Satirical Morons’ March puts a different perspective on long-distance, long-term education

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SANTA FE, N.M. I’m in America’s oldest state capital, in Café Olé, with a sandwich and drink and new hope to never become a moron.

Here for some postgrad studies, I’m also enjoying a recent copy of America’s satirical news tabloid, The Onion.

“Nation’s Morons March on Washington State,” is its banner headline. Thousands of morons, the Onion reports, recently marched in Washington State thinking they were actually in Washington, D.C.

The rally had no particular goal, no real message. But the Onion reports that protesters were visibly angry about things like war, peace, food, music, money, baseball, cars, the people following them around, siblings, animals, plants, colours and movies.

“I’m against things!” one North Carolina resident reportedly screamed.

“I didn’t come all this way to be ignored!” yelled another toward a marble-columned insurance building in Olympia, Washington, thinking it was the White House. “I have kids!”

“I didn’t know Seattle was in Washington D.C.,” said a turned-around Connecticut resident.

Apparently 75,000 gathered, but hundreds of the morons also got lost in a nearby park.

It’s wickedly funny parody. And, of course, it’s about things that aren’t uniquely American. Canada has its share of morons too.

God save us from them. And from ourselves. And from what we think we know. And from school.

They’re good summertime thoughts, don’t you think? Save us from becoming educated idiots.

Not that I’m down on all things school. In fact, I’ve likely broken some sort of travel record for the degree that’s about to be put into my hand.

I’ve moved myself not only from Hamilton to residencies here in Santa Fe, but from my home in Uganda to Seattle Pacific University. That’s the school — yes, based near where those morons reportedly met — that offers this low-residency program that includes stints here in New Mexico.

For it all, I’ve read dozens of authors and hundreds of stories. I’ve written tens of thousands of words. I’ve dropped a semester to fight off malaria, then started again. And I’ve travelled more than 66,000 kilometres — some 60,055 by plane and 5,979 by train. More or less.

This, as you might imagine, has been an education in itself. Then, there’s getting student visas from a place as disorganized as East Africa, a region that can also be on the radar of U.S. security.

“How old are you?” said the customs agent who flipped through my passport and raised his eyebrows while I transferred to Santa Fe through Dallas. “And what do you do in Uganda?”

No, this whole education thing hasn’t come easy. After community college, while reporting full-time, I started undergrad studies through another sort of distance education. Think cassette tapes and faxed assignments from the local stationery store.

Later, I must have been the only student in the history of the University of Waterloo to have assignments sent to Yemen, my overseas home before Uganda.

During graduation for that one, I leaned to the graduate beside me and said, “It took me 20 years to get this.”

“It took me 25,” he said.

No, not easy at all. At times, maybe just a necessary evil. But still, there’s been great joy on this journey. There has to be, or why would anyone bother?

To earn a living? Maybe. But that’s never enough. Any of us need more than a living from our studies. We need a life.

Do you ever listen to yours? Your life, that is. What it’s whispering through all those other voices, what it’s trying to tell you about who you really are?

We usually think in terms of finding a sense of “vocare” — our vocation, our deep calling. In truth, if we pay attention to our life, these things find us. Look less and listen more. Then get work that’s not just needed in the marketplace, but something more mysterious and gratifying.

It’s possible to approach these things differently. But it seems to me that without this sort of compass, you’ll get lost in the education woods. You’ll wander. And eventually you’ll bump into those morons.