Today I asked one of the seminary professors about some of the classes that will be offered in the 2010/2011 school year. In the course of our conversation, he said that he encourages his students to be more concerned about getting an education than getting a degree. This is good advice. A person can get a degree without really getting educated.
An education (*and* a degree) has been precisely what I’m after–I want to immerse myself in the subject matter, absorb it, make it my own. I don’t want to just put out a product and be compensated for it. I got my university degree mostly by putting out a product: the professors were the consumers, and I put out a product that met their demand. Quite often, very little thought went into those papers–they are created for someone else’s benefit, not mine. That is precisely not what I want to do here and now. But I’m finding it difficult, when faced with a heavy workload, to not simply put out a product.
This semester is already overwhelming me in many ways, even though looking at my syllabi, the assignment demands aren’t all that high. It’s the day-to-day work, the stuff that needs to be done between classes in order to understand and participate in class. It’s the reading I have to do each week, it’s the translating and vocabulary I need to memorize (I’m way behind on my vocab–in fact, I should be doing vocab instead of writing this), it’s the daily journaling, etc. I enjoy all of these things; all of my classes are interesting and engaging. But when I combine all the class preparation with the assignments that are due, I’m overwhelmed. I’m trying to schedule a certain amount of time each day for the things that need doing, but I still seem to plod along and never get as much done as I had hoped and planned.
For my Theology and Practice of Christian Spirituality and Formation class I’m reading a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The next chapter in the book is about letting go of things. I imagine this will be “things that hinder”. And I recognize that there are some things I could cut back on. I rarely watch TV anymore, but the internet–Oh! The wasted hours! I need to give up being current and up-to-date on blogs and Facebook statuses.
Dixie would never think of me as a person in a hurry, but it has become apparent to me that my mind is always on the go (although I do have the knack for shutting it off when my head hits the pillow). It’s always on something: something I want to say here, the assignments I have due, the reading I need to do, the reading I want to do, this thing, that thing. My mind is a cluttered mess preventing me from focusing on anything, whether it’s school or prayer (or any other spiritual discipline). And I’m wondering if underneath that mess there are some things I may need to deal with, things that I am blocking out or ignoring precisely by fillin my mind with time-wasters and distractions. These things, I suspect, can tell me things about my personality, my work ethic, how I interact with people, who I think I am, etc. etc. How do I get through that clutter and find that…thing?
That professor I was talking to this morning said that he tells students to do whatever it takes to get an education (as opposed to just getting a degree. We didn’t finish our conversation, but I think he meant, Take this class not that class, simply audit this class, take less classes each semester, take your time completing your degree, worry less about your grades and more about what you’re learning, etc.
In connection with this Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book , I think one thing I may have to give up is achieving. I may have to give up (or severely restrict) my internet usage (it’s more of an addiction than an interest these days anyway). I may have to give up some socializing, just when I actually am getting to know people with whom to socialize.
But I have a wife and children to consider. I have a life other than me and school. And I’m at a stage in my life where losing sleep is no longer worth handing a paper in on time.
Balance. Focus. Two things I need.
And, perhaps ironically, I think I need to start practicing Sabbath in some way or other. I need to take time to stop and give up control and just be, whether that’s by stopping for an hour in the middle of the day just to be silent (a separate discipline, I suppose, but still a way of stopping) or actually taking a day (Saturdays, probably) to not work.