Get out of the bubble

The Ivory Tower is great, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture

bubbleThe advantages of living near an university campus are many. Great night life, lots of fast food options, usually a good independent bookstore, cafe patios, and lots of attractive people to look at while enjoying a coffee. (Let the hate mail begin, yes, I’m human, I’m an university student and I enjoy looking.)

One of the advantages which cannot be immediately seen is an off-campus community of academics and intellectuals who gather to discuss ideas and issues. (You live in a student area, you get in a student bubble and forget the rest of the world exists.)

It is often said the best learning occurs outside of the classroom. I’ve found that I’ve often limited my non-classroom intellectual development to the university campus, missing a fountain of knowledge available just past the borders of the university campus.

As many of you have noticed, I’m not blogging as often as I used to. I became caught in a “routine” that didn’t see more than 48 hours in front of me. I spent so much time chasing breaking news, that I lost sight of not just things over the horizon, I lost sight of the horizon itself.

After a series of personal, professional, and academic shocks; I finally realized that I was failing to maximize myself. I was too busy living for today that I was failing to build tomorrow.

Over the past three months I’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on all topics, reading lots of books, and digesting as much data as I can get my hands on. Much of it has been on higher education, much about politics (especially geo-politics), and plenty of philosophical/religion readings.

I’ve also spent time taking in new experiences and events.

(I went to a performance of the Canadian Opera Company. Those whom know me well were shocked that I actually went; I was shocked that I enjoyed it. I even wrote a piece for The Silhouette on my experience. Me writing on culture, who would have guessed. More shocking, I’m now a season-ticket subscriber to the opera.)

Many of those experiences have been attendance at local book events and guest speakers in the local community of Westdale, near Hamilton’s McMaster University.

Saturday, I attended a discussion at the local United Church about Pakistan. The church invited two speakers who grew up in Pakistan and regularly visit the country which is at the centre of the current Afghanistan. Tarek Fatah, author of Chasing A Mirage, and Raheel Raza, freelance journalist whose work often appears in The Toronto Star and The Ottawa Citizen, both brought their insights and opinions to a group of interested individuals in the basement of the church.

The Ivory Tower is great, however, academic guest speakers tend to be disconnected from the ground-level of political issues. This is not a criticism, it is just a statement. I’m pursuing a degree after all and my goal is to be able to disconnect from issues as well.

Off-campus speakers, such as Fatah, deliver their own on-the-ground insights and opinion. They add to my understanding of a topic in a way which a professor does not. Their emotion for topics offers me more information and viewpoints to use in the development of my own outlook on issues.

In short, get out of the bubble. Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Expand your horizons. Summer is a great chance to change your routines and discover new things.

– photo by Remi Carreiro