Herrington: A Free Education, Really

Chris Herrington, Contributing Writer

     In this day and age, we know that an education is essential, period. But a formal education costs all crazy money, right? How are we going to get an education when college costs out the wazoo? My experience is that a formal education does cost, but if you are not prepared for it, the getting there does not mean much anyway. The thing to do is to go ahead and get an education, regardless.

     Today, I want to talk about is how to deal with this dilemma. You’ll need a little back ground so that you know who is talking. I’m 29% Asperger’s, OCD, ADHD, have suffered from panic attacks, and have PTSD. I did not read my first book until 9th grade. I was in speech therapy in 3rd grade because I did not talk at school. I am almost exclusively self-taught. I cannot draw what I see, because my mind will not stay on track enough to draw it. I hardly ever read fiction since the characters are not real enough to make an impression on me and I have to reread the book over and over to get them straight. If you’re not getting the picture yet, my writing used to be incomprehensible. So, what I am saying is that coming from a background of a family of violence, desperate poverty, and a depressed educational experience, there is a single thread that runs through my entire life experience: Curiosity.

     Our need to know is not really based on what we ourselves believe that we need to know but rather on a complex series of connectivity equations that have as yet to be written. I say this because no one has figured out the extent to which our future options are limited by our past choices. There will be such an equation in the future, but for now it is safe to say that we do not know what we will need to know in the future and what will become important to us to have learned in the past that makes all the difference in the world to us in the future.

     Connectivity is an idea that first hit me when I was reading comic books. In one comic book, it may have been BlackHawk or Challengers of the Unknown, the characters are all given odd gifts that they must carry with them for the next several days, and during the course of the book, they all depend absolutely on those gifts to save their lives. Now, whether someone knew these events would shape up this way or whether the men in the comic book were simply capable of making use of what they had is of no consequence to me. What I learned was that you never know what will become useful. And the extension of that idea to me was the more you know, the more prepared you are for any situation.

     Early on, I decided that reacting was the act of letting others dictate how you felt and thought and acted. I sometimes hear people say things like, “He made me mad.” This is not really true at all; that may have been the reaction you had, but someone else in exactly the same situation may have responded in a completely different way. I see everything in front of me as creating a serious of false dilemmas, and for me the response I give will almost always be surprising and offbeat to others since I am not doing what they expect. I am responding, acting from my own sense of values to the events in front of me. Yes, I am human and in many ways some of my behaviors are fairly predictable, but I am also a person who likes the puzzles of life and the answers I adopt are often not very expected.

     This is because the tools I bring to each decision are so eclectic that they defy categorialization. People simply cannot rationalize how I came to the conclusions I reach; well, if you knew what I knew, you would think, “Well, of course!” This is because my discipline is not about staying in a category but rather in knowing relational things in many categories. People always assume I would be really good a Jeopardy. But, I often do not know about common things in culture or society; these are not areas I delve into much since they seem like abstract areas to me. Sports for example, is based on following the games, the players, the scores, or the teams in and out of season in the news and in their personal and professional lives. Wow, that is a lot of time to spend on a game where a ball goes in a hole. It may be totally shocking to some, but I think that playing sports is really only good for a way to stay in shape. I never care about the seasons or leagues or anything like that. Why should I?

     But I can walk into a group of teenagers and in 30 minutes tell you the reading levels and needs and most intense personal habits and desires of every teen there, and about their personal relationships and family habits and relationships. Kids are very informative and provide a world of information. And when it gets down to it, Dad, you may know the MPV but do you know your kid’s reading level or if she can write an essay? It is a matter of priorities to me, and we all have them. I am after understanding the human animal as a creature of habit but also as a person of character and intimacy. I study all day every day and the amount I spend on my ongoing education is the cost of the computer and my Internet connection.

     Let your heart and mind roam free. If you are that interested in learning college level stuff for absolutely dirt cheap, try RSA, or TED TALKS, or any number of things that are free on the web. Lately I have been pouring through the interviews with Michael Brown, of the Presence Process, and the Work, by Byron Katie. If I want a college classroom experience, which I do about 8 times a year, I get a DVD from http://www.thegreatcourses.com/ You can get almost anything for free from the public library. And you can ask for help from many local resources like the SFA library. I have a very deep informal education, and I managed to get a formal one too, but what I really know I learned one book, page, conversation, e-mail and blog at a time.




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