Events Closed For Foreseeable Future
Ragged University activities are unfortunately in hiatus during the public health crisis due to avoiding bringing people together in groups. Our thoughts are with those who have had their health affected by the epidemic; mental and physical. Loneliness and isolation are stressful for a social species like ours. We are set with our eyes to the horizon and do what we can to humanize the small exchanges which texture life; someday we will be more at liberty to meet up again. Whilst looking at the horizon we could take time to think how much other species, like birds, play a great role in the pleasure of life.
Much thinking and discussion about how to support lifelong learning in broad communities has been done but for a Ragged University, it hinges on being able to meet in available public spaces which have shrunk away for the meantime. Working in the setting of a crisis requires resources which the project does not have and whilst there has been discussion about moving online there are significant problems with virtual spaces and all the hidden work which goes towards maintaining appropriate, sustained, sustainable and coordinated actions in them. Educators and individuals who have been moved into working under virtual circumstances should be understood to have inherited a situation and hidden workload which commands even more from their lives; the burden and cost of the digital is significantly underestimated.
For the meantime, the message must be to keep on learning, living and loving, and doing what we can to be aware of what we might not perceive of in the lives of other. Please take the suggestion to look towards community works such as Wikipedia and you will find some of the most powerful opportunities to exercise your brain and skills contributing to an exemplary commons which makes the world richer. Another way of learning, for those with capacity, energy and resilience, is found in ways to constructively coalesce with and support organisations from the outside. For example, maybe if you have web development skills you could offer those to a local community or organisation which has chosen to work online or even just support someone you know to do something new in the digital.
Another thing you might do is write a simple email of appreciation which does not ask anything of them so they can know their unlauded successes have been noticed. Organisations such as Edinburgh Cyrenians and Lifeshare have long been doing invaluable work to unconditionally support people who are in many ways defacto stateless; a kind word and the price of a coffee/pint/sandwich would go a long way to letting them know some people have their backs.
If you are at a loss as to how to stretch your learning skills and channel your energy, this is a prime opportunity to learn about biology, medicine, science and history - not from news sources but from thinkers who share their information sources and who give public accounts of their rationale driving their ideas, and who are involved in a peer review process. The suggested aim here is, rather than get involved in politicised argument spaces, to become more aware of the cosmos of knowledge surrounding health and microbiology as a means of meditating on the tricky decisions which public health officials and others are having to navigate in these times. Using Open Access journals offers us an amazing opportunity to learn bit-by-bit, language and ideas which help make intelligible the world around us.
We as individuals have a duty of candour to be honest to ourselves intellectually giving us a chance to act meaningfully in the world. As Richard Feynman put it “Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves” and it is a heritage of thinking which collectively belongs to us all - it is a culture which makes reference to the processes of discovery and comparison engrained even in the infant who has neither read nor spoken. Thinking and learning can also be understood as a therapeutic strategy in the face of chaos and stress producing events; an example of this line of thinking can be found in Viktor Frankl's discussion of the human's search for meaning.
Alternatively you can enjoy the wealth of well listened to music or spend time discovering (and supporting) new musicians. Whatever your means of dealing with the tensions of these times, my recommendation would be to seek out pleasure in what you do. I'll leave you with a thought courtesy of Bob Cranwell whos writing feels a little like being taken on a holiday - "Pick up a twig on a walk down the road, anywhere. Take it carefully home. Make a cuppa. Look. There are many things at work on that twig. Some we (I) can barely imagine. They are critical to our world. Just take a look for 10 mins. More if you like... Have a think". Please do get in touch and write something for the website if you like, however, please be patient for a response in email. Take care, stay warm; stay well...
Note from the janitor