Working Hard To Understand

Student in one of Tim's classes

Learning something new is hard work. First of all, it takes desire, then the right material, an open mind, and often a lot of will power to stick with one’s commitment when new concepts don’t make sense right away or demand change. I was reminded of this as I watched with admiration the students in Tim’s Friday afternoon class listening to his lecture, participating in the exercises he proposed, responding when he asked how concepts applied in their contexts, and asking him questions so that they could wrap their minds around the ideas he was proposing.

Like the students, we are working to hard to understand many things as well. We know that what we see is conditioned by how we have been trained to look, but that doesn’t help us know how to interpret what we see. How for instance, might I understand the purpose and meaning of a tree shrine with used light bulbs stuck into it’s bark?

When others speak, we hear sounds, but we can’t decipher them, unless the person is graciously using their second, third, or fourth language, English. The smell of curry simmering in our kitchen directs my mind to my favorite Indian restaurant in Minneapolis, or Paris, but its origin is not from across the ocean, it’s from across the border. Things are the same and “different”.

Working in a cross-cultural environment calls for a lot of humility, a good sense of humor, and an inquisitive mind. Wherever we travel we have found friends and colleagues who are very willing to help us understand more about what we are experiencing–if we ask. I’ve learned, often the hard way, that even when I think I know “what is going on”, it’s best to ask a trusted interpreter from inside the culture whose answer will shed light of the validity or inadequacy of my ideas. The hard work is letting in what is real (not what I want to be real), being willing to rethink ideas, and when appropriate incorporating the new learning into my life. True learning demands change. It’s hard work–and like Tim’s students, I think it’s worth it.

Question for reflection: What am I seeking to learn? How committed am I to the process of discovering what is real? How am I readying myself for the changes the new learning will invite?

Prayer: God, for the privilege of being alive, I give You thanks. Thank You for the desire to learn, friends who are willing to teach, and the courage to let experiences form me. As I change, I pray I will more fully reflect You. Amen.

One thought on “Working Hard To Understand

  1. Martha says:

    Amen. I join in your prayer and I respect your insight, honor your gift of self. Blessings to you and Tim!

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