The realms of higher education can be a space of illuminating passion, or high-spaced intensity. Exams, papers, projects, and working towards graduation brings more stress than one can realize. Sometimes University campus spaces are filled with intense stress. Yet, its the breaks and activities happening in open spacing, that transforms institutions of higher learning into, magical havens of learning. And, I don’t mean just the excitement one experiences, when they leave class. No. There are those particular clusters and observations that you end up walking by. It wasn’t planned. Just happened to take place, on a sporadic moment. Aligned with that Universal imagination. And, that’s what makes it magical!
On a bright, Egyptian, sunny day at the American University in Cairo, while walking through Bartlett Plaza, I came across the serenity of one magical moment. Magical and Musical, indeed.
In Egypt, you can see reflections and glitters of particular cultures. Being a Black American woman, I have been reminded of Jazz, Blues, Country, R&B, Soul, and Hip Hop whispers, from Black America’s cultural gardens. Just simple reminders that home can sometimes be nearby, if you listen, closely.
There I was, and there they were. A group of Egyptian-Arab students playing particular rhythms of Jazz. One of them wore a hat, and the whole persona reminded me of a New Orleans, river boat, where a group of Black American musicians are coloring the boat with sheer energies of. . .magical joy!
Wearing tap shoes, the young woman of the group was present; engaging in certain rhythmic patterns, which seemed familiar. It was that breath of freshness, that makes learning institutions, fun. Reminding us that knowledge is an emotional and mental exploration of love. How we process knowledge should be flowing and soothing. Sometimes, knowledge is taught in a manner, that is rigid and stifled. It can be suffocating, at times, when it is not delivered, properly.
Seeing this group of students, was a shining light on campus. Their performance of another culture’s music, and right in front of the library, was symbolic of what education should be. Interconnecting and therapeutic. Stimulating them, while putting our minds at ease. They were fun, colorful (personality wise), and were using one cultural music form to ease any tensions, or stressful attributes happening on campus. Reminding by passers that educational campuses should be welcoming, inviting, and illuminating. Playing away any traces of boredom, which may have been present.
Those random moments of dance and music on University campuses (in this moment, the American University In Cairo), perform a beautiful painting of knowledge. That real knowledge is not entrapped in manuscripts. Knowledge is performed. It requires individuals going through their personal journeys, and experiencing creativity, at its finest. It requires social interaction with each other, outside of the classroom. It means that students unfamiliar to each other, prior to, can take a moment to join in together, in exploring a new culture. It can be random, and sporadic. Its as simple as walking through an area, seeing a beautiful image, and stopping to be part of it. Exploring that image. Immersing your existence into its presence. Engaging with others, whom you may not know. Yet, getting to know strangers, due to your shared passion for a particular sound, smell, taste, feeling, or image. For that one moment, or time, people can come together and share each other’s humanity. Its a euphoric experience and wonder for the human psyche.
So, on that day, in that moment, a peculiar sound flew by my ear. A peculiar rhythm swaded to my steps. All I had to do was move in its direction, and it would reveal its image. And what a sight that I came upon! In that timing, I knew that I belonged. I felt a sense of celebration and welcome. Any stress or hardships I may have been facing, during the day, had magically disappeared. Whether they were of it or not, they were demonstrating appreciation for a culture, not of their own birthing. And, when a maiden recognizes others performing whispers from her garden, she comes to acknowledge their presence. Letting them see her, and their recognizing of each other.
One of the beauties of those random performances and artistic ventures on campus, is that they illuminate the versatility of knowledge: random. Knowledge, in its naturality, is fluid. Designed for our minds to soak it up, and channel it throughout every sector in our being. It is meant to ease anxieties, dismantle hardened systems imposed upon the learning process. Like wind, knowledge flows throughout our Being. Often times, we are unable to experience this stress free mode of education, because we only see (or are expected to see) knowledge in the classroom. Within books, or closed, mental and structural, confines of learning, we remained isolated from this new world. It is part of that allure.
As that moment was coming to a close, it was important to capture such an engagement, in stillness. One Egyptian-Arab maiden, whom I have highlighted prior, brought her assistance in capturing this sacred time. It was only right for us to be captured again, together. Celebrating the flow freeing movement of knowledge, in education’s gardens. Transforming University and collegiate spaces into paradises, which eases life’s tensions. All the while, tapping in perfect steps, in the unpredictable of, times!