Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Effective Method?

I read, but I don't understand. My eyes scan all of the words and I flip through the pages and eventually I come to the end, but I spent the whole time skating along the surface. All of the words were read and have their opportunity to be represented in my brain, but I do not understand them. I can not explain them to you. Its okay, I did not expect to understand.

So I keep reading. I keep consuming more words, but only skating along the surface. And the depths of the writing still eludes me. I can not follow the author in twisting and stretching and exercising my mind the way he has. But I still don't get it.

And as I keep reading, slowly, I begin to notice patterns. I cannot deny the value that secondary works have in this, not because they tell you what the work means, but because they are an additional perspective that is using similar material for different ends. This makes the patterns stand out more.

And I think back to the books I have read and I realize how little I understand. I realize how the bulk of the book was lost on me. But it is different now, because knowing what I did not know implies that I am now capable of knowing it.

Is this an effective method of learning? No, probably not. It would certainly be a pisspoor way of approaching programming, biology, or history. But it is an appropriate way to approach poetry, I think. Literature as well. These should not be "learned" they are to be experienced. Repetition with minute changes - perhaps along with the occasional sudden breakthrough - this seems to be the proper way to approach literature and poetry. Skating, enjoying, absorbing as a full man instead of cramming information in like something distilled to just reason.

I think this method is an essential step in learning. Skating familiarizes you. Then at some point, you have to start digging down into the material, or all you will ever have is a skater's understanding.


  1. I too feel like a skater when it comes to reading your blog, if I'm being honest. I read the words and try to understand them, but sometimes the ideas are so intricate or complex (or even just worded so different from my own way of thinking) that I literally can't figure out what it is you're trying to say. Not because you don't make good points, but because my brain starts skating across the words because it refuses to even give time to an endeavor likely to end in a headache. Sometimes I wish I was smarter.

  2. It has little to do with intelligence and everything to do with vocabulary. I use a lot of words in ways that aren't common to everyday thought, so you aren't familiar with the usage of them. This isn't because I'm smart, it's because my interest is specific. Also because I foster idiosyncratic expression instead of trying to flatten it out.

    If you gave me a five minute lecture on the particulars of camera mechanics, I wouldn't be able to follow hardly any of it unless you played some kind of language game with me to help me bridge our vocabularies.