In Pursuit Of Knowledge

pursuit of knowledge

I am amazed at how many people I know who have gone on to study more than me. A Masters degree is something I never contemplated. Often people have asked me if I plan to study more. “Oh no! Am done with all the studying I could possibly want to ever do”, is my weary reaction. It’s been my reaction for many years now.

The irony of life is how our responses change if you allow yourself to notice it. Recently, I was in a meeting in my office where this really intelligent person was busy whiteboarding complicated diagrams and algorithms. Half an hour into this meeting I found myself smiling. Learning new things wasn’t bad at all. I almost missed studying. Almost.. not enough to make me wish to go back to school except perhaps to enjoy the summer and winter holidays.

In school I had no problem concentrating. I was a diligent first bencher. Note-taking and concentrating were 2nd nature. In college, I started to get distracted. Marriage, work, growing up and life added to the distraction. It is at a point where studying even for a job interview feels impossible and highly daunting.

The closest I have come to yearning to study more is when I started to write. I don’t have a formal degree in English, but how I long to have read English Literature. Poetry by Milton, heroes brought to life by Byron. The wonder and magic of how masterpieces are born.

A friend of mine shared a podcast about this scandalous summer in history when Frankenstein was born. Would a lecture on Shelly in an English Literature course be as thrilling? I found another podcast (all by myself) about the finer details of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work. I could learn all about Hobbit habitat while walking my dog. On TheGreatCoursesPlus website I found an excellent grammar course. From Parts of Speech to usage of quotes the series covered such a lot that I was forced to take notes and discover I hadn’t forgotten to concentrate after all.

I know people who love Youtube videos (an Eg. or a pretty great video) on a staggering range of topics from cooking to Chess. There is Craftsy if you always wished to learn Origami. Or Coursera for the dormant photographer in you or if you dare the Machine Learning Futurist too.

So why am I rambling about all this? When I smiled in office that day, I realized I might be apprehensive of derailing my life for further formal (and god forbid boring) education, but learning is exciting. And we haven’t even touched on all the learning we do through the experiences we gather. That topic is for another day. Right now am off to read about Dante’s Divine Comedy (because it feels like a very intellectual thing to do).

Note to self – Never ever give up learning..


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  • Reply
    lalita arya
    March 10, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Hi Rhea. Loved the article and related to it fully. My London brother, 75yrs old is doing his Ph.D in Engineering. We meet at least twice a year when I stop over from my USA-India-USA trips to see him. We have absorbing intellectual conversations and he encouraged me to do my Masters. For a short while I was excited and even researched online courses. However, for the past 30 years my family & I have been educating underserved children in the Himalayan foothills, which of course takes up most of our time. Pursuing further academic education ruled itself out. But what I have learnt in all these years exceeds any academic degree after my name. Education is not limited in enclosed spaces – we have life to teach us, if we pay attention.

    • Reply
      indrani robbins
      March 10, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      beautifully said… and yes, if we pay attention.

      • Reply
        rhea sinha
        March 11, 2017 at 1:10 am

        Am so happy to hear about your brother Lalita. I do feel that some countries handle education better than India where it is all about getting a degree to work and that too as soon as possible. So, people reduce age in certificates and hardly ever venture out of comfort jobs that dare others to look down on them.

        Agree with Indi di.. if we pay attention.. you called out such an important aspect of learning. Probably that is why we are in this online cyber space finding our way through all the information available. Someday might visit the Himalayan foothills, meet you and learn more about Guyanese food. Thank you for sharing such a sweet story.

  • Reply
    indrani robbins
    March 10, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    hmmm, so studied eng lit… mainly because i knew i would pass. not very ambitious, me. and did i really read all the pieces for detailed text… now i really wouldn’t like to lie. but milton, no… thou shouldst not be here with us and plaguing me with words like leviathan and a thousand notes annotating every single word you utter. why why why. it was a portion of paradise lost i think where we all waded up against this endlessly large sea creature. i heard much later that came from the tanakh… and yes thanks to mr shakespeare i noticed that i felt many things for a man i am not supposed to feel anything but scorn (or whatever) for.. it was the beautiful and wronged shylock. years later i would fall for someone who was of the faith of shylock, a faith in whose ancient texts leviathan first appeared. was it written hehe, were these hints/connections coming at me from my future.

    enjoyed your mull so much, sir. i never ever enjoyed studying. i resisted with all my might and my innate laziness. yet there’s nothing as lovely as learning. maybe if they changed the system a bit… all those exams. sigh. and really, why can’t the classroom be more engaging. the moment it was, one just learnt. i am rambling, rhea… thanks to you, yes. your fault. if you manage to understand milton, lemme know. strangely, once in a way, i too think of studying a bit more, but no, i can’t face another exam ever again, nor that thick not pungent enough feel of classroom… but as you say, one can learn from so many places today, and life anyway is the biggest school and teacher. first bencher, huh? so what are you doing with the one who dreads any bench? case of opposites attracting? the fundamental duality of all we perceive and know? the heart of physics? chemistry? 🙂

    • Reply
      rhea sinha
      March 11, 2017 at 1:15 am

      Haha you know it is a coincidence that so often what we talk about is what I have in draft here. I thought this was all too earnest to post, but glad you and Lalita could relate. Probably a case of grass is greener, but I do want to know all about leviathan and tragedies and comedies and epic love stories and more. Haha if the first bencher ever turned because of mehsoos in that chemistry with this distracted last bencher they would have turned into friends for sure. Maybe then together they would have happily studied about exquisite gussa and brown eyes..

      • Reply
        indrani robbins
        March 11, 2017 at 6:45 am

        gusaa? brown eyes? now who can concentrate on anything after that. yeah maybe we should cleave all barriers of time and get to meet in that classroom… actually we did just that, only the classroom was in disguise, hai na? but to go back to that “too earnest to post”. sometimes i hear myself ramble in my head and feel like posting, then think, who the h wants to read about that. and what’s the structure of this writing anyway? is it an essay, a story, a poem, a what? then i wonder, should all writing be of a form sort of known and expected… doesn’t this medium allow us to experiment a bit, catch little pauses and flights of the mind… a few lines… a thought… maybe it will mean something to someone. glad you posted your piece. made me think and feel.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Thanks for the nudge to try GreatCoursesPlus! Just last month, I took Harvard’s digital photography semester over at Alison.com for free, I even took an exam. This is a whole new world now, no more benches, front or back…

    About the actual topics you mention:
    * Divine Comedy is a cornerstone of Wester Civilization. I never read it myself, but it’s mentioned all over the books I did read. I even know the first verse in Hungarian for some reason (again, even though never having read it…)
    * MinutePhysics rocks! One of my 50 YouTube subscriptions, too.
    * Talking about Tolkien and learning about art. Give Nerdwriter1 a try over at YouTube. A new-found love of mine–the guy teaches you so much in 8-10 minutes _every_ _single_ _time_.
    * Some self-promotion: I just started a podcast recommendation section in my feed: https://plus.google.com/collection/ogfrmB . The first episode will give you two recommendations on the English language off the bat:)

    Thanks again, this is a great reminder and gentle push for all of us!

  • Reply
    rhea sinha
    March 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Thank you Zsolt. The podcast I mention here is one recommended by you. Am off to read your other recommendations. I have to figure out why I miss the notifications on your updates. Am still getting used to podcasts though. I feel that my attention wanders when there is only audio. So I don’t hear audio books either. My husband and I have started following Nerdwriter1 too. Really interesting to watch..

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