I’m planning on finishing up Paradise Lost tonight. It’s quite a challenging read. Even having been to seminary and having taught Homer, Virgil, Plato, and Augustine for the past eight years and even having taught Dante before, I still feel like I’m missing so much. It’s going to need more than one reread before I think I can do a good job of teaching it.
However, I keep telling myself I have to start somewhere. The good part of this is that I can sympathize with my students as they struggle with the text. Also, most of my students have a degree of familiarity with the Scripture, so we can all follow the basic plot. But thinking about this made me consider how long it takes and how much effort it takes to become really proficient in a craft. It’s taking me eight years of teaching Plato’s Republic to get me to a place where I can read it both sympathetically and critically, and engage the students in a reading that’s both sympathetic and critical, and to really be able to enjoy this process. It’s taken me six years as a Latin teacher (starting out literally one lesson ahead of my students) to be able to enjoy the rhetoric and the rhythms, the timing and the pacing of Cicero, and to take pleasure in reading an author who makes a language sing.
It’s rather ironic that I’m closer to having this experience with Cicero in Latin than I am with Milton in English. But Paradise Lost is so rich that the time invested in it will be repaid a hundredfold. Maybe after I teach it eight years, I’ll have a greater degree of confidence in engaging students with the text, rather than us all sharing ignorance. Diligence. Industriousness. Making the most of my time. Applying myself. These were virtues that were largely absent from my misspent youth and young adulthood. So I’m making up for lost time, and enjoying the journey. I’m getting to read all the books that I’ve wanted to all of these year, and getting paid to understand them and to share them with others. It’s a great life. But I have not been able to get around just how long it takes to get good at something.
Any shortcuts out there for becoming competent and proficient to a high degree in something that you are passionate about?
I’ve discovered that I have a self-sabotaging habit that I need to stop. I have the habit of going on Readability, Longform, Medium, and other such sights and sending articles that may be of interest to me to my Kindle. When I open my Kindle, I ask, “why is this here?” And I’m determining more often than not, that it’s “because I could send it there.” The result is a feeling of unresolved guilt. Who cares if I don’t get around to reading all of those articles. Better yet, I should delete them all and just read books!
Had a worthwhile Lord’s Day yesterday. Amy and Hannah were both ill, so I went to church by myself. I was inspired to read some Puritan literature from A Puritan Theology by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones. Finally got over the intimidation factor to crack the covers. I read the first chapter on preaching, on the Sabbath and Religious Worship, and a couple of other chapters Pure gold! For those who really want to see the best of theology applied, I can’t recommend this volume highly enough. I’m sensing a new appreciation for the graciousness of God in the gospel and a personal renewal in Bible study, prayer, worship, and studying the Word to preach.
Well, yesterday’s run didn’t completely kill me. I was hesitant about heading out today but once I shuffled about half a mile or so, I felt alot better and managed to put in four miles. So, four days in a row. In itself, this won’t exactly get me to the starting line but if I can keep it up for another several months I’ll at least make a dent in the fitness situation.
I started listening to audio while running recently. It used to be that I only listened to audio if I absolutely couldn’t get myself out the door otherwise. Then I would crank up some tunes . . . either mostly bad 80’s music that provides an initial burst of energy but gets annoying after a while because it’s just bad music, Motown, or in some cases, chill out to some jazz. Lately though, I’ve started listening to either audiobooks or podcasts on the way home and gotten so enthralled that I’ve taken them out on the run — and even end up running farther just because I want to get more into the book. Today, it was The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller. It’s a memoir of a English man who has a rather mild midlife crisis — no red corvettes, blingy gold chains, or anything like that, but rather, a sense of disappointment with some aspects of his life that he has passively settled into. He begins to desire to “improve himself,” makes a “list of betterment,” with books that he has resolved to read, and sets out to read about a book a week, and writes about his experiences with these books. Some of them are classics such as Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. Others are books he became interested in for one reason or another. In one of the most memorable sections, he relates the experience of reading Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea. From what I gather, the protagonist of the novel is a rather pompous and disturbed retired actor. Food plays a major part in the novel, and Andy Miller’s relating of some of these dishes is ‘laugh out loud” funny! What’s even funnier is, not knowing much about cooking, he attempted some of the recipes of the novel’s protagonist himself, and got to experience firsthand Iris Murdoch’s irony. Anyway, now I need to put The Sea, The Sea on the reading list.
My wife is at class tonight so it’s reading time tonight. Another book and a half of Plato’s Republic with taking notes to get ready for class Monday. Need to keep moving through Paradise Lost because I’m teaching it later this year and feel woefully underprepared. Of course, I’ve taught the Republic for eight years now, but it’s so rich that every year, I feel like I’m starting all over again. Then, I’m hoping to get into something that I’m not reading to prepare to teach a class. So, that’s the daily wrap-up.
What tricks have you used to get yourself out the door to exercise? Is there a particular kind of music or audio that is helpful? I’d love to hear about it!
My oldest son and I decided to run a marathon together in the Fall of this year. So, I decided to get my act together and actually follow a training schedule for a change. I pretty much took a Christmas break from running, so I’m feeling rather soft and out of shape. I’d like to lose some weight and improve my speed so that if my son decides he wants to run the whole thing with me, it won’t be absolute torture for him to go as slow as I do.
The first two days, it was tough to get out the door to run 3-5 miles. However, today something started to kick in. I set out to run three miles and continued to stretch it out and ended up running up to Hanna Park, a city park north of my house, and doing some trail running to end up running eight miles. It was an absolute blast — the sun shining on me and then being able to watch the hues of the sun setting, the rough terrain of our somewhat eroded beach, and being able to be outside and move on a warm January day. I can’t remember the last time I came home from a full day of work and put in eight miles! Usually, it’s a four mile or so trudge after getting home from work. I was pumped! So it looks like I’m good for “sticking with the program” for this week.
I’ll be lining up some events for late spring and early summer to test my fitness. Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can lose some weight, feel better, and gain more energy.
I’m really conflicted over this. I’d like to post “finished writing,” but find that in order to produce consistent content at the pace I’d like to and to keep up with my other commitments (work, family, fitness, church) that the process more often is to draft a post in my journal on Evernote and do an extremely quick edit. Ideally, I’d work on skills like literary present tense, strong verbs, consistent point of view, and continuing to make my writing simple, clear, and direct.
What I’m noticing is that the benefits that I’m striving for in my writing process are happening already. I’m able to church out 400-500 words at any given time on just about any topic I have some level of command of. I’m also remembering the stylistic emphases that I’m working to incorporate as I write. So, benefits are accruing faster than I expected, and carrying over the writing that I do in my employments, which is a real plus.
So, I’d love to hear from you how you handle editing, revision, and style!