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Poem: "The Willingness to Learn" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Willingness to Learn"
This poem is from the November 7, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] technoshaman and [personal profile] peoriapeoriawhereart. It also fills the "make a list" square in my 7-1-17 card for the Winter Fest in July Bingo and the "day" square in my 10-31-17 Time card for the Space and Time Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] technoshaman. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"The Willingness to Learn"


Shiv jittered in place on his futon,
listening to Dr. G go on and on
about classes for grownups, as if
Shiv hadn't told him a million times
that he hated school. Therapy day
could be a real pain in the ass.

"I know, you're not a fan of
the classes you had in the past,"
Dr. G said, patting the air as if he
was trying to smooth wrinkles out of it.
"I also know that you've done well with
some alternative learning experiences,
such as Dr. Bloch's famous fruit tour."

Shiv licked his lips at the memory.
"Okay, so that didn't suck," he admitted.
"But that was breakfast, not class."

"There are other people who prefer
teaching and learning that way," Dr. G said.
"Besides, you're a frugal fellow and right now
your main entertainment is movies. I thought
you might appreciate some free options."

"Do I have to?" Shiv whined.
School wasn't entertainment.

"No, you don't have to," Dr. G said.
"I figured that you probably wouldn't
look up much if anything on your own,
so I took the liberty of making a list
of things that might tempt you."

"Sure they will," Shiv drawled.
"Because I just love studying shit."

For a split second, Dr. G looked
so heartbroken that Shiv wondered
if he had just hit a sore spot he didn't
even know was there, but then
the expression vanished.

"The capacity to learn is a gift,
the ability to learn is a skill, and
the willingness to learn is a choice,"
Dr. G said softly. "I think you've had
enough choices taken away from you
that you need to get this one back."

"Uh huh," Shiv said, not feeling
at all like he had a choice in this.

"I would like you to take a peek
at what I found," Dr. G said. "If you
hate all of them, you don't have to go,
and I'll drop the topic if you insist.
Either way, though, you still get
to keep the pretty pictures."

"Whatever," Shiv said,
kicking the frame of the futon.
He had learned that he could
usually get Dr. G to quit bugging him
if he pretended to go along a little.
"Wait, what kind of pictures?"

"Here's what I found coming up
in Omaha this week," Dr. G said
as he spread out some flyers.

"Meditation?" Shiv sneered,
jabbing a finger at the one on top.
"You know I'm a supervillain, right?
The fuck I need that for?"

"It helps people feel calm
instead of anxious," Dr. G said.
"I remember you appreciated some
of what Ambrose showed you, so I
thought you might like to know that
there are options here in Omaha too."

"Yeah, I bumped into some local Quakers.
They thought I was one of 'em because I was
staring at their circle-thingy they were doing
in the park," Shiv said. "They showed me
where their meeting house is. It's quiet."

Shiv wasn't into that prayer shit at all,
but Quakers did it in their heads somehow,
and he could appreciate a place to hide.

"That's good to hear," Dr. G said.
"It never hurts to make new Friends."

Shiv chuckled at the change in tone.
He had heard Rosie say "Friends"
the same way, enough to recognize it.

"Here's a sign language club," Dr. G said.

"I don't know sign," Shiv said. "I mean,
not more than a few things I've seen
that kind of stuck in my head."

"It's a learning club as well as
a conversational club," Dr. G said.
"Exploring sign language would give you
something to do with your hands."

Shiv looked down and saw that
his fingers were drumming on
his knees again. He tucked them
under his thighs. "I dunno, maybe."

"Severe Storm Spotter Training might
appeal to your situational awareness,"
Dr. G said. "The weather out here
gets pretty intense sometimes."

Shiv rolled his eyes. "Dude.
You live in California, that's like
earthquake central," he said.
"How can you be worried
about plain old weather?"

"We have early warning systems
for earthquakes; tornadoes can
drop out of any thunderstorm,"
Dr. G said. "To me, that's scary."

Shiv shrugged. "We have
tornado warnings too," he said.
"So what else you got for me?"

"The Omaha Magical Society
offers a lot of activities for members,
and occasional ones free to the public,"
Dr. G said, tapping another flyer.
"This one is on coin tricks."

"I already can do those,"
Shiv said, then snickered.
"You could always go, though."

"Perhaps I should," Dr. G said.

Well, it had to be better than
taking lessons from Shiv, although
they had gotten to the point where
Dr. G only dropped the coin
about half the time now.

