I have decided to become a student again! No, this is not a desire to enter a second adolescence, though there are stories in the media about adult bouncy castles and play areas. It is a response to a challenge to ‘live on the edge’.
I have long advocated life-long learning, so I am putting into practice what I have preached. Of course learning happens all the time in ordinary, everyday life. Just keeping up with the latest in social media and digital appliances is a challenge we take on almost without noticing (well, some of us perhaps).
I have applied to do an MA in Quakerism in the Modern World, which is jointly offered by Lancaster University and Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. I will study part time over two years by distance learning. Earlier this year I did my first online course, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a good mix of video clips, text, and responses to questions with multiple options and in a forum of other students. The MA will be a lot more challenging, but I hope also stimulating. It is offered through the Lancaster University department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion, a unique combination. It is set up to bring together engagement of faith and international relations.
A friend commented that this could be a way of avoiding getting involved in practical action, in politics or my local community. I hope it will be the reverse, prompting me to live out the values that are common in Quakerism. The other stimulus to my decision was the Swarthmore Lecture on ‘Faith in Politics’ given by Catherine West MP, in which her suggestions for practical action and policies which would bring about greater equality, led to a refrain, which was, ‘Can you do this in your locality?”
I have had to consider my current commitments and how I can manage my time in order to take on this study course. The allotment is one of my biggest time demands. It is wonderful to have so much organic produce (though it is courgette season again and we are giving away several every other day). But the plot is large, and the weeds insist on growing vigorously. I will have to find some labour-saving tricks or the whole thing will go to pot.
I have a number of other commitments locally, Choir, Co-Clerk to my Quaker Meeting and Lettings Officer, as well as being both Area Meeting and Woodbrooke Trustee. My weekly Blog is something I want to continue and writing stories and songs. Most important is time with family, for example sharing the cooking and seeing my grandchildren.
I do have time to do the Guardian crosswords and read novels and watch films. So I am not running round like a headless chicken. It should be possible to arrange my days so that I can study and make a difference by the way I live and act. But with all learning there are emotional challenges as well as cerebral ones. How will I react to the new experiences that come with the course? This is the ‘living on the edge’ bit. I have not yet been accepted onto the course, so all of this may be irrelevant. But if I am, I start next month, so watch this space!