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September Scholar

  1. Dec 3, 2005 #1
    I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning. I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties. I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me. This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me. I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process. Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

    I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

    Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value. Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end. It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it. I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’. Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application.

    I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand. The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world. The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations. It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me. Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

    We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding. I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection. We see much but grasp little. It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping. The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest. I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

    The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding. The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search. Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic. I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

    The experience the September Scholar seeks is solely determined by his or her own internal ‘voice’. The curiosity and imagination of the learner drive the voice. Our formal education system has left most of us with little appreciation or understanding of our own curiosity and imagination. That characteristic so obvious in children has been subdued and, I suspect, stilled to the point that each one attempting this journey of discovery must make a conscious effort to reinvigorate the ‘inner voice’. We must search to ‘hear’ the voice, which is perhaps only a whisper that has become a stranger in our life. But, let me assure you, once freed again that voice will drive the self-learner with the excitement and satisfaction commensurate to any other experience.

    I seek disinterested knowledge because I wish to understand. The object of understanding is determined by questions guiding my quest. These guiding questions originate as a result of the force inherent in my curiosity and imagination.

    The self-learner must develop the ability to create the questions. We have never before given any thought to questions but now, if we wish to take a journey of discover, we must learn the most important aspect of any educational process. We must create questions that will guide our travels. We can no longer depend upon education by coercion to guide us; we have the opportunity to develop education driven by the “ecstasy to understand”.

    I suspect that most parents attempt to motivate their children to make good grades in school so that their child might go to college and live the American Dream. The college degree is a ticket to the land of dreams (where one produces and consumes more than his or her neighbor). I do not wish to praise or to bury this dream. I think there is great value resulting from this mode of education but it is earned at great sacrifice.

    The point I wish to pivot on is the fact that higher education in America has become a commodity. To commodify means: to turn (as an intrinsic value or a work of art) into a commodity (an economic good). I would say that the intrinsic value of education is wisdom. It is wisdom that is sacrificed by our comodified higher education system. Our universities produce individuals capable of developing a great technology but lacking the wisdom to manage the world modified by that technology.

    I think that there is much to applaud in our higher educational system. It produces graduates that have proven their ability to significantly guide our society into a cornucopia of material wealth. Perhaps, however, like the Midas touch, this gold has a down side. The down side is a paucity of collective wisdom within the society. I consider wisdom to be a sensitive synthesis of broad knowledge, deep understanding and solid judgement. I suggest that if one individual in a thousand, who has passed the age of forty would become a September Scholar, we could significantly replace the wisdom lost by our comodified higher education.

    In the United States our culture compels us to have a purpose. Our culture defines that purpose to be ‘maximize production and consumption’. As a result all good children feel compelled to become a successful producer and consumer. All good children, both consciously and unconsciously, organize their life for this journey.

    At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. I suggest, for your consideration, that at mid-life you consider becoming a self-learner. Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. The self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow. In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

    I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth. As a popular saying goes ‘there is a season for all things’. We might consider that spring and summer are times for gathering knowledge, maximizing production and consumption, and increasing net-worth; while fall and winter are seasons for gathering understanding, creating wisdom and increasing self-worth.

    I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try. It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea. Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously. A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘ I have read and been a self-learner all my life’.

    It is unlikely that you will encounter this unorthodox suggestion ever again. You must act on this occasion or never act. The first thing is to make a change in attitude about just what is the nature of education. Then one must face the world with a critical outlook. A number of attitude changes are required as a first step. All parents, I guess, recognize the problems inherent in attitude adjustment. We just have to focus that knowledge upon our self as the object needing an attitude adjustment rather than our child.

    I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon. I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’. I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2005 #2
    cheers, coberst.
    not to de-value school, or anything, but it does tend to get in the way of My Education. For all its limiting perspectives and ideas, it has produced a plentitude of "things". it either makes one a tool, of "the machine" or it, itself, is a tool, of the self-learner. schooling offers a fine course in discipline, for those who see the value of self-learning/self-knowledge. it can enlighten many "folds", of one's being, simply by one's having to deal with it, patiently and disinterestedly. by way of self-discipline and self-awareness, new, formerly hidden, folds of one's self come to light.

    the 'petty tyrants' (because all tyrants are petty tyrants), having become "tools", themselves, afford the "self-learner" with a priceless opportunity. the opportunity to learn, through transcendance (disinterestedness), what has heretofore been unknown. tyrants are tools of the self-learner, and school can be a fine example of one.

    when one thing consciously evolves itself, that evolution spurns all things around it to evolve. evolve or be left behind. evolution is creativity, manifest.
    wisdom is creativity, and Always (that is to say: eternally) is perfectly adaptable and knowledgable.
  4. Dec 4, 2005 #3

    I do like your expression "transcendence" replacing disinterested. I like it very much but I am afraid so many people would be turned off by association with mysticism or religion.

    I like your last paragraphy very much also. It does tend to become poetic.
    I would like to read your explanation in less poetic manner so I could better understand the connections that seem to float in air here.
  5. Dec 4, 2005 #4
    there is a tendancy to see such terminology as proceeding from religion, though, that occurs by connotation. the meaning is, however, often (in these modern times) more deeply examined, when the words used, seem to have the feeling of arising from a "secular" source.

    perhaps, the feeling connotated, by associations, clouds the real meanings of terms; obscured by a veil of historical and emotional pre-conception (prejudice?), that "colors" it.

    we can see how this kind of unconscious, or conscious tendancy, leads one astray of "objective inquiry into the Nature", and, hence, inhibits the "un-folding" of wisdom.

    so, therefore, my poetry speaks to this kind of openness, which is (we could say) disinterested with historical and emotional biases. leading the "disinterested enquirer" into a more complete unfolding of conscious and sub-conscious preconceptions. in order to arrive at the real meanings, that terms are pointing to.

    so, we can say that, wisdom is open to change, by its disinterest in "the changing" with an earnest focus on the Meaning. From disinterestedness seems to arise creativity. in the case of the wise and evolution, the wise are actualized in disinterestedness and are prepared to act creatively, as evolution deems necessary.

    i wonder if these words make sense.

    any way. the path of wisdom, must surely be that path which unfolds those enfolded regions, which were once, either taken for granted or assumption or were altogether shrowded in darkness.

    so we say, "the Wise man/woman is Enlightenment."

    either way, it is a personal journey (whether one chooses it or not), and the notion of the self-learner, coincides harmoniously. i think.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2005
  6. Dec 4, 2005 #5

    I would say that the following is the clearest, most cogent, sentence in your last post.

    "i wonder if these words make sense."
  7. Dec 4, 2005 #6
    hahaha!! wise, indeed.

    <bows out with utter respect/love>
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