“You potted plant, don’t just sit there—get to work!” Try scrawling that on a post-it note to yourself. Then, leave it on the desk for when your eyes drift away from your schoolwork. I guarantee at least a couple chuckles before you get disgusted with your past self and/or my Fly on the Wall suggestion. Beneath hubris, however, lurks potential to plumb depths unknown. So how does that inner churn of progress and productivity work, anyway, and how do we suddenly spring into academic action in between times when intellectual inertia lurches us to a humdrum standstill?
If you’ve ever utilized an imagined inner taskmaster homunculus to harness and spur your inner draughthorse, then you know what it is to seek a motivational flurry within your own bosom. Being a self-starter is pretty much mandatory if we’re to make distance education work for us. At AU you have to learn to up your own ante, and so the question becomes one of mental organization: how do we keep those trains of thought running on time?
At the broader, we’re all human here, kind of level our minds at motion or at rest contain considerable capacities. Merely with the switching of a psychological lever our ideas can shift from an inanimate blandness to a whirring dynamo. This we know whenever an aha moment captures our scholastic soul as we integrate some new learning into our larger repertoire of knowledge about ourselves and the world we inhabit.
Lightning as An Ontological Reality
Where does the magic go when that glory evaporates, though? Perhaps knowing how our energy arrived will help us reclaim some of the good juice, especially on a hot summer’s day when all indications are pointing to sloth, indolence, and missed opportunities to feel good about our progress. A bit of sorting is in order, and it doesn’t start with guilt or shame. Instead, consider how when you feel fully alive, bursting through and through with creative exuberance, you channel and embody an almost intangible bolt from the blue. Lightning has nothing on those flashes of inspiration; and to think, we could have just cranked up some A/C and binge watched high-carb (intellectually, that is) filler until bedtime! Okay, but don’t feel guilty if you choose that option. See, the idea is to consider what leads us to choose what we do. And to do so, ideally, not by force or compulsion but with just the lightest hint of a nudge that we may better be active and productive in our brain of brains.
Magical Mystery Machines and the Venus Within
Feeling accomplished is one reason we’re back at school at all; I mean, we could have just had a V8 if we wanted to feel healthier in the short term. We’re more than just muscles and synapses and that’s where our university studies come in to play. Accompanying our shockingly-prescient ability to live beyond our ordinary mental means is the reality that we don’t in any way feel like a mere machine, neuroscience pop-science videos notwithstanding. When the magic happens in our study brains it’s more akin to Botticelli’s famous painting where Venus arises and alights on a scallop shell, her sacred bosom adorning all that surrounds her as if to illustrate the life more abundant made possible by magical moments of every kind. She is shortly to be covered up with drapery, alas, as if to show that the greatest of beauty (in the AU context beauty combines the syzygy of our minds and the dancing of our fingertips as we write assignments evermore successfully) is fleeting, just like life itself.
The life more abundant, like our dawning inspiration, cannot be on all the time. But themes of creativity and symbolism remain; after all, no matter our major we are all united at AU by the ineffable desire to better ourselves. One commentator states: “the scallop shell upon which this image of Venus/Eve/Madonna/Church stands may be seen in its traditionally symbolic pilgrimage context. Furthermore, the broad expanse of sea serves as a reminder of the Virgin Mary’s title stella maris, alluding both to the Madonna’s name (Maria/maris) and to the heavenly body (Venus/stella). The sea brings forth Venus just as the Virgin gives birth to the ultimate symbol of love, Christ” (Travelling in Tuscany, online).
Note, then, how a mixture of cultural symbols and meanings produce Botticelli’s idea of beauty, or at least an interpretation thereof. In our studies, too, we bring as much to our essays as we can relate to the material. Be it a business plan or a crime case study, we start with what we know and what’s in our personal ether. That’s part of the magic of distance education. And in the end, it’s our inner drive that will lead us to succeed; like Dorothy from TheWizard of Oz, we’ve had that inner ability with us all along.
In our moments of personal best creative expression, say when we suddenly concatenate a few learning objectives into a thematic mastery of the material with the knowing addition of some personal lived examples, AU becomes a truly rewarding experience. I’d wager that few of us are pleased with ourselves if the greatest joy of our diploma is finally just being done. Even though the material we study and read will be on the exam, the joy in our learning often arrives from our own lives and experiences— far removed from the cloistered echo chambers of brick-and-mortar academia. Like Venus on a sea shell, (a scallop, but hey), the world is our oyster at AU. And remembering that in each moment there lies potential fodder for essay-writing bliss (bliss and essay-writing can cohabitate in a sentence, believe me), may be the key to creative ecstasy that makes us not only great adult students but also ascendant appreciators of life itself.