By now, you’re catching the drift of our thoughts and some of the great reflections and personal insights that have been emerging as we explore Belief this month. In the last few days you’ve seen Marta start to pinpoint some of her beliefs, and experienced Madelene’s beautiful artwork which reflects on her faith. Thus, I suppose it’s my turn to contribute my own “This I Believe” Essay.
BUT….before I get into the meat of my “this I believe” essay I want to mention the process of coming up with my beliefs, dare I even say – core beliefs.
It was hard.
I spent two days refining my list of big conceptual ideas/beliefs down to 6 really foundational values that I think are reflected in most of my thoughts and actions. But in order even to get it there I had to look through the past couple years of my journals, and a whole host of blog posts I’ve written on my personal blog to see what types of beliefs cropped up over and over. Once I had these “Big 6” (which I called Values) I realized that there were a lot of little beliefs that surface under one category heading. For example – One of my values is “Community,” but one of my beliefs is that “People succeed in Groups.”
There’s no way I’m going to let all this reflection go to waste – I’m going to write at least one or two other blog posts about beliefs – but, I’m going to post it on my personal blog. Our group blog isn’t really the place to (as Marta put it) get up on my soapbox.
Enough with the introduction already though – Here’s one of my beliefs
Don’t just Read – Study.
I’ve been a reader since I was three, which is when my mom tells me I memorized and recited back to her “Go Dog Go.” Maybe you recall that book too?
But if I was a bit precocious as a reader, I came really late to the idea of study – in fact – about twenty years after that original example of my ‘reading’ – which was also several years after I had graduated from college.
In high school I whizzed through books like A Separate Peace, Animal Farm, and Beloved, and painstakingly put in my time with Algebra and Chemistry.
I boasted that I did all my ‘studying’ in the early morning. In eleventh grade I would go to bed at 9pm each night and set my alarm to wake me up at the wee hour of 3 am (yes, really.) where I would then blearily complete my assignments, go to school, unload my brain onto assigned papers and test, and then forget (pretty much) everything.
** Mom and Dad, don’t read this next paragraph.**
The senioritis that last year of high school hit me pretty bad and I actually fell asleep in some of my classes. This behavior carried me through my freshman year (and part of sophomore year) of college too. I used to keep a tally of how much money I was wasting with my class skipping. Luckily I had a good friend in my dorm to drag me to (most of) my 8am classes.
So with this type of track record… how could I possibly believe in study? What changed my mind?
Surprisingly – organic farming.
After college I headed to New Zealand to work on organic farms with WWOOF – an organization that connects you with a network of farmers who will offer you room and board in exchange for five hours of work each day.
I hate to use a cliche like “finding yourself.” but in effect – I did. And myself was a person that turned out to like study – a lot. Mostly because amidst all the weed pulling, solitude, sheep bleating, and getting to know new people – I stopped defining study as reading. In fact I discovered that reading and study only overlap a little bit.
So what do I think study is? To me, study is about the relationship of one thing to another and to it’s place in a big picture. No ideas can be grown or read about in isolation – they have to have an environment where they are rooted. And if you wanted to know an environment you have to explore, imagine and unearth it’s nuances. Study opened up for me all those nuances. Instead of just reading something once and parroting back answers I now want to know about historical context, conflicts and the angst of it all.
Study has taught me there isn’t always an answer to big questions – life is full of what one author calls “divergent problems.” The more you read about them – the more you realize that there’s more than one solution, and they are all (in their own way) correct. Now, are there aspects of study that I find boring? Yes. Looking through research article databases doesn’t exactly thrill me, but I’ll do it.
But… like our blog subtitle talks about – putting the pieces into place – that “AHA!” moment – I live for that – and studying gives it to me. I plan to continue studying – myself, the environment, communities, people – for a good long time – and certainly brushing up on all the different ways there are to study too.