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Learning and Nostalgia

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on October 8, 2012 | Comments (4)
Photo by b r e n t

A few years ago I saw an article on the internet that discussed “the best colleges.” From that time on it has seemed like every few months I’ve seen articles on the same subject.

Most colleges require some effort by prospective students to get accepted for enrollment. It makes sense to me that articles such as these should appear many months before the new college year begins. However, almost inevitably, there is a crush of articles like this just as colleges open for classes and the new freshman enter a world of new friends, new self-understanding, new responsibilities, dorm life, living away from home, and of course, psych 101 and “dumbbell” English.

The photo above is of the school I attended and graduated from, the University of California, Los Angeles. The steps you see are named Janss Steps. The Janss brothers owned all the land in the area, and sold a huge tract of it way below market value to the Regents of the University of California (they have campuses up and down the state) under the terms that a university would be constructed there. As a result, the property value of the property they owned around this area soared in value and the brothers made a fortune. Those eighty-seven steps are quite a hike when you’re carting far too many heavy books to go up to class.

The building you see behind it is the side of Royce Hall, originally completed in 1929. It contains a concert hall with over 1800 seats and features a pipe organ with 6,600 pipes. I attended all sorts of concerts, performances, and lectures there.

Royce Hall is part of the “North Campus,” an area primarily focused on the humanities and fine arts. To the right of the image above is the “South Campus” where the focus is on the hard sciences. If you look up Janss Steps, behind you and to the right is Pauley Pavilion, where coach John Wooden led the UCLA basketball teams to ten national championships in twelve years, making him one of, if not the greatest college basketball coach of all time.

If you walk up Janss Steps, past Royce and go around the flagpole to the right, you’ll find the Schoenberg Music Building. I spent many hours studying music music there. If you had turned left instead of right and go past several buildings including a large library, you’ll come to Melnitz Hall, where I studied film and acting. You had to be careful scheduling classes. Walking up or down Janss Steps or across campus can take a lot of time. The UCLA campus consists of 419 acres.

While at UCLA I took courses in philosophy (my major), psychology, English (literature and composition), film, acting, music, ethnography, Italian, French, History, speech, and many more subjects. I also worked in the downtown community, played in bands, taught classes, and much more.

The goal of UCLA when I attended was to turn out adults with a well-rounded education who would participate in their community.

Which is why the focus of those articles I mentioned earlier surprised me. They weren’t about how you could get a great and broad education. They weren’t about how the university or college could help you become a better, critical thinker. They didn’t share how you could learn about art and music and philosophy and become a better human who is involved in your local community.

No, the articles determined whether a college was good by one classification only: how much money you could make as a result of getting a degree from that college.

Of course, it’s true that a college education probably means you’ll make a lot more money over your lifetime than someone who didn’t attend college. I think that’s great. But if your only reason for going to college is to make more money, as opposed to getting a well-rounded education, college essentially becomes an over-priced trade school.

I have nothing against trade schools or technical colleges—as long as they identify the true costs of attending and don’t misrepresent the employment opportunities that will result from attending. For many people they provide a great service. But is that all colleges and universities should be? I don’t think so.

Education and Magick

When I was very young, I read lousy kids books as well as comic books. My parents didn’t care what I read as long as I read. Once, I asked my mother about this and she told me eventually I’d get tired of reading garbage and want to read something better. For the most part, she was right. However I still read comic books illustrated novels.

By the time I was in college my parents had also drilled into me a simple concept: education for the sake of learning was valuable. It didn’t matter what you learned as long as you learned.

For many today that must seem like quaint nostalgia. What good is learning for learning’s sake going to do for you? It won’t pay for food or rent.

I disagree.

I would contend that magicians should be constantly learning. Learning keeps your mind sharp. It gives you new insights, approaches, and understandings concerning the world, yourself, and magick. In fact, I have a motto (What? Another one?) that I believe is very valid:

Death doesn’t occur when you stop breathing.
Death occurs when you stop learning.

Over the past decade, besides continuing my studies and practice of magick, the Tarot, etc., I’ve also immersed myself in the study of hypnosis, hypnotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Tantra. Most recently I’ve become fascinated with the ancient Indian tradition of head massage, and will shortly begin training in it leading to professional certification.

Indian head massage is more than just rubbing on the head. Beside working on the head, neck, shoulders, it requires the ability to analyze the nature of your client according to ancient Tantric ayurvedic medical definitions. You then choose appropriate oils to use for the massage—both the scent and the source of the oil—based on this diagnosis. It also works with special pressure points called marmas (the basis for the Chinese acupressure/acupuncture points) and the chakras.

So besides learning a new system of massage (I was trained in and used to teach a form of acupressure massage known as Shiatsu), I’ll also be learning new approaches to working with spiritual energies. This, I hope, will also have direct application to magick. So although the study of head massage doesn’t seem like it would be associated with improving magickal skills, I believe it will have that result.

What Are You Learning?

Do you agree with my nostalgic view that learning and education just for the sake of learning is good,
or do you think the purpose of a higher education should be to get a better-paying job?

If you’re not enrolled in a school, what are you learning?
Can you apply what you’re learning, either directly or indirectly, to the study of magick? How?
Will it help you understand yourself better? How?

You can share what you’re learning in the comments to this post.


Reader Comments

Written By Joe
on October 8th, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

I certainly agree that learning just for the sake of learning is an excellent thing. I actually have two degrees in engineering and a minor in music. The degrees in engineering certainly do allow me to earn a good living, but at the end of they day that education was focused on making me a good engineer, and while it did provide a great level of knowledge about how the world works in a mechanical sense, my music minor made me a better person. I’m currently have a blast with a couple of courses on coursera.org. Some of the courses I’m taking are business or technical courses for professional reasons, but I’m also spending more time focusing on the humanities. I’m doing a course right now on Greek and Roman Mythology, and I do think that the increased understanding of both the content and the nature of myth has made me a better magician, if not better at magick.

Written By Morgan Eckstein
on October 8th, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

Having just completed my second bachelor degree (history and literary studies), I am taking a break from college while my wife finishes her master in Education for the Linguistically Diverse. When I go back, it will either be for history or literature.

But despite taking a break, I having to do research–mainly on space exploration–for a novel that I am writing.

Written By Ty Bevington
on October 9th, 2012 @ 7:33 am

I think with the economy still tough, people are more concerned with getting the ‘biggest bang for their buck’ when they look at student loans for 20 years…when I went to the college in the 80’s this mentality wasn’t as prevalent, and a degree in medeival and renaissance studies (triple majoring in history/art history/literature) didn’t seem so risky! If I were going to college today, I would defintely major in something that translated into a paycheck and minor in something that was soul-enriching.

Today, I take professional development courses through my employer and professional payroll organizations, and read subjects I enjoy in the fileds of history, art, literature, magick, and tarot.

Written By Kyle
on October 9th, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

I get this all the time. “Why are you learning ____? Why not something more useful?”

As I get older, I realize that the “useful” stuff isn’t always so useful. And learning in and of itself is good mental exercise. If you enjoy it, do it!

I am presently learning Persian and Russian, and will begin Latin and Ancient Greek (and eventually Sanskrit).

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