Comfort and Emotional Numbing

From my article ‘What Gratitude is Not‘:

“When our pursuit of comfort causes us to numb ourselves to the pain and hurt happening around us, and even happening to us, what we’re doing is we’re also inadvertently numbing away the capacity to empathize, to feel love, joy and gratitude. When we harden ourselves as a defense against fear, grief, disappointment, shame, rejection or vulnerability, the result is that we’re reducing our capacity to feel the emotions that are important for our wellbeing, including gratitude.”

The Yawning Chasm

From John Ferling’s book Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, p. 207:

“During one dinner, Hamilton gazed at Jefferson’s portraits of John Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Sir Francis Bacon. He asked the identity of the subjects, to which Jefferson replied that they were ‘the three greatest men the world had ever produced.’ Hamilton responded: ‘The greatest man that ever lived was Julius Caesar.’ If he did not already know it, Jefferson discovered in that instant the yawning chasm in sensibilities that separated Hamilton and himself.”

Habits of Successful Students

Last week I published an article for the Taylor Study Method titled ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick‘. Here are some snippets from the article.

Passive vs. Active Learning

“Passive learning is when you simply read and re-read material, or listen to it on audio over and over again. People engage in this type of passive learning on the assumption that repeated exposure to material will result in learning that material. By contrast, active learning is when you create flashcards, summary sheets, take practice tests, set yourself challenges, and constantly dig deeper into elements you are having trouble understanding. Active learning may require more initial effort, but in the long run it could save you hundreds of hours.”

Don’t Trust in Google

“When it comes to learning, it’s easy to think that everything we need can be found on Google. However, to truly master a field of knowledge and sediment it in your long-term memory, you need to do more than simply memorize isolated facts. Rather, you need a foundation of knowledge that can become a basis for conceptual thinking, contextual reasoning, and the ability to for schemas out of that knowledge. All of this requires a deep familiarity with your subject that cannot be achieved by simply Googling what you need to know.”

Take Baby Steps

“Baby steps are especially important when a person is trying to learn material or master a field of study. Through cramming and massed practice, anyone can learn something quickly. However, to truly master a field, one needs to study it consistently over time—little and often. Baby steps lend themselves to this type of necessary consistency. Baby steps also help to shift the focus to small wins that can accumulate over time to help you reach larger goals.”

Self-Monitor Towards SMART Goals

“Self-monitoring is especially important in the learning process. Whatever you are trying to learn, whether it’s a foreign language or the material you need to know for the psychology licensure exam, you should break your goals into manageable steps and have a clear way of monitoring your progress in each of these steps. Self-monitoring enables a person to continually adjust their goals so that they can be SMART. A goal that is SMART is one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound.”

To read the entire article, click on the link below:

 ‘10 Steps to Learning Anything Twice as Quick

Looking Unto Jesus

In response to the article I wrote for Touchstone Magazine earlier this year, “The Cross of Least Resistance: Our Path to Holiness Runs Straight Through Calvary“, I have had readers write to me saying that struggle is NOT a good thing in the Christian life. You see, in that article I criticized the pervasive notion that when the Holy Spirit moves in someone’s heart they are always enabled to achieve complete victory over sin, where “victory” is taken to mean the absence of protracted struggle, frustration, confusion and occasional setbacks. According to the line of thinking I was attacking, the presence of difficulty is a sign that God’s life-giving power is not operative within us.

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Zwingli and the Visible vs. Invisible Dualism

