I've been a student for much of my life, I've been a teacher, and I've been both student and teacher at the same time, I've worked, I've paid bills, I've seen different sides of the coin. I'd like to explore and reflect on some of it. Join me if you like.
How to be a True Student
Is being a student a wonderful luxury? In essence yes. I remember my student days. Long days of sitting and reading many books, some for courses and some for pleasure. I had months planned out and a stack of books and the books were exotic and had a certain magic unknown quality to them, they could potentially take me anywhere. Old books were the best and I suspect they still are, the older the better, these days I tend to treasure anything that is in the thousands of years, have a special respect and love for anything in the hundreds of years and generally treat anything modern as utilitarian or diluted by one of many modern political paradigms.
To to be a true student you should have the luxury of time and free thought, not necessarily loads of money. But these are two components that are essential for being a true student. If you are studying in order to acquire knowledge in order to make more money, you may be a student but your intellect is not really stimulated, you are more of a worker who needs to update his or her knowledge in order to be more of a cog in the machinery of the "modern economy". It's OK, but the bottom line for these kinds of students is get the knowledge, make money. It's not a luxury for them it's a necessity and it takes out the fun. It's fine, ants need to gather leaves in order to make the nest and serve the swarm. People have families they need to pay the rent or mortgage, they feel trapped and want to acquire knowledge in order to make that extra $1. It is a business transaction. They will come up with every excuse for why they need to do this, (I need X language because ... fill the gap), without actually acknowledging the beauty of being a true student, or the beauty of knowledge without utility.
What does it mean to be utilitarian?
I am not saying that a person's motivation is wrong. Just that truth and knowledge do not have to be connected to utility. Utilitarian means that something must only exist to serve a practical purpose, historically regimes such as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were utilitarian and eliminated the things and people they deemed not useful or purposeful to their "logic" and their "order". Modern society and political paradigm are built along the utilitarian ethic, this thinking is prevalent in study and knowledge, in universities and in world culture, where knowledge is used for the purpose of one collectivist ideal or another, and on a personal level knowledge is treated more or less as a commodity. If you can buy it and trade it then it's a commodity like oil or electronic products.
When I say that knowledge is not utilitarian, I am saying that in itself it has no real practical aspect or purpose, just as a flower has no practical purpose for being any particular color or shape. If flowers were utilitarian they would all be square and grey and conserve the maximum amount of plant's energy, and they would not provide nectar. Bees and ants would have to find some other sources of food. A utilitarian tree has no flowers and bears no fruit, in fact, it doesn't even bother with leaves because that's a waste. A utilitarian tree would have no color, take up no space and its existence would be some other function, whether for profit or a "purpose" other than just being a tree. Deserts are places where utility has a benefit because in deserts there is a need for survival and conservation of energy and resources.
Language has no reason for being the way it is
Language as a system of knowledge has no reason for being what it is, if it were purely a thing of utility we would all be speaking in binary code, and we would have cut out all languages. We would have monetized everything to the last degree including emotions and relationships. Whether this seems like a good idea or a bad one, it may be where current humanity wants to go. A true student then is one concerned with truth, as opposed to what he or she can get. What he or she can get is always selfish, but usually cunningly disguised as having some other purpose relating to the collective "good". Somewhere in my utilitarian Masters readings, there was some utilitarian who stated arrogantly that "language serves either a transaction or interaction purpose." If you are running a business, then it does. But if you are a True student you know there is far more to it than that. If you are interested in Truth with a capital "T".
How should a true student behave and act?
Money is of no consequence. What you are looking for in a teacher is a voice that has read all of those books and sees the wonder in them and wishes for you to read them too and feel the same emotions and have the same thoughts. A teacher is merely a voice that helps you get into those books because you can see that that teacher has been enriched mentally and spiritually and has had special experiences in an intellectual sphere.
A true student is not worried about the practical aspects of making money later on with the knowledge he's acquired, as if it is a commodity like bread in a supermarket. A true student wants to get the history behind something, the tradition of it, the essence of it.
