First Ladies Detective Agency.  We read all these quite a while ago.  The casting for the series is spot on and seeing the Botswana setting makes the stories come alive even more strongly than in the books themselves.  After we finished the last episode, we watched Duma, a story of a South African boy and a cheetah he raises from a cub.  It has the usual boy reluctantly returns animal to the wild, the animal comes back for one last hug sort of plot line, but with some unusual depth added by his long journey from Capetown back into the bush with Duma, the cheetah and a man he meets in the bush.  Both of them are well worth  watching.  Not my usual dark fare, but good anyhow.