An Integrated Memory

B. is learning techniques to cope with her loss of peripheral vision. Reading is one of the first things the glioblastoma has taken from her. She said she has trouble listening to audiobooks. Her mind wanders.

My mind used to wander, too. I could sit and listen to anything. I still can’t. But I began listening to podcasts on my runs a few years ago. When I walk the dog. Commute.

I remember where I was on the trail when Mary Oliver told Krista Tippet about her childhood. Alluded to abuse. I remember it was autumn and the upward slope of the trail was covered in orange leaves.

I remember the green canopy over the trail near the picnic grounds, where I heard about Darwin’s theory of beauty. I remember my breath. I remember exactly how tired my body was at that point. I remember hearing the ducks, which seemed like an illustration.

When I was in high school and college, I’d remember returning to a textbook to find again something only on the edge of my memory. About a quarter into the book, on the left side of a spread, three-quarters of the way down the page.

The last gift my ex-husband bought me was a Kindle. It was a thoughtful present. But all wrong for me. We were separated and I had just spent a fortune on a 12 foot bookshelf with a sliding ladder for the tiny apartment. But I tried the Kindle. I found myself reading the same “pages” over and over and retaining nothing. At first I thought I was losing my ability to concentrate. I was worried.

But I don’t think that is it.

We no longer have textbooks at school. (Not even online, but that’s another complaint.) The students are finding there’s no need to “learn” anything by rote. No need to retain information, because they can google in a fraction of a second and find an excerpted answer. And move on. No time for nuance.

And our curriculum requirements have changed to reflect this. Embrace it. The students are graded now on their ability to reflect, consider, evaluate.

(Don’t get me started on the dangers of indoctrination/random subjective – and ultimately uninformed – opinions and evaluations. I have heard colleagues endorse factually wrong statements, saying it is the student’s opinion and that the actual fact is “just one opinion”, and it is important to support the student’s own perspective. On something about which they have neither personal experience or acquired knowledge. Oh. I got myself started.)

At best: not only does this create an enormous gap among the “strong” and “weak” students, it is unfairly biased against students who process the world physically. It discounts their intelligence.

I am completely conscious of the possibility that at my age, I am “old fashioned”. But I have seen struggling students use actual “cut and paste” techniques on paper and have a conceptual breakthrough in terms of understanding how to arrange the flow of an argument. I have colleagues who use building blocks to show students how Bloom’s taxonomy works. How academic progression is “built”.

I think a lot of people see this as using elements of the physical world as a metaphor for conceptual thinking. But I honestly believe this is backwards. I believe our conceptual thinking is an abstraction of the physical world.

I think I am going to stop using the world “mindfulness”. It puts me in the wrong “frame of mind”. I think it encourages me to take on the role of the know-er rather than the role of the flow-er. And that sounds incredibly stupid and I am so glad I am not writing a book about it.

This time last year I was ill. I was beginning to lose my grasp of reality. The waiting list for a specialist is over 6 months here, so I was on sick leave. Making paper. Sewing books. Painting. Writing, of course. Sometimes by hand, sometimes on the keyboard. I love this keyboard. It is cheap. Most of the letters are rubbed off already, but the keys are almost reminiscent of a typewriter. Mechanical. They push back against my fingers. They ground me. My mouse is a rollerball that looks like a sea creature. I light the oil burner and drop rosemary into the bowl. Today I hear the rainwater draining through the pipe from the gutters.

I have to pee.

When I am in the flow, I don’t feel “mindful” at all. I feel free and fully integrated into the world.

One Reply to “An Integrated Memory”

  1. M bought me a kindle ages ago. I use it to read friends’ self-published work that I’d otherwise not get to read (nor support them by buying). Other than that, my sownd on physical books has gone through the roof since we moved to Norwich. And don’t get me started on the lack of textbooks!


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