A true student is prepared and happy to sit down in the morning with a book and let the Sun traverse across the sky throughout the day only stopping to refill the teapot and keep going into the realms of sacred knowledge and history.
A true student of language knows that the reason he or she is learning is because there is something special in that language, that it's more than just knowledge that will be acquired.
If the student is selling out and learning solely for the monetary aspect then it's not wrong but that student will be disappointed in his or her efforts. So long as a person treats life as a utility and as a survival, this person is not a true student.
Here is a list of what you should feel as a student:
-Irrelevance of money or monetary gain
Knowledge as a means to spiritual truth
Knowledge as a means to a sense of wonder
Knowledge as a means to magic
Knowledge as a system of art rather than utility
The world is naturally unequal and doesn't need correcting
Come to your own conclusions
Teachers are great friends who have merely been in the direction you are going
It's OK to be a utilitarian
If you are "studying" or as I've better phrased it "acquiring" for utilitarian reasons such as money or other things which are eventually related to money, then it's OK. The first step to discovering truth in life is to first acknowledge your reasons for doing something.
How to change
Follow the steps below to become a better student:
Decide today that nothing is more important than your time. If you have spent years of your life acquiring knowledge in order to make a living and then "later on" relax or retire, then you are in the company of millions or billions of people. Everyone does it. Most people commit to the idea that later on there will be time in order to open your mind to wonders, and knowledge, if only it were possible to somehow sort out the "problems" and responsibilities. These are merely excuses. They are lies that sound like truth because they are so common and acceptable in the general population that they pass as acceptable truth. But in reality, it's like a soldier doing self-mutilation in order to avoid the battlefield. Either you believe in the battle and go with full enthusiasm or you don't believe in it and stick to your guns by saying "no".
Stop making excuses. The excuses can sound like this, "I can't commit to reading this book or learning that language because I've got a family and I need to pay the mortgage, therefore I don't have time." There is the self-mutilation in order to avoid something truly frightening, truth. Or similarly, "I need to study, because I need it for my job, to pay the bills, blah, blah etc." On the one hand excuses for not doing something, and on the other excuses for doing something. Both of these paint the individual as a victim and both make the pursuit of truth subservient to functional needs, or even perceived functional needs. Ask yourself, what is more important than your time? Why do you think it's better to spend twenty years paying for a mortgage in a house that is not truly yours, when there is untold knowledge and truth to discover? These are excuses that do the rounds. They are as acceptable as common idioms and phrases.
Intellectual honesty means you don't make arguments that you think you should make. You must step outside of the pressure of society and its own views. But in order to find the objective truth, you will be required to make a massive effort. You will have to analyze faulty arguments that the majority deem as truth. The question isn't just about what you want to do and why. Intellectual honesty makes you go one step further, to find out what is inherently worth doing, so it may require going against the majority opinion.
Always remember that each day begins afresh and you are not pegged down by what happened yesterday or the previous ten or twenty years. If I wake up today and decide I'm going to learn Italian, and I don't need any excuses or reasons to do so, not the culture, not travel not anything, I don't need a reason and I certainly don't need today to be connected to yesterday in any causal way.
Remember that a true student has dedication and makes a heroic effort. How many hours does it take to read a book with a thousand pages? How many hours does it take to read a book with a thousand pages and savor every last word? A true student has unlimited time and resources even if he has limited resources he acts as if eternity is his and time is unlimited.
When you have cultivated a noble mind you become patient and you do not expect anything. You are not looking for immediate results. You are interested in truth and your primary areas of judgment are authenticity and genuineness.
The future and the past
The optimal time to start afresh is now. The reasons for doing so are your own sense of wonder. Think of yourself as if perched on the edge of a mountain ready with a paraglider. Take the steps forward, hold on tight, and let go. The next page of your life can be anything when you cut the expectations and cut the excuses, that's when anything can happen.