Parenthetical Revelations

I’m in the middle of trying to write two final essays for the quarter, but wanted to record somewhere the things I’ve learned in the last three months.

There were¬†lessons like how to turn a fraction into a decimal, into a percent; how to more effectively edit a piece of writing; how to (and how not to) interpret literature (this distinction was difficult because it’s very different than interpreting the Bible). But these things are not as fun to explore as the few tidbits that have taken me by surprise…

1. Math. I think what made this class awesome was the professor. In some ways, she taught us like she was teaching a room full of 10yr olds; with patients and construction paper. In other ways, she managed to give us a kind of respect that (speaking just for myself) felt undeserved. If I could say this under my breath online, I would: we’re talking about Math 94 and a room full of grown-ass adults.

God bless that woman, though. She helped me enjoy math for the first time in ever.

2. Sci-Fi/Fantasy Literature. This class was the most difficult for several reasons. I had a hard time connecting with the professor and the other students; I frequently felt like I was reading something different than everyone else based on our in-class reactions to the stories. I also really, really struggled to understand how to write an essay about literature. I’m still not there, but I’m beginning to catch on.

The surprising take-away for me was insight given by another student concerning the Native American perspective. I may have come off as just another ignorant white person to him (and I ¬†probably am!), but I was humbled humiliated to awaken to how little I know about the indigenous people of my birth country. I don’t want to say I was humbled because that sounds so self-congratulating. I am appalled by what has been done to them and that I could go 38 years just barely noticing. There’s plenty of shame flying around the internet these days, so this is not what I want to convey. For myself, I just want to have my eyes open. I can’t fix any of that horror.

3. English 101. This was my favorite. Extraordinary professor, class full of unique and amazing humans, work that was exactly what I have been longing to do since I realized I want to be a writer. I think what makes this professor so dazzling is his deep (totally unflashy) interest and respect for his students. He led us on these really tangential discussions while still managing to teach a ton.

The treasure in this class (besides the place to write and get feedback) was an idea I had never heard of before; that writing is a way to join a larger conversation. This might seem obvious because it’s happening all of the time (especially on the internet), but it’s much different than just the comment section on a blog. This conversation is much more thoughtful, much more of an adding to than what often happens online. I don’t know why I had never thought about it before, except that maybe I could only see either the experts and their boring essays, or the uneducated and our b0ring fights. This larger conversation encompasses a lot of things, has been going on since forever, and builds, refines, inspires and enlightens.

At least that’s how it seems to me. I’m not so concerned with being an Academic, but I do love the thought of joining a big, and thoughtful conversation about life, the universe and everything.

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