Every day holds potential for learning if we look at life that way. Glorious new experiences are only ever a mouse click or a calm stroll or an exchanged glance away. And knowledge is only partly contained in our AU course materials. One can read a text forward and backward and still only know it as a series of facts; we’re like that too as our identities evolve.
Unlocking the mystery of motivation requires knowledge of our self. Sometimes sloth and indolence leads us astray and our study habits become an afterthought. Listlessness takes over and we may require an external jolt to awaken our drive for knowledge. Enlightenment can begin in a second, after all. Consider the characters in a John Prine song from fifty years back:
She was a level-headed dancer on the road to alcohol
And I was just a soldier on my way to Montreal
Well she pressed her chest against me
About the time the jukebox broke
Yeah, she gave me a peck on the back of the neck
And these are the words she spoke:
Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own”
Now, I’d wager there’s not a student among us who hasn’t at some juncture wanted to blow up their television if it’s blaring while they try and study. The prerogatives of family, roommates, and friends know no bounds when facing our need for silence. Yet, when we really want to gain knowledge, our yearning for learning can be insatiable. The recently departed Prine is on about something deeper than aural and visual distractions. He’s describing those magical enchantments by a previously unknown other who graciously leads us to see our world and our knowledge differently.
Years of study can wash away like an old tide if the timing of such a moment resonates with our soul. One such moment for me was many years ago, when a cab driver counselled me to be my own best friend. Yet my most cherished epiphany occurred when I met my wife on a dance floor. She curtsied me toward knowledge of how better to apply myself in all walks of my life, AU included. I’ve been evolving at a quicker pace ever since. Epiphany moments come in many shapes and contexts; it behooves us to keep our eyes open as waves of new experience arise.
Knowledge About Learning: Lightning and Dawn
We all encounter a few aha moments that frame our journey and these hinge upon our existing beliefs about our self and our life. Knowledge solidifies out of mere belief, yet there’s a vast difference between knowledge and belief. Think of the phrase “I don’t think, I know.” Anthony Quinton notes that in the history of philosophy “belief itself has received surprisingly cursory treatment.” (Quinton, 345). Success at AU depends upon belief in ourselves combined with the knowledge of how we best operate. There are no counsellors to hold our hand or professors to pester with visits during their office hours. Our tutors can be a great help but when we sit down to write our assignments we do so alone, like hermits or saints or sages or Descartes with his candle.
Likewise, a tenuous chasm separates mesas of hope and expectation from the buttes of certainty and confirmation. Anthony Quinton notes that “one who comes to know what he formerly believed does not lose the conviction he formerly had” (Quinton, 345). We may begin our AU studies certain that we’ve made a wise choice. And that belief, imparted with hope and positive thinking, may substantiate into factual knowledge with the passage of time.
Knowledge, though, is it a thing to grasp or an ephemera to feel? Another binary absconds with our flow of being. Quinton reminds us that “knowledge is justified true belief” thus suggesting that a degree of faith underpins the facts we hold dear (Quinton, 347). Moments that transcend their context are prime examples where belief is stood on its head such that new beliefs about ourselves and our studies may emerge. Personal moments are ours to keep. They are gloriously “incorrigible in the sense that they are wholly certified by the experiences they report and are logically immune from falsification by the results of any further experience” (Quinton, 347). There’s a reason that counsellors the world over like to coach clients to use statements that begin with an “I feel…”. You can’t argue with feelings the way you can argue with facts.
Plato, for his part, noted that false beliefs arise not from abject failures of knowledge but simply because, as Quinton puts it, “we can know a thing well enough to be able to identify it as a subject of discourse without knowing everything about it” (Quinton, 347). We know and are known only partially and never with our future fully in focus. Naturally our past and future selves differ and here is where inspiration guides our flow.
Quinton claims that Plato’s “arguments for the unknowability and unreality of concrete, sensible things are not very persuasive” yet the take home message applies delightfully: “there would seem to be many propositions that are known by some people but only believed by others” (Quinton, 348). There’s more than one way to run through a corn maze but if you enjoy yourselves you’ve won. The same is true at AU if we actually do the coursework!
To know ourselves is to know how we can succeed. Yet sometimes an inquiry and pep talk with ourselves isn’t enough. Anyone who shines new light on our old selves reveals what was already there: a student with potential to flourish. Sometimes we just have to get into the weeds with another person so that we may discover our hidden potential. And knowing our potential, vague though it can feel, may be the greatest knowledge of all.