Friday, December 11, 2009

The Senses of Learning

Imagine going to a college reunion, as I would have done this year, had they had such a thing at GC&SU (Milledgeville), and seeing all the people from your class, now 10 years older, with kids, failed dreams, or not, money, or not, and mostly with 30 pounds more or a half a head less. And there, betwixt conversation and speeches, wondering where the time went and how much had changed, there is the almost necessary singing of the Alma Mater, with the words printed on some programming sheet. And as it is sung, out of tune, with soggy nostalgia, would you wonder, for what are we missing? What makes the college years so utterly miserable, and yet so strongly yearned for? The days that I had my own apartment, going for my Masters degree, were the happiest days of my life, and yet, I was highly depressed. I went to Applebees every day to eat away my sorrow, and to run up my charge card.

It's amazing, the small, sensual details that reminds me of college. The things that make me yearn for the days when I was wondering about the campus from class to class. I thought about those, this morning, and thought I'd share the memories I had.

There's a certain way the college smells, in the early dawn, when Milledgeville is just waking up (well, save the students, cause they sleep till noon). But I was a morning person, and always woke up at 6 to get to the early classes, eat breakfast, go over to the computer lab (when I didn't have a computer)...etc... Squirrels there didn't seem to mind the students at all, and only ran away if you chased after them. But there were times that you sincerely wished for a good soaking rain, to wipe away the scent of living. Much as I remember playing outside after a thunderstorm in Oklahoma. It's remarkable how smells can link themselves over years of time, instantly triggering emotions of memories. For instance, I always loved walking by the Health building over near Music on my way to Clarinet Practice. They had an indoor pool, and the windows at the top of the building were open. On cold, winter evenings, the chlorinated warmth of the pool would filter out to the walkways, bringing memories of the YMCA in Bethany, with warmth that blankets your body and brings a glow to your skin, much as a cup of hot chocolate would. There is nothing so sensual as that smell.

Anyone who has been to college would immediately complain about the cafeteria food. Certainly, on the weekends, the food was barely edible. But the old Southern ladies that worked the back kitchen could fix the most wonderful Chicken Parmeshan with Noodles, and the Wok fixture made the best Caesar Salads I have ever tasted. I have spent years trying to imitate those salads. Down the street from SAGA (called that because of the company that owned the kitchen some 30 years ago, and the name just stuck even after the company moved out.), was a great restaurant called Brewers. It was a coffee shop that had soups, salads, sandwiches, and some sinfully wonderful cheesecakes. But the true divine food was served on Monday nights, when the soup of the day was Tomato Bisque. I have never tasted a liquid so golden or smooth, with flavors so wonderful. I have never equaled it, although I have tried many times. The restaurant is now out of business, and the secret of the soup gone forever.

Milledgeville is filled with old buildings, with Corinthian pillars of Neo-Greek architecture. Being in the RHA club (Residential Housing Association), I got to go inside the old Psychology building, the one that hadn't been used in years, where parts of the roof was gone, and the old, crickety stairs led up and up to places of dead knowledge. With rooms of desks and outdated psychological tools and tests, old 5" floppy disks, folders with who knows what inside. What grand design were these old towers of wisdom, now left to disintegrate. It always left me with such reverence and nostalgia for the past, even as the new computer labs left me with hope for the future, that knowledge could still exist in a world of reality TV shows and endless nights of inebriation.

But the highlight of being at college is definitely that feeling right after I walked out of the classrooms in the Arts & Sciences building feeling as if I had slewn (slayed, slewed??) killed a dragon. When the tests given were slaughtered and sliced and diced and an "A" was a certainty. Because the knowledge was there, the learning, was in my head and I had met my professors expectations. There is no greater feeling than this. And it's the feeling that I most long for now. I have talked about before, on another blog ( how much I yearn for the continuing education that we seem never to get anymore. After work, it's the mindless electronic stimulation, eating of food, and then going to bed. We never learn anything anymore. I bring this up because I had a dream last night about being at something like a college, where music, sports, intellectual conversations, etc... was happening, and I want to look at the dream further and see how it could be implemented in real life. But that will take more than just being buried at the bottom of this blog. So I will end this here and start a new one, after I have set my brain on mix and cogitate.

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