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Minerva Week 5: The Grand Scheme of Things

October 6, 2014

I walked into a soup restaurant with my sister and saw my old housemate. “What the heck are you doing here? I thought you were in San Francisco!” she yelled. Nope! There I was, thousands of miles away from where I was supposed to be, back in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My body is not made for travel (I get motion sickness like you wouldn’t believe), but in the grand scheme of things, I genuinely enjoy it. My friends and family joke that they’re never quite sure where I will be next. I know it’s a privilege to be able to travel as often as I do, because the kind of learning I get from being in different spaces (not just geographical – academic too!) brings my life up to a different pitch. It’s so easy to think that the world you see is all that there is, and that your struggles are the MOST IMPORTANT THINGS EVER, but travel makes you realize how small you really are. How many ways there are to live, love, and struggle.

McMaster’s Planetarium (Credit: Secret Hamilton)

I was watching a show at a planetarium yesterday and an astronomy PhD told me that the light from the farthest star visible to the human eye is travelling 2.5 MILLION LIGHT YEARS to get to us. What am I in comparison to that kind of time. A puff. It’s important to be reminded of this, I think, whenever we start to feel trapped.

I didn’t run away from Minerva, if that’s what you’re thinking. Minerva came with me – my laptop is all that I need to access my Cornerstone Courses (that seem to be improving every session, by the way!). I came home to partake in three different educational experiences (a retreat, a conference, and a event that’s in between those two) – three large conversations about the future of higher education.

So many things happened before I got on the plane to Toronto on Thursday night, however. There was our second 10:01 pm feast, which intersected with birthday celebrations for Eynat and Guillame. Picture cake, warm, home-made biscuits, luscious scrambled eggs, dangerously spicy ghost pepper hot sauce, and arm wrestling. Actually, I’ll show you a few pictures:

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Asad Chishti friend from Toronto (and one of my three blog readers!) had biked all the way to SF from Portland, so Andrew, Shane and I lunched with him in Chinatown. We were avoiding bird poop air bombs in a vacant playground when a man who I recognized from a Complex Systems class-assigned TED talk walked by us. Talk about coincidence! A complex systems data storyteller is only a few blocks away from us. A great reminder of what a magical place SF can be.

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This week in class, we discussed pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, debated the true nature of artificial intelligence, investigated urban/rural water access, and talked about the feedback loops that led to the 2008 financial crisis. We also went to a dress rehearsal of the SF Opera. We watched “A Masked Ball”, a story of indomitable, tragic passion. You could see the ending coming from a mile away, but when it happened I was so MOVED. Miscommunication is at the heart of so much heartbreak, I tell you.

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The next day, I boarded a plane to Toronto, dozed through the red-eye voyage and packed for a weekend long discussion of higher education at McMaster University, my old stomping grounds. It was thought-provoking, lovely and challenging. For the first time, I graphically recorded conversations on a full size whiteboard! I’m falling under the spell of the complexities of higher education – figuring out what needs to change, what is in the way and why – it’s captivating, challenging and perhaps at a tipping point.

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I came home to a dinner with my parents, sister and grandmothers. How nice it is to laugh with the people you love!

Tomorrow I will take my classes remotely for the first time. We’ll see how that goes! Till then, take care!

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