Slow Learner

May 20, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

I’m a slow learner.  I think it’s because there’s so much chatter in my head, and it is accompanied by no small amount of anxiety.  In grammar school, paying attention to the teacher felt distressing.  My mind would confusedly stagger about, making me scared one moment, puffed up the next.  I had a fertile fantasy life.  I bounced around between bored and terrified, withdrawing frequently into playground, Promethean-hero fantasies, playing variations on the misunderstood god as interpreted by varying comic book heroes.

Math was worst.  I had to keep inventing new ways to come up with answers or apply techniques I could understand to situations where I wasn’t listening.  I couldn’t seem to pay attention for as long as it took to grasp conventional instructions for coming up with the right answer.  Ironically, I tested high.  No doubt from the massive brain strain from trying to figure out the foundation principles that would inform an answer.  I knew in my heart of hearts I had no clue.  My grades were mediocre.

Slowly, the talking to myself diminished in intensity.  The cruelty lifted, the cadence slowed down and the subject matter become more focused on what was happening in the room.

I purposefully chose a college where I would not have to be forced to pay attention.  I found a school where I could show up, pretty much take whatever I wanted and have only pass or fail noted in the records.  I took no math, language or science my four years there.  I adored it.

I learn slowly if forced to absorb in single, unrelated strands.  It’s like a week of meals made all of flour.  I am fascinated by what connects seemingly unrelated content.  Offered the opportunity to synthesize, I disappear.

My desire to disappear comes partially from the comfort that accompanies the suspension of my internal dialog.  Disappearance feels like tobogganing down a hillside.  I can feel how things are connected in the way I experience gravity drawing me downward.  I feel led.

Sometimes disappearing feels like I’m barely holding on to a thin piece of wood while careening down a snowy bluff.  More often I just sense gravity’s tug.  Nodding, I honor this central principle of existence.  Sometimes I wish I’d taken physics.

Having learned how to learn, I’ve learned how to fall.  Seeking knowledge and understanding has become about listening for the themes and melodies that jump from discipline to discipline, level to level.  The music becomes clearer the more I let go.  The difference between sledding and falling becomes incidental even while accompanied by the music of pattern and connection.

As I grow older and the chatter continues to grow gentler, I uncover music beneath my thoughts.  It’s like a constant river of melodies just below the word line.  A gift of gravity, I’m guessing.  I let the harmonies drift down to where my anxiety-filled slow learner lives, near the bottom of personality’s abyss, and there I let fantasies become real.


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