When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
Read Walt Whitman’s poem below. What implications may it have, not just for this course, but for your journey toward a master’s degree?
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If you are pursuing a master's degree, you are going to have to learn a lot of information. Depending on your field, it may be mathematical formulas, scientific data, a vast body of literature -- no matter. However, in this poem, the poet acknowledges that sometimes one can suffer from information overload.
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide and measure them;
When the poet considers all of the "stuff" of learning, he becomes bored and goes outside and looks at the night sky. Ah! He is instantly amazed, for in gazing at the sky, he is really learning. He is not bored. He is soaking in a true appreciation of the world. He can learn more by observing the real "learned astronomer" who is the creator of the "perfect silence" of the stars. It is a mystical experience for him.
So, like the poet, will the learning that you obtain from your advanced degree enrich your life? It should. If not, it will merely be proofs, figures, charts and diagrams.
This is a fairly interesting question. I would say that the implications of the poem does not fully reject academic study, but rather demands that individuals take their voice and their distinctive qualities with them as they pursue their studies in the academy. There are times when immersed in the world of writings and defensible ideas that individuals surrender their own voices to the "experts," their own "Learn'd Astronomer." Whitman was emphatic about individuals finding, claiming, and living in accordance to their own subjective voice. Entry into the deepest recesses of the academy should not silence or suppress our voices to "experts," but rather complement them and seek to broaden the discussion with the integration of as many voices as possible into the discourse.
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