Sunday, January 4, 2009

Do your own leg work!

In my vocation, I have the opportunity to examine medical trainees as they prepare for final certification before independent practice.  Preparation for this exam usually involves 18 months of intensive study during which time trainees pour over all relevant resources: textbooks, lecture notes, journal articles etc. to ensure that they have acquired as much knowledge within their discipline as possible.  This activity is "the radical minimum standard" as my friend Jude likes to say.  Without fail, every year, trainees begin to create their own study "cue cards" summarizing relevant points on particular topics.  When the exam rolls around, there are typically 1000-1500 cards in any given trainees collection.  One year,  a curious thing happened, a particular trainee created an exceptional collection of cards - excellent summaries, great charts, spectacular diagrams, entirely comprehensive and in MS Word format to boot.  I saw them - stick a binding on and they would be entirely publishable!  For the next several years, copies of these cards were passed down to the next generation of trainees and this was the problem.  Possession of the content without the process is (almost) useless!  Reading someone else's interpretation, summary, thoughts does much less to engage your mind,help you learn and make you competent than if you were to do it yourself. I say "almost" useless because having the content may expose you to other topics you may not have even considered at which point you can they proceed to pursue them.
Now, concerning to my own spiritual studies, I'm trying not to fall into the same "easy way out".  Reading another person's works, thoughts, summaries, "opinions" on Christian spiritual matters may be of some benefit but is not a substitute for reading the primary source - The Bible - and doing my own leg work!

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