"Last one, and I admit that
this is a long shot --" Dr. G began.

"Oh, what's that?" Shiv said,
leaning forward to snatch
the flyer from his hand.

"Tactile Math," Dr. G said.
"It's a free class offered at
the W. Dale Clark Library."

"Not the class, I mean this thing,"
Shiv said. His fingertips traced
the colorful shape printed on
the page. "It looks like a ruffle,
but what is this really?"

"I have no idea," Dr. G said,
taking out his tablet computer.
"Let's look it up, that'll be fun."

Shiv rolled his eyes again.
"Yeah, right," he muttered.

But it was.

Dr. G typed in words
and phrases from the flyer,
then pretty soon had an answer.

"It's a hyperbolic plane rendered
in crochet," he said. "Beautiful, but
probably a bit over your head."

"But it's pretty," Shiv said,
staring at the new pictures.

"Well, there's no reason you can't
go and admire the art," Dr. G said.
"It's not like there's a test after class,
and I picked up the flyer because I
thought you'd like the yarn sculptures.
The crafter passes them around for
people to play with during the lecture."

Shiv's fingers positively itched
to get into those colorful curls.
"I'll think about it," he said.

"That's all I ask," Dr. G said,
patting him on the shoulder.

* * *

Notes:

"The capacity to learn is a GIFT; the ability to learn is a SKILL; the willingness to learn is a CHOICE."
Brian Herbert


The W. Dale Clark Library lies just west of the Gene Leahy Mall in Omaha, Nebraska.

Shiv's body language shows signs of insecurity.

Continuing education has many benefits. Here's an example of one such program. Ideally, it should make learning fun.

One thing that gifted children and adults share is intense love of learning. They don't seek out knowledge just for its practical applications, but because it excites their pleasure circuit. The fact that most people don't work this way is one reason why gifted people tend to have trouble making friends. Even the gregarious ones just can't grok the idea of someone hating to learn things. Dr. G knows, intellectually, that Shiv's bad experiences have left him disinclined to learn anything he doesn't have to, but it's still hard to resist the temptation to show Shiv cool things that might interest him, because that is a fundamental way that gifted people interact.

Some examples of continuing education include meditation, sign language, and severe storm spotter training. Note that these all relate to different interests or traits that Shiv has.

Fear is one of the basic human emotions. In L-America, men are notorious for hiding it. However, this ties into general human tendencies to overlook certain types of threat. People tend to adjust to local dangers, so for instance, Californians may grow inured to earthquakes just as people in tornado alley don't get exercised about tornadoes. Native Americans give a different reason: according to their traditions, tornadoes can be influenced by certain humans. Things subject to influence are generally less scary than ones that aren't. T-America has come much farther in normalizing fear, so people are more inclined to talk about it. Even Shiv, who is cagey as they come, does not hesitate to make at least oblique reference to finding earthquakes more daunting than tornadoes. There are ways to talk about your fears and coax a man to open up about his fears.

The Omaha Magical Society in L-America probably doesn't do free classes. Thing is, local magicians have a ginormous problem enticing new people into an awesome hobby or career, because they tend to be damn insular about it. L-American ones figured out they were cutting themselves off at the knees and started doing community outreach. What they perform and teach for free at street fairs or community centers is mostly stuff you can find all over the internet already -- but you get to learn it from a live person, which is really cool. Hence why it's more popular as a hobby there than here, and even someone like Shiv could easily pick up a few tricks because he actually learns quite well from demonstrations.

Tactile math excels at teaching basic concepts and is well suited to both kinesthetic and visual learners. Finger counting is one of many methods that help such students understand math. If people hadn't spent so much time slapping Shiv for trying to learn in ways that actually made sense to him, then he'd know a lot more math than he does now.

The higher math of crochet is an example of how tactile math extends far beyond elementary school. It can be used to model everything from coral reefs to hyperbolic planes. In T-America you can get whole college courses on this; there are always some in each department that use alternative learning modes so people bad at the usual ones don't flunk out as often. (I wish I'd known about this stuff when my grandmother was alive. I think she would've loved it -- she used to freehand crochet all kinds of stuff, just figuring out patterns in her head.) Here are homework instructions for crocheting a hyperbolic plane. Enjoy some images of hyperbolic crochet. You can see why Shiv would go nuts over these things, with his visual-tactile orientation.

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