Border Guards

by Jinryu

I’m getting close to 30 years old. A few years off, yeah, but getting there. Nonetheless, it’s coming up. Being back in school has had an interesting effect on the way I look at the world, and it’s made me question a lot of things about the way I used to do things. It’s also led to the development of a lot of new habits, which I think are the core of the way I go about life lately.

One of the things I question about my past is how, during my college and undergrad years, I went to most classes without consciously wanting to engage in anything that was going on. I found it was fine to do the bare minimums to get the best possible grade– that is to say, i was trying to simply to balance a philosophy of scholastic laziness and efficiency. As little in as possible to get as best out as possible. I think I wanted that diploma, and that was it.

I very seldom took notes in class. It was enough to pay attention to the attitude of the professor and game him or her in the essays, basically, to tell them what they wanted to hear– and for the most part that got me good marks– at least, when I applied it. In many other situtions I just skipped class to go to the arcades.

Maybe that says something about the schools or classes that I was in, or the teachers I had. I can’t absolve myself of involvement though– it also had to do with who I was, and what I wanted.

My academic process has changed a lot since then. I wake up in general around 7:30AM, and am on the road on my bicycle (which, I ought to have named by now, shouldn’t I?) by about 8AM. It takes me between 35 and 50 minutes to do the 9km trip, depending on which road I take. In my saddlebags, I have my textbooks, my notebook, and sometimes on my back I have my laptop.

I take notes. Lots of them. In fact, I even started off an electronic study group of sorts, in the form of a wiki-style Google Doc. I have one of these for every class I attend, and I share these files with a handful of classmates who are interested in cooperating. I update each file at least once per week, and oftentimes, I do “cleanup” to consolidate and make the flow of the files seem more sensible after different people have appended their information.

The act of writing notes, as well as reading those of others, reading them back is a lot like teaching. Teaching, I hold in the higest regard– because it is the ultimate form of learning. If you can’t make notes that other people can understand, and if you can’t read someone elses’ notes without being able to discuss the differences or your point of view, well, maybe you don’t know what you’re talking about?

The thing about the world is that people have this bad habit of taking things for granted. The idea that someone can walk outside, turn a key in the ignition of their car and then drive to work is an easy and overused example, but it is apt: Can you teach someone how to tune that car? Can you even teach someone how to drive? The gift of capitalism is the gift of convenience– we don’t have to deal with all that kind of stuff because we can outsource our involvement in our own lives to externals. Sometimes it’s the shop down the street. Sometimes it’s a factory or whatever 180 degrees on the other side of the planet.

This comes back to my original point about the difference between school in Montreal 1.0 versus Sydney 1.0 (which, importantly, was developped after SK 1.0 and Montreal 2.0).

In Montreal 1.0, I outsourced everything. I was enamoured with the idea of the power of money granted to me by my part time jobs, because this power got me what I want conveniently. The problem though is a lot like what happens when a country imports too much– it loses it’s national identity, and whatever distinctiveness it might’ve begun with is slowly erroded in the likeness of the imports.

I guess you can say that I became what I bought, I disconnected myself through taking everything for granted, and I chose my path from the paths on sale.

Isn’t that terrible? In the typical young adult way, I rebelled and thought I was too cultured to be thus affected– but the truth is, I was living in a simulacrum. There were moments of course where something “real” would shine in– but for the most part, I didn’t know what real living was about. That naturally had an effect on what I wanted out of life.

So the reasons for me not caring abotu school back then were because, frankly, I saw no application of it. The unrest at the disconnection from what I was learning in school to what the world was like was probably the most important emotion I could have had– it’s what made me move to South Korea.

This time around, I feel I have a sense of purpose. That doesn’t mean that I’m infallible, or that I’m invincible– indeed, there are times here in Sydney that I just feel extremely mentally exhausted, and I do doubt what life has in store for me. But whatever hardships I face, at least it feels like I’m operating at a level of reality which is more real than it was before. I’m more connected to the source code of my environment, and, more importantly, myself.

That statement begs the question: how is it possible for one to be disconnected from oneself in the first place? It seems like a logical fallacy.

Fallacy or not, it happens.

And I’m sure that you know it, on some level. Regardless of that starting point though, the question might follow: are we contenting ourselves to table scraps and being second-class citizens in safety of the borders of our own supposition, or should we seek more?