A Little Learning V

The original intention of A Little Learning (which began here) was that I should do minimal edits on some notes I already had, and post a new installment every day. The best-laid plans of mice and men, and all that. In effect, I always have more things I’d like to write for QL than time to devote to it, so there is no way to do a daily series unless I give it priority over everything else in the queue.

Whether this series might become daily again I can’t say, but the hiatus is over.

Anyway! As you may remember, life is a marathon, and if you try to sprint your way through a marathon you’re going to get yourself into a mess.

The difficulty of understanding the marathon analogy (a difficulty which every young adult grapples with, and which our perverse educational system only aggravates) makes it difficult to structure your life appropriately. If you want to run a marathon but can’t figure out how to do it because your world is structured to create the illusion that life is a sprint, the first step is to find some way to fight the illusion. Once you have escaped from the illusion, then you’ll be able to tackle the problem itself.

Find a sport you like; play it; take it seriously. Stay in shape; lift weights; get strong. Try to excel at something (or better yet, at many things). If you play an instrument, and you pour your soul into it for years, that will serve the same purpose; likewise for mastering painting or other artistic techniques. Nearly any activity you enjoy can help you learn about learning if you can pursue them passionately. Even serious games (like chess or go, not Pokémon) have the same potential.

In all of these activities, you can succeed or you can fail. There is some goal, whether it is to move a lump of metal or paint a human face. Certain people have the ability to reach the goal. Others lack it. You will demonstrate which you are. You can pursue simple goals or more advanced goals; you can pursue them proficiently or deficiently, beautifully or awkwardly.

Over the course of several years, you’ll learn to value discipline and patience, and you’ll start to be more aware of the difference between the cultivation of excellence and short-term trivialities that distract from it.

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