Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Back Alley Education

Something that gets me into no small amount of trouble is how I picked up the little bit of education that I have. I tend to describe it as a "back alley education." And it is across the board---academics, writing, business, esoteric---there is really no area that the majority of my education came from approved and honored sources.

In the literature classes, I have a hard time buying into the basic concept of literary theory---the idea that the writer meant to imply great ideas and social commentary with the use of characters and imagery---which is one of the reasons that I struggle with literature. Maybe if I had a classic education, I would have an easier time buying into it.

But I didn't have a classic education. In fact, I am a student that was shuffled back and forth between advanced classes and short bus classes clear up to junior high. For some reason, talking with a German/Yiddish account makes one an idiot, and having a high pitched girlish voice makes one a moron. On the other hand, being able to pass tests with a bare minimum of study and completed homework makes one a frustrated genius.

Clue, I am not a moron or idiot, and the genius train refused to honor my ticket.

School districts and teachers literally did not know how to cope with my "special needs." It also did not help that we moved around so much. About the time, a school district figured out what to do with me, we would end up moving again.

None of this helped my social skills either. There is no point in being nice, polite, or pretending to be normal if you are going to lose any friends that you make within a couple of years because you have to move to yet another house.

And in high school, outside of the token speech therapy and social worker, there was a general lack of effect to address the weirdness that is me. In the school district's defense, it was a small town; there were budget issues.

In the end, I dropped out of high school. One class short. Freshman composition.

Yes, I said freshman composition. In my defense, there were some familial issues in play.

(A few years ago, I did manage to pass the GED tests...without studying for it. I used it to get into a community college, and then somehow managed to transfer to an university. Someone obviously was asleep at the switch. It looks like I might actually get a degree.)

So given this background, it is amazing that I managed to learn anything at all. Especially when you realize that I took my "how to learn" cues from my father, who did not even finish junior high.

My father made sure that I was surrounded by books. And he did a lot of reading himself.

What he could not pick up directly from books, magazines and newspapers, he picked up by questioning people. If you even find yourself being questioned to death by me, blame my father.

I have followed this pattern to the letter. For many years, while I was working in restaurants, my co-workers swore that I had to be going to college---there was no other possible reason that someone would read as much as I did otherwise. And I was not reading the current best-sellers either.

If I ran into someone with knowledge about a subject that I knew nothing about, I would grill them about all the ins and outs of the field. I have no problem with admitting that I know nothing at all.

And the amount of writing I did was ungodly. I was always writing something or other.

Of course, that is one of the reasons that I have a hard time buying into the basic premise of literary theory. I did too much writing without having any higher education. I wrote because I wanted to, and because occasionally I could con someone in writing me a check for something I wrote.

This leads to me having an attitude problem when someone claiming that Victorian writers had all these great social commentary ideas that they concealed in their writing. No, no, no---they were getting paid to write long tedious novels; one does not need to know anything more to explain their writing.

Yes, I am still a problem student today.

I am also a problematic business manager. I do not care what your business or economic theory is. If I have seen something like it fail, and fail big, then I am going to refuse to believe that you with a perfectly good academic degree know more about business and economics than I do, someone who just happens to have a decade plus of running a business under his belt.

I am also a problematic occult student. For many years, I had access to a handful of books. Literally, I could count the number of occult books I had access to on one hand. For me, one does not need a multitude of classes, books, or memberships, to understand the occult. One just needs to be doing the work while having an open mind that one techniques can be improved.

Obviously, this means that the whole purpose of the three Order system (Outer, Inner, and Third Orders) has slipped me by. I picked up the majority of my occult theory before joinning Golden Dawn, gained a lot of my practical experience before making my way into Inner Order. And I talk back way too much to ever have anything to do with Third Order. I am not big on secrecy and absolute obedience.

Maybe if I would have been exposed to the way the esoteric Orders were originally set up, I would feel different. But I wasn't. I learned more about Golden Dawn, talking to my sponsor and mentor over a cup of coffee than I ever did in lodge or from reading Regardie. The same goes for every Advanced Adept Advisor that I have ever dealt with---it is the side-tracks that I am learning from, not the lesson of the day.

This background creates a major attitude problem, or so people who claim to be more advanced than me have told me repeatedly.

I have been reminded of this recently while watching the debate about Pat Zalewski's latest book. I could care less about what the various groups think about his alchemical lore. Pat wrote his book for a single person.

And that is the only person's opinion that matters.

Yes, I feel that the only opinion of Pat's book that matters is that one lone student. Are they actually finding the book useful? If so, then Pat has done good.

Of course, the very fact that I have this opinion proves that I completely missed something important in my esoteric education. But then again, what do you expect from someone who did not go though the proper approved and honored channels to gain the skill and knowledge that he possesses? I have a back alley education, after all; and it shows up all the time in my bad attitude and inability to understand the most basic esoteric concepts in the manner that the higher Grade individuals would like me to observe.


S. J. Reisner || Audrey Brice || S. Connolly said...

I see absolutely nothing wrong with your "back alley" education. I sometimes think that being able to think outside the box has more advantages than more rigid lines of thinking. I got my occult education from reading books and from a very unconventional teacher. I didn't know just how unconventional she was at the time. As a result - I view magick as a creative process. That really irks the secret inner orders and rigid ceremonialists out there. I tend to get a lot of snarky criticism because of it. So I can totally sympathize.

Rufus Opus said...

"Of course, that is one of the reasons that I have a hard time buying into the basic premise of literary theory. I did too much writing without having any higher education. I wrote because I wanted to, and because occasionally I could con someone in writing me a check for something I wrote."

I'm pretty sure that means you're a hack.

I'd say we should start a hack writers' guild, but some lamers did already.

David Griffin said...

Had Pat truly written his New Age alchemy book for only one student, then it would have been kind had he only given that single person the manuscript instead of creating so much confusion in our Golden Dawn community regarding the true nature of alchemy.

I certainly would have appreciated not having had to wade through 100 pages of such abstruse intellectual gyrations, merely to set the record straight to dispel confusion that was completely unnecessary in our community.

The ocelot said...

You are actually educated, as opposed to just having "gone to school". Wasn't it Mark Twain who said, "I never let my schooling stand in the way of my education"?