Working from home has probably gained cachet by being a preferable alternative to COVID scares and toxic workplace cultures. As distance students, we might then fly into a heavy course load and figure it’d all be free sailing. Just catch the breeze of your inner motivation, right? And no commutes to class in January, booyah!
Unfortunately, our best laid plains for placid academic futures may fall by the wayside. Be careful what you wish for, a fortune cookie somewhere probably prophesies. AU will show weaknesses in attention span and productivity that would put to shame even a yawn-worthy Zoom conference call. Success is always more than a click away; that might be why clickbait tends to suck time down the drain. Happily, making our future our own is about learning to know and grow within our real selves. Learning how to learn is not only about facts and theories; it’s about learning how to make the best of ourselves in as many moments as possible. So let us to embark on a brief survey of the future as a cause of present discontents.
Many Moments, Many Motivations
Being a distance student, like being a spy in foreign land, teaches us that we are as many selves as we can pack into our scholastic (or pseudo-monastic) distance education minds. Heraclitus, who noted we can’t step twice in the same river, opined that “Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tensions, like that of the bow and the lyre” (in Chaliakopoulus, online). To know ourselves, and our study potentials, is to know that each moment is only a facet of the school-cool enigma that is our personal whole.
In the same vein, and maybe as a reminder that our brains and bodies are run through with rivers of cardiovascular movement and perpetual cellular renewal, Heraclitus claimed that “honey tastes sweet to the healthy and bitter to the sick. In this case, honey is one thing with two opposite qualities, just like seawater is both death for humans and life for fish: ‘The sea is the purest and the impurest water. Fish can drink it, and it is good for them; to men it is undrinkable and destructive” (in Chaliakopoulus, online). Moments are what we make of them and each of us is situated differently. Think of how some students love a crowded coffee shop to write in while others need a stony silence worthy of Okotoks’ Big Rock during a winter freeze.
Carried Away, Or Riding the Wind?
Does constant flow help us, though, when we feel ourselves carried away by perceptual predestination of coursework deadlines? Walter Benjamin, the messianic Marxist who took poison rather than fall into the hands of fascists, claimed that “a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress (Benjamin, online). Even if we get blown away with momentary pessimism, we can still consider ourselves to abide in good company. AU has thousands of students much like us in their challenges and temerity. Finding perspective within ourselves might be the greatest learning that our adult education can provide.
Be Here Now…Or Now? Or Now?
Perhaps our greatest hope when feeling sucked into a vortex of deadlines and anxiety about the future is in the concept of presentism. This view, ironic in contrast to our suspicions that just living in the now will lead to an unwanted depopulation of our future opportunities, suggests that only the present is really real and it is the future which exists only as presence. Nurana Rajabova summarizes the presentist view: “the future also can come into existence only when time meets space and the future becomes the present. In other words, the future becomes real when it becomes the present. Therefore the future, in its commonly understood sense, is never actually in existence” (Rajabova, online).
Maybe the saying that those who fail to plan are planning to fail is all backwards; if we really lived in the moment, we might discover a plethora of present possibilities beyond anything we could imagine for our future. Maybe. In any case, it helps to remember that a moment of worry shall pass through our minds like a trickle in the cosmic sands of time. And hey, wherever we go there we are so we might as well learn to love, or at least accept, our mixed emotional fate as distance students.