As most of you know (due to various past posts), I didn't go the traditional route to university. When I was a child university was rather like the country mansion of some barmy lord – they were always barmy. I would get the odd glimpse, through dense woodland, whilst on, say, the fast train to Brighton, but there was no question of ever gaining access. Nor would I have wanted to. I'd heard the myths (then known as the 'god given' truth), especially the ones regarding people who tried to get 'above their station' by passing exams, and thus fooling the 'powers that be'. These stories usually ended in death or insanity.
At some point I met someone who knew someone who had been and survived, and, what's more, had a great time (though it was mooted that that was because he was a 'dropout'). Then I met someone who had been, and didn't look like a dropout (own teeth, clean fingernails, didn't wear green and blue together). Then I began to meet lots of people who either had been, were planning to go, or were actually there. One day university looked like nothing more than another option. You didn't have to be special, chosen, or odd. You merely had to be able to process information in a certain way.
I was a fairly crap undergraduate. I spent most of my three years trying to raise the veil of bewilderment high enough to see/hear/feel what was going on, in order to get some purchase on the courses. It was a bloody heavy veil, though, and I was prone to dropping it at terribly inconvenient moments (once it fell so hard it nearly took my nose off, but that's another story). Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a hole would appear in it, and, voila, I'd be able to see perfectly. During those moments of clarity much needed connections seemed to form themselves. But the veil of bewilderment demons would work quickly to fix the hole with their sharp little needles and mismatching thread. I would then have to try to remember those connections: imagine them, write them, draw them. I don't think I ever quite got their likeness down perfectly, but I guess I didn't do too badly as I did pass the courses, and get the degree.
It's a very strange thing, but the veil of bewilderment became very fine, sheer and light, for the whole of my masters degree. I never really had any problems with the work. I could see what I needed to and the whole course was pretty much a joy from start to finish. Though I constantly expected things to change, for the veil to turn from tulle to tweed (or worse), I never questioned why it didn't. Now, however, I am teaching first year undergrads, and I need some answers, badly.
I can see some of my students struggling to peer through their own veils of bewilderment, and want – no! need – to help them. To show them how to lighten their veils, lift them, peek through them, find a clean, sheer spot from which to look. I've had some limited success, but at times my own gets tangled up in theirs, and we end up tripping each other up. Sometimes I can see their veils altering in density during our discussions. Last week, though, most of the students came in clanking. Their veils had turned to iron.
Now in order to garner answers I need to formulate some questions, but where to start?
Mushrooms growing below a sycamore tree not far from the classroom. I'm not sure that they have the questions, but I like them.