Studying as a Path to Action


It’s raining cats and dogs here, instead of snowing as it should. Rain is falling through a hole in the roof directly into my bedroom wall, bulging out the paint, and trickling down from a nail-hole behind my picture of two loritos.

I’ve been enacting a program of self-study, in which I am attempting to glean information on permacultural precepts and high-altitude gardening in order to draw up a proposal so that I can apply these ideas on the land where I work. It is somewhat like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I now feel like there is never enough time at the end of the day, or on the weekends, and I find myself wishing that I was like the robot in Shortcircuit, able to flip through a book in seconds and retain all the information in my memory banks. Alas, of course, I remember little, so I’ve been using index cards instead.

I have to say that I am grateful for living in this age of information. The internet is such an incredible reference tool. Alls you gotta do is type in some search strings and a whole shit-ton of information is out there on any conceivable topic. It’s like people are just bursting at the seams to spew out their little insights and tidbits of wisdom. Look at how people are falling over themselves to post free and intricately detailed reviews and overviews on sites such as Wikipedia and Amazon. I guess we have to thank our corporate nation god for all of that wonderful idle time that office jobs give intelligent people. Without laziness and boredom (which is what drives you to read this very page in first place), there probably wouldn’t be much of interest on the internet at all.

It’s funny because I was a lazy ass motherf-cker in college (I can’t believe that was 6 years ago), and I prided myself on never studying and still passing all my classes without getting a slum village grade point average. That’s the advantage of being an English major and having reading and writing come easy to you. I wasted my time. I was bored. I was lazy. I hated the establishment. I despised academia. I couldn’t understand how anyone could devote a whole night in the library to studying, let alone their entire lives to some generalized, inapplicable ideas. I still don’t, to be honest. But I have found that when I am truly interested in something and I really want to learn it, whether it be Spanish, wines, housekeeping, or Permaculture, then I will gladly spend hours, days, and even months immersed in texts and on-line searches, my body in strange shapes of contortion to catch lamplight onto a page. Because this is knowledge that I know that I can and will apply in the real world. True knowledge is, indeed, an empowerment.

But of course, ultimately there is no superior teacher to actual live wire trial by fire, the hands-on training, the experimentation and eventual mastery obtained only through feeling, intuition, observation, and repetition. You could read all day about how to perform an Aikido reversal on someone coming at you with a punch, but until you actually put your hands on someone and attempt it, over and over again, you won’t be able to do it in a fight. I have found, however, that just having read someone else’s account of how to do it, and the tricks they have learned, gives me the confidence to quickly master my own approach to a technique. It allows me visualize the process, to learn what to expect, and most importantly, minimize my own mistakes by finding out what a master has already had to go through to get there.

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Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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