February 25, 2014

Encouraging an outside the box education

By Daniel Runnels–

One important thing that my time at U of L has done for me has been to provoke an academic crisis of sorts. To tell the truth, I’m kind of thankful for this! It is a little sad to me that so many students pass through university institutions in four, six or eight years with precisely the same academic and career goals they started with. We’ve got to be diverse!

To be fair, most degree programs do have an interdisciplinary component that requires math students to have some basic humanities training and humanities students to know something about numbers. This is good, and in the end this makes for a more complete student.

In our quest to be well-rounded individuals, the university institution rightly encourages us to explore various disciplines and ways of viewing the world; India, classical literature and calculus are all interesting. As well as automotive technology, Japanese, music therapy and women’s studies. I like what Robert Heinlein said: “Specialization is for insects.”

Often times, in our journey to being well-rounded, we are directed towards time-tested texts and theories, as well as serious research by renowned scholars. Our interest in revered texts is warranted, but how do we engage with crazy people? Here I only partly mean crazy people who see the Virgin Mary in their burnt toast, but mostly I’m referring to people whose ideas exist on the margins of mainstream acceptability.

There is, of course, a widely held romantic view of the street corner prophet who demonizes rampant consumerism or rages against the man, but sometimes these “crazy” ideas come from even less anomalous places.

What do we do with, for example, someone like Matías de Stefano? An Argentinean Indigo child who claims to remember (in great detail) past lives and “historic events that have occurred before what humanity knows,” Matías is a young man who aims to bring us messages about the world from long ago. He also honors Ater Tumti and alleges that he has a connection to the lost city of Atlantis, 10,000 B.C.E.

He is articulate, good looking and humble. You can find him on YouTube and you’ll notice that he doesn’t spew wild tales at the camera like a cable news host. By all accounts he is a normal dude who just happens to speak ancient languages and transmit messages from the cosmos that the rest of us supposedly need to hear.

This seems a bit much, right? Walking across campus, I doubt that you would find many students who would put much stock in Matías’ accounts of the history of our world. Still, woven throughout his discourse are moments of depth and clarity that, if given the chance, would strike a chord with many people.

Do we allow his ideas access to our mind and soul in spite of some of the things he says to which we feel great resistance? What is one to do with a message that, at times, resonates with you and, at times, sounds too fantastical to be taken seriously?

Beauty and truth can be found just about anywhere – certainly our university courses and academic inquiries have given a lot of us great knowledge and a sense of fulfillment, but we should be willing to listen to crazy people who just might have something worth hearing.

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