How to Learn Something New Every Day
image via victoriapeckham
The bonus of being in school, despite Saturday afternoons writing long-winded papers about transcendentalism and institutional food, was the daily possibility to have one’s mind blown right open. A poem with a just so turn of phrase or listening to friends talk about concepts they were studying, working it out for themselves in the retelling, all held the capability for daily rapture. I used to sit in a coffee shop near campus with painted black benches and tables and bright red chairs. The near floor-to-ceiling windows of the south-facing storefront ensured that clear, white sunlight spilled on the pages of my book even in the doggiest days of winter. There, I fell quietly in love with Walden and worked my way, thrilled and on fire, through Luce Irigaray. I suspected, of course, that the time of being in school is especially rich with learning (that is, after all, the point), but I assumed that daily life itself would somehow be filled with philosophy, great art, and critical analysis. This is, in a nutshell, the cruel realization that awaits after one receives her diploma. Surprise!
There were years there, though, after college when I relished being away from the — excuse the colorful phrase — blowhard tendencies of academia. I read mystery novels (and abandoned them if they weren’t to my liking), I shed the phantom worry on Sunday nights that there was an assignment I needed to be chipping away at, I fully embraced my love of reality television without having to connect it to greater ideas about the state of our culture and its social mores. And yet, (you felt that coming didn’t you?), in the past few months I find myself gravitating to Big Ideas, Fine Art, and Great Books. If there is a vein of truth and mystery that runs beneath the surface of everyday life, I want more than ever before to tap into it.
Someone crudely and rudely suggested that this was because I had obtained the “life goal” of “snagging a man” and yet hadn’t moved on to the next stage of popping out babies. Interesting theory, I guess, but I find it more likely that a curious mind can only lay relatively fallow for so long — challenged only by new recipes, sewing patterns, and The New Yorker — before it craves more. Is this a feeling any of you are familiar with?
Not quite having the means to sign up for a class, I turned to our fine interwebs to find sources of mind betterment and blowing. Here, my friends, the spoils:
- Introduction to Philosophy: a downloadable video lecture series on iTunes offered by Missouri State University
- Introduction to Fiction: course materials and readings offered by MIT
- Introductory Topics in Religious Studies: a downloadable lecture series on iTunes offered by UC Berkeley
- The Power of Myth: a truly mind-blowing series of interviews between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell on the very nature of what it means to be human
- Theory and Method in the Study of Architecture and Art: course materials and readings offered by MIT
- European Civilization 1648-1945: a downloadable lecture series on iTunes offered by Yale
- The Great Books Foundation: Books of the Western canon; find a Great Books reading group in your area
- Nietzsche on Mind and Nature: a downloadable video lecture series on iTunes offered by Oxford
- Survey of American Literature II, 1870-Present: a downloadable video lecture series on iTunes offered by Missouri State University
- Introduction to the Theory of Literature: a downloadable lecture series on iTunes offered by Yale
- Lunch Poems: click the tab “Lunch Poems Archive” for a lecture series with contemporary poets on iTunes offered by UC Berkeley
To explore more online courses on iTunes, go to iTunes U.