I just finished my first class in so many years I don’t want to count them… This week I took Elixir: A History of Water and Humans via Udemy Online
I listened to the same tones prick my ears over and over, it seemed. Monotonous? No, that wasn’t it. He spoke well, even enthusiastically- in a very reserved way. No moving parts to distract from his speech, such as arms gesticulating about, like so many speakers tend to do. His breath, he took great care to ensure didn’t interfere with what you were hearing, so there was no funny noises. He did happen to stumble on his words occasionally, or cough but I’m not sure I can not find fault in that.
I just don’t know what it was. I had a hard time paying attention. There were fascinating facts when I was able to fully tune in, and he did a fine job orating various scenes of ancient peoples toiling away to bring the life-giving water to the areas they either farmed or lived. Really.
I know that I tend to learn better by reading, rather than listening to a lecture – I can recall the sentence and paragraph, and place on the page, easier than I can remember the expression on someone’s face or separate the sounds their mouths make in my memory. I probably have some insidious learning disability lurking behind these spectacled eyebrows … That’s probably just some conceited form of wishful thinking, though. But persistence is becoming a friend of mine, so I went back and (many times regretted not being more careful with the clicking, as I listened to some of the same parts more than a few times, before – ) I finished it.
I did it. The entire course. I think it’s the first course I’ve ever finished, since early high school. Actually, since junior high, shamefully so. I’ve started many courses over the years – Tai Chi, psychology, philosophy, math, biology, creative writing classes, even … But I’ve always let myself become the bad student I was before. So here I sat, wrestling with the needs to fold laundry and clean the bathroom, the desire to write, the urge to hop on Facebook and find out what people were up to (I gave in to writing, the only concession I can think of … ) and instead I listened to this man talk about water and history. For three days. My house is a wreck.
My husband asked, “Why are we watching this guy talk about China?”
I answered, “Because it was free, it’s convenient, and I might just learn something I didn’t know, I guess.” I smirked and shrugged, not really having a better reason – I’m kinda strange in my choice of movies and documentaries, anyway, so it wasn’t that odd… for me. Thinking about it now, it seems as good a reason as any, so maybe really not that lame.
What did I learn? I wasn’t sure at first – it was a strange topic, in my opinion, and I took it on a whim so didn’t have any expectations, per se. But as I reflected, I realized that all around the world, human beings have overcome obstacles such as scarcity, gravity, war and other trials, and have used copious amounts of manpower and now machinery and soon even further complicated technologies to continue what is these days an alarmingly accelerated, and steady access to water – a finite resource. We’ve used ingenuity and intelligence to rise above, and in our history, did so with reverence and in honor of the fickle nature of water’s dual ability to nourish or destroy. Today it is wasted and polluted on a daily basis, and some see a world-wide problem arising from such misuse and general lackluster concern for this life-giving elixir that we cannot replace, and use for more and more purposes.
Short story: I gained at least a small measure of perspective of water in our history, mentally visited a few ancient locales and discovered their rituals surrounding water, and learned of the rigors involved in taming a reliable source. I was also reminded of it’s importance in our lives and the dangers present for all of us when abused. I am reminded again, of the idea that somehow, we need to come up with some better ways of thinking so we can dig ourselves out of the problems we’ve been creating around us.
So I learned something. I had to threaten to practically pull my own eyeteeth out to do so, but I sat myself down and became the obstinate little witch I knew I could be; and now I’m glad I did it, if for no other reason than I taught myself something: I can do it. Whatever it is, I can do it. And when I want to, I will – amazing little monkey-things, we strange and mysterious human beings.
Tomorrow, I pick another class… May the learning NEVER cease!