It is interesting that for Zwingli, “spiritual” worship was synonymous with non-physical worship, while “purity” was equivalent with simplicity. Worship in Zwingli’s Zurich not only involved a ban on images, but also music, decoration and liturgical fragrance. In fact, during Zwingli’s first four years in the city, few themes featured as prominently as that of “invented external worship.” There was more at stake here than merely Zwingli’s concern to uphold the integrity of the Second Commandment: the root of his antipathy to material paraphernalia and external ceremony was that such practices were visible. For Zwingli the visible was the province of unbelief, while the invisible was the realm of faith. God, who is unseen, cannot be approached through the visible material of the created world, and it is a sign of spiritual immaturity for worshipers to be dependent on created things. Jealous to preserve God’s glory, Zwingli had sought to organize the relations between the spiritual and the material in a way that ensured the heavenly would never be mediated through the earthly. The more God could be seen to work independent of instrumentality, the greater God’s sovereignty was thought to be. Thus, in order for God to be fully magnified in all His transcendence, the spiritual potency of creation had to be either denied or heavily qualified; for God to have all the glory, creation must have none; to trust in God involved an inverse distrust in the elements of creation. His deep distrust of instrumental causality led Zwingli to seek to make the sacraments declarative rather than instrumental. He was, in the words of Gerrish, “reluctant to acknowledge any other causality than that of God, the first cause. Hence, the very notion of sacramental causality was offensive to him. It seems to detract from the immediacy of the divine activity if one assigns even an instrumental function to the creaturely elements of water, bread, and wine. Signs, for Zwingli, are not instrumental, but indicative or declarative.” Even Zwingli’s doctrine of predestination arose from this same impulse and was the inevitable correlate to saying that God was the only active cause operative among creatures. Significantly, when Zwingli had his iconic clash with Luther at Marburg, it was the former’s affirmation of the incompatibility of spirit and matter that led him to so forcefully oppose the doctrine of real presence.

Beauty and the Sacramental Vision

From my article ‘More than Schooling: The Perils of Pragmatism in Christian Attitudes Toward the Liberal Arts‘:

“Being able to just be in the presence of beauty is central to coming to know God and to participate in the sacramental life. As students come to appreciate beauty for its own sake—independent of utilitarian goals—their souls are prepared to receive God at a deep, pre-cognitive level.”

Memory is the Mother of Creativity

From ‘Best Kept Secrets About Brain Fitness: a Conversation with Graham Taylor and Robin Phillips (Part 3)‘:

In Greek mythology, the Muses were the offspring of Zeus’s union with Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory.

“People argue that the computer has diminished the need for humans to exercise their memories as much…. but I think it is an oversimplification. …if we don’t learn and remember things—perhaps because we think we can always look up the information online—then our brains will never have the opportunity to form schemas out of what we’ve learned. Our brains will be little better than a computer which is able to retrieve lots of information but isn’t able to sort the information out into schemas that are meaningful and wisdom-imparting. Also, it shouldn’t be overlooked that memory is closely linked to creativity. As our personal and collective memories are being outsourced to machines, we forget (no irony intended) that humans have always understood there to be a reciprocal link between memory and creativity. The Muses in ancient Greek mythology were the goddesses of inspiration for literature, science and the arts, yet significantly they were the offspring of Zeus’s union with Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. I don’t think that was a coincidence: the Greeks understood that memory is at the heart of both creativity and wisdom. As the Greek playwright Aeschylus put it in Prometheus Bound, “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.” That’s why teaching the techniques for memory and learning ought to be at the heart of education. But because we aren’t teaching these techniques, what happens is that there is a vacuum in which numerous false ideas about memory arise.”

The Material and Personal Dimensions of Conflict

In Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, he has an interesting discussion about some of the reasons we find it hard to resolve conflict in a peaceful way. Often people get into fights without ever identifying the real issues. This is often because there are issues behind the surface issues that obscure the real nature of the problem. In particular, conflict over material issues (i.e., issues that involve practical decisions and substantive matters) are often confused because of conflict over personal issues (i.e., issues that relate to what is going on inside or between persons), and visa versa. How many times in marriages, family life and churches is it impossible to even discuss material issues without personal issues getting in the way and obscuring the decisions that need to be made? But conversely, how many times is it impossible to discuss personal issues without the way being blocked by strong disagreements about material matters?

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Two Ways to Improve the Quality of Life

“There are two main strategies we can adopt to improve the quality of life. The first is to try making external conditions match our goals. The second is to change how we experience conditions to make them fit our goals better.”

— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Gratitude Detox

The Taylor Study Method has just posted an article I wrote on using gratitude to detox your brain. I pointed out that when you pay attention to negativity, you actually create toxins in your brain. This includes simply thinking negative thoughts. However, by cultivating an attitude of gratitude, you can starve all thinking that is negative, disordered or toxic. Just as fire can’t survive in an environment of water, so toxic thinking can’t survive in a neurological environment characterized by constant gratitude.

Use Gratitude to Detox Your Brain