Going to '17: The Learning Agenda

I wrote a post earlier about my reading enterprise in 2016 (see here), something of a narrative account of my book diary and a Goodread's Reading Challenge that I indulged myself with. As an aggregate, it showed a failure - I only finished half as many books cover to cover as I set out to do - and fragmentation of goals and enterprises, as I followed several different agenda and did not complete any of those in any form.

In a way, this is fine. I wanted to follow my heart in what I chose to read, and it really could not have been otherwise. In a sense, I want my relationship with my books to be impulsive yet profound, momentary yet forever remembered, free of commitment but laden with meaning. This is what I am, perhaps: Long ago, someone promised me a relationship with 'all the dimensions, but no destination', and though all the details of that conversation have faded, the idea remained with me, and now morphed into a quest for me to be lived in the books.

But, then, books are for a reason. I do not read to entertain myself. In fact, I see this idea of reading as entertainment, all the industry of pulp fiction and the practise of reading to fill time, with suspicion: It is that dreaded consumer fashion seeping into my sacred space. I make it a point to declare that as I do not read to fill the time, the common and awkward question, 'where do you find time to read', is somewhat irrelevant. 

But, then, why do I read? I noticed that every time I write about reading, I, unconsciously, make a case that I read to learn. In the earlier post, I spoke about my project about Creative Cities, which has receded in the background as other interests took over, and my interest in economic development, enlightenment and ideas, and indeed in history and politics. This may fit into a paradigm, that I am reading for learning. This makes me less crazy, though not completely out of the jail, as learning may no longer be viewed as an entirely wasteful enterprise (it was interesting to hear a business associate recently describe me, rather affectionately, as 'bookish'). 

This is indeed my paradigm too, or rather the excuse: That I am spending all this time and money on books because I am learning. The alternative, describing all this as a hobby, would make me appear profligate and even somewhat lazy. But, this leads me to another question: What am I learning? This is where perhaps the 'all the dimensions, but no destination' is the most appropriate. My learning is indeed thematic and have specific objectives in themselves, but those objectives are not, as one would expect, neatly connected with some outcome, career-specific or otherwise.

In fact, one of the key things in 2016 was that despite engaging into a significant reading enterprise, I did not read any business books. None! I did buy a few, though I would describe the ones I bought more as technology books rather than business books. I have generally been interested in the development of technology and how it affects jobs and wider society, both historically - and hence my readings on Capitalism, Industrial Revolution and even Middle Ages - and at our own time. My work, which is all about bridging education with employment or enterprise, did make it more interesting: There was a reason for me to try to develop a well-considered argument!

As I approach 2017 then, I see a fuller development of this interest. 2017 is likely to be a significant year globally, as the politics of countries shifting rapidly with a Trump Presidency, a real Brexit and increasing conflicts and realignment of powers and interests; for me, personally, 2017 is the year when I start again, after the necessary penance of the failed experimentation is complete, on a new enterprise. In more than one way, 2017 is a year of decisions for me, and chief among them is a call I have to take about whether I should go on living in Britain, or whether I should look to migrate again, either back to India (or Southeast Asia, which is more interesting) or to Mainland Europe.

Big questions like this, rather than tame ones such as which job I should do, usually define my learning agenda. I expect to continue a few things I am doing - such as my pursuit of History of Ideas - and add a few new things, perhaps learning a language and culture (German and Russian are the two alternatives I am contemplating now). I also expect to align my writing with these explorations, and write more than just blog posts (a plan I made and abandoned many times) - and indeed, seek to align my work more closely.



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