Friday, February 08, 2013

First Tutorial

So, last night, Thursday, was my first tutorial. My tutor appears to be very nice - I had spoken to her already on the phone, so the ice was broken. I spent the day trying to instill a sense of zen calm into myself, without success. My lovely daughter gave me a pep talk, reminding me that I should really go to the first tutorial at least. By 6 p.m. I had the beginning of a migraine and palpitations that felt as if my chest might burst. In fact anxiety and stress are my secret super powers.

My husband gave me a lift to the Open University regional centre, where the tutorial was to be held.  I had my book bag with a pencil box, notepaper, drink, reading glasses etc and was ready to go. Then we couldn't find the door, or even the building, cue my husband yelling out of the car window at some poor innocent stranger. We asked for directions but when we found the campus it was pretty big and we still weren't sure where we needed to be. At which point I said 'let's just go home'. My head and chest felt as if they were going to explode and I was heating up to boiling point. Finally we found a door that appeared to be open and spotted some people!!! Hurrah! I quickly mumbled to the security guy 'Is this the right place for the AA100 tutorial ?'. Everyone replied in the affirmative !

After signing in I got in the lift with a lady who had a hearing dog with her, she was really nice and said, 'is it your first time? follow me'

Which I did.

Right into the wrong tutorial.

Reader, I was embarrassed.

Especially because I didn't realise my mistake until a man I had assumed was a student stood up to talk - my tutor is a lady. At this point I hurriedly gathered my belongings and ran out of the room.

Consequently by the time I got to the correct room I was hyperventilating, overheating and the palpitations were in overdrive!

However I needn't have worried. Out of a possible fifteen students there were seven of us, six ladies and one young man. After an initial icebreaker* where we introduced ourselves we did a couple of exercises on close reading and interpreting of historical documents - these were connected to Cleopatra, next week we will be tackling Dr Faustus. One way or another. We left just after 9 p.m. and although I found the whole thing extraordinarily difficult I did enjoy it and will endeavour to go next week. I think I will be missing the visit to the Art Gallery though!

* Whenever someone mentions an icebreaker I am reminded of an occasion, many years ago, when my mother, then living in Scarborough, attended a seminar for one of the voluntary organisations she was involved in. The icebreaker required each attendee to share something from their personal life that they had found difficult to deal with. My mum shared about how hard she had found it, as a churchgoer, when I met and married a Turkish Muslim. Mum talked about the cultural and religious differences as well as the language barrier. Another lady was listening very intently and at the end leaned across to mum in a conspiratorial manner and said 'I know just how you feel dear, you see, my daughter married a Whitby boy'.

Which just goes to show, it's all about perspective.

Officially A Student. I am.

So, on the 2nd of February I became a student of the Open University which is, as I am increasingly discovering, a truly marvelous institution. I intend to increase my blog output as part of my student experience - my first module is named Arts Past and Present and appears to include quite a bit of reading and writing! And analyzing for that matter.

 I have been ruminating about signing up to the OU for a number of years, but, it never seemed to be the right time. Nowadays I have a lot of free time and would like to be able to work towards getting back into the workplace - albeit I would prefer to work from home. Maybe I could do proofreading or something similar. Initially I have signed up to do an Open Degree, a BA - science really isn't my thing.

The reason for this is that when working toward an Open Degree it is possible to mix and match modules according to personal taste and interest. Now my interests lie with religion (and faith, but that of course, is a different kettle of fish entirely), history, culture etc etc. At 18 I had hoped to read Anthropology at university but didn't get the required A-level results. So, now I am thinking I may switch to a more specialised degree in Religious Studies or History - I am finding a History degree very attractive as it covers the Reformation.

So, our first tutorial and assignment cover the reputation of Cleopatra and a section from the play Dr Faustus.

Now, I don't know if, you, dear reader, know anything about Cleopatra or
Dr. Faustus - but I didn't. When I think of Cleopatra I think of Elizabeth Taylor and the 1963 epic or even Amanda Barrie in the 1964 production Carry on Cleo. So I kind of imagine she was typically Egyptian (leaving aside that in the cinema at least she is generally portrayed by white Anglo Saxon women) with that distinctive hairstyle etc. However, she was, of course, Hellenistic in origin and, as evidenced by some artifacts, wore her hair in a more typically Greek fashion. It is also interesting to note that, unlike the portrayals of her in the cinema, she was, most likely, extremely intelligent and an astute politician. Films tend to portray her as being a stunningly, beautiful temptress who used her feminine wiles to get her wicked way with and even, in the case of Antony, emasculate the most powerful men of her time - probably not true. Even her beauty may be a figment of cinematic imagination - coins from the period depict her looking more like a very stern Judy than a sexy Elizabeth Taylor!

However, history is written by the victor and so our perception of Cleopatra is coloured by those who wrote about her - and most likely they were her enemies.

So, onto Dr Faustus. The language of the play doesn't bother me, it was written by Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare, credited with the 'development' of the iambic pentameter. Since I read the Authorised Version of the bible I find Faustus relatively easy to read and understand. Marlowe is an interesting, and enigmatic, character, biographies about him tend to start with his death and there is some debate as to whether he was one of Walsingham's spies or whether he had betrayed God, Queen and Country and converted to Roman Catholicism. When I first read and listened to Dr Faustus my immediate thought was what a dreadful, sad play!! Here is a man who, seemingly, has everything - a tremendous intellect, a first class education, amazing opportunities to improve the world around him and benefit others and what does he do? Chooses to sell his soul to the devil. For a period of 24 years - which, in my not so humble opinion, is the worst bargain since Jack sold his cow for a handful of beans. It seems to me that Faustus is a character who can be easily transposed into today's society. We increasingly see and hear of individuals who have, or want, EVERYTHING, who are dissatisfied with their lot in life and go to desperate measures in order to feel content and fulfilled.

What people forget is that we are made by God, for a purpose, that purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him FOREVER. This phrase actually comes from the Shorter Catechism with proof texts from the Bible. So, if we have no personal relationship with God we will feel discontented and miserable, and nothing we do will make any difference - because, at the end of the day, only God Himself can, in effect, complete us. It seems likely to me that Marlowe, when writing this play, was undergoing a crisis of faith it is my hope that, when he was murdered, he was a saved man.

John 3:16 - 18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.