Sitting with the teens that I work with at church, one of them asked me why we have to go to school and learn things. Specifically things that she knew she was never going to have a need for later in life, such as history, literature, and algebra. We spent several minutes discussing the need for each of these subjects in life but there is something else to it.
Have you ever met someone that you truly admire and, upon spending any amount of time with them, realized that they are so much smarter than you?
There are several people in my life who I admire greatly...people whose thoughts, opinions, and company I feel like I cannot get enough of. I am drawn to them much like a moth is drawn to a flame. They fascinate me, intrigue me, and make me THINK. I love to think. I love to stretch my mind. I love to consider the opposing side of an argument simply because it forces my mind to go in directions it would not usually go. I enjoy spending time with people who make me think as it is like spending time getting a really good massage. Relaxing, refreshing, and invigorating.
They also cause me to feel regret…regret that I was not more diligent in school; regret that I haven’t read more, comprehended more, thought more. DONE more. These people who I admire are intelligent people who have been all over the world, experienced incredible things, thought incredible things, and seen incredible sights. And, in many ways, I feel inadequate.
I tried to explain to my kids that education is not just about taking a test or graduating from high school. It’s about using your brain to its fullest extent. It’s about filling it with as much as possible and stretching it in as many directions as possible so that you may participate in society fully and not just as a spectator. I tried to explain to them the feelings I felt when in conversation with someone much smarter than me that I admired and how frustrating it was not to have the depth of knowledge on subjects that they did.
I think, in many ways, I am merely behind.
It’s not that I am not smart. I am. It’s just that I squandered my formative years (though, looking back, I don’t know that I ‘squandered’ them per se…more like failed to take full advantage of them) and now I’m having to play catch-up. So I read. As much as possible. Books, internet, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes...you name it. And I pick the brains of those I admire, probably to the point of annoyance.
I was sitting at dinner with a friend and his wife and we began to talk about politics. I am very detail-oriented and can easily miss the forest for the trees. With regard to politics, I see about to November and maybe into January. But that’s about it. He, on the other hand, sees much farther (he said he’s more the type to run INTO the trees as he’s marveling at and running through the forest) and our conversation moved into how this election and the current world political situations play into the coming End Times. He definitely has a much more broad view and it fascinates me beyond words. He is one of those people who I admire greatly and I enjoyed spending a few minutes picking his brain. Easily I could have sat there for hours talking about all sorts of things with him. The rest of the evening was spent mulling over in my head the things we had discussed.
Again, I was struck by how limited my knowledge was. So I started researching which, o course, led me to ask questions. So the poor man was greeted at work on Monday morning with an email from me full of nothing but questions. Lucky guy. Like I said, I pick the brains of those I admire but often to the point of annoyance. He was generous and wrote back, answering the bulk of my questions patiently and thoroughly for which I am grateful. Of course I still have more questions.
Lex posted the link to a civics quiz the other day and, while I passed, my performance was lacking. My grade was essentially a B-. Granted, one of the questions had to do with bonds and I am hopelessly ignorant on that one but found that many whom I admire are as well. So at least I am in good company. But other questions stumped me that probably should not. I will admit that philosophy has never interested me (there were several questions regarding philosophy) but the questions about American history should not have troubled me.
I was blessed to have an incredible US History teacher in high school. Mr. Marshall was his name. Somewhat of a cross between Mr. Magoo and Elmer Fudd in demeanor but with a mind as sharp as a tack and a wit that was even sharper. Don’t fall asleep in his class or you would have found yourself with a teddy bear and a blanket in a Polaroid up on the wall of shame. He was a wonderful storyteller and did an incredible job of bringing the history of our country to life in that classroom. He was the reason I chose to travel to Washington, D.C. my senior year…I wanted to experience, first hand, some of the sights we had talked about in class. Yet, many of the facts I learned in that classroom somehow passed right through my brain and are no longer there to be recalled on an internet civics quiz.
So I relearn. I re-read. I try to refresh the facts and stories that once filled my mind. My teenagers think I’m nuts. They do not understand, in their youthful arrogance, the feeling of inadequacy and ignorance that is felt in the presence of those smarter than oneself. In many ways, I miss that arrogance. Yet I am grateful that I am painfully aware of the areas in which I lack and am therefore able to try to remedy them.
And now I am off to read.