If you were an aphorism what would your saying be? Parables and catchphrases may be trite, wise, jolly, or frivolous, and choosing the right one can say much about our life journey. Distance students might benefit from a motto or slogan that helps us find our path and stay on track, academically. First, though, we might want to dispense with the dross of the more stereotyped and silly single line expressions.
Wandering through the front end of a pharmacy, the place where the novels and candles and trinkets abide, you might notice wall hangings bearing pat assertions ranging from Bless This Mess to It’s Wine O’clock Somewhere. Running the gamut from pastoral to prurient, these derisible incantations are meant to convey themes about people’s purported attitudes.
Wall slogans have a sweet spot to them: not too saccharine and not too pointed. Likewise, reality as we present it is often about achieving a certain aura or attitude rather than clarity from accumulated raw facts. But there may yet be some timeless truths to doorway hangings and their words of wit. Each implies a creative approach to a life replete with pleasures, from pets to painting to grandchildren. A core concept of creativity lies fertile just beneath much of what we all do and say; our best AU assignments sing out with our essence when we write them that way. As Grant Bartley states, “Creativity is fundamentally the ability to come up with new ideas. An alternative term for it might be free imaginativeness” (online)
A new ideas is a wonderful thing, whether it’s a self-closing toilet seat whose lid gently falls like lilting sparrows descending on a downdraft, or simply a new take on a course learning objective. There’s something glorious about ideas when they mix with raw reality. Pierre-Joseph Gadamer, in an inquiring book titled Truth and Method, concluded that, “Beauty and art give reality only a fleeting and transfiguring sheen. The freedom and spirit to which they raise one up is freedom merely in an aesthetic state and not in reality…The poetry of aesthetic reconciliation must seek its own self-consciousness against the prose of alienated reality.” (72). Gadamer here suggests that life itself is a realm with fleeting joys amidst humdrum existence; when our studies fall into the former category the promise of enlightenment is much greater.
Prosaic Academic Life in a Nutshell
A helpful assessment of how we approach our existence can provide a meaningful backdrop to our life; educationally, this applies to how we imagine our studies. Even if we lack a conscious personal philosophy, the nature of being flummoxed implies that anything that puzzles us does so because we didn’t possess a ready-made belief system for it. Simple curiosity, far from that which kills a cat, might be enough of a wall-hanging theme: Be Curious!
By contrast, so many one-line expressions fall flat in the face of even the shallowest of life considerations. Consider these two aphorisms unlikely to be emblazoned onto the walls of a white-collar waiting room: “Philosophy triumphs easily over past and future evils; but present evils defeat it,” or “absence begins at home” (Lockey, online).
Neither give the fulfilling feels of a marketable self-help slogan; instead a certain stolid innocence abounds. But, where expectations are challenged, creativity can take hold and, arguably, that’s why a university education in critical thinking is so relevant. How we react to reality goes a long way to realizing the image of life that we’ve projected upon the proceedings. Enjoying life, or at least being at peace with one’s lot, implies an attitude where “perception is significant in itself” (77). Here the wonder of education appears; simply learning can be its own reward and, perhaps, only when we see our studies as a vocation in themselves can we truly become embroiled in the joys of academia. A fine line to summarize our studies might simply be: I Enrolled, I Learned, I Succeeded!