Monday, November 09, 2009
How to Study Theology
1. Sit down with the assigned subject matter. Get comfortable. Make sure you have your highlighter, a good pen or pencil, notebook, and a glass of water or coffee or other study-inducing beverage of choice. Begin reading, paying close attention to anything emphasized by the professor, by the author of the work, etc. Take notes relating to the paper you will have to write on the subject. Try to concentrate.
2. Realize that the 5 year old stain on the carpet is distracting you. Shift positions so that it will be out of your direct line of sight, and continue reading. (Suggestion: stack up books if you need to block your view.)
3. Realize that the stain is there, you know about it, and so you must do something about it because instead of studying theology you are meditating on the origin of the stain, the memory of how it got there, or the methods used in the past to cover it up.
4. Try to continue reading. Switch subjects if necessary, maybe to something more pleasant if you didn't start with your favorite. If you're working on essay questions, try another question that maybe seems easier to answer. Sometimes it's best to start out with the subject matter with which you are most familiar.
5. Discover that you are writing about carpet stains instead of original sin as it relates to the Immaculate Conception. Put the book down, go and study the stain. Glance up at the steam-cleaner in the corner, and go get the vacuum cleaner. The carpet has to be vacuumed before it can be steamed. Vacuum the entire room thoroughly. Notice that the stairs haven't been vacuumed in awhile and host large doghair dust bunnies. Eliminate them, step by step. Since you're upstairs, vacuum that floor, too. Return to the first level and get the steam cleaner, add the solution and hot water, and begin to go to work on the stain on the carpet. Notice that it's lighter now but might need more treatment. Get another solution and scrub at the spot, then return to the steam cleaner to finish the job. The carpet is now clean. Survey the rest of the room and see that there are other spots. Since you went to the trouble to put it all together, go to work and clean the other visible areas of carpet as well.
6. An hour and a half later, return to do your homework. Pick up the book and begin reading. Notice that the dog is begging to go out. It's a nice day for once. Put the book aside, get the leash and take the dog for a nice leisurely walk while planning how you're going to get your studying done upon your return and how to tackle the question you can't seem to grasp.
7. An hour later return home, give the dog some water and a biscuit, settle down to study. Make sure you're taking good notes! It helps with focus. Now you're starting to grasp something, especially given the metaphor of the stain in the carpet. Remember that you want to blog about it later as a practical example of applied theology in everyday life. Consider how that would look in a popular Catholic publication. Wonder if you should submit the article you haven't written yet. Look down at your paper and admire the doodles you've made while pondering your fame and fortune arising from cleaning a stain you should have cleaned years ago when it first happened.
8. While considering the virtue of magnanimity and the vice of sloth, remember the laundry waiting to be done and realize if you don't do it NOW you won't have anything to wear tomorrow. Put the book aside and go to the laundry room. Make sure everything is properly sorted so that you can actually get it all done today. Consider that if you take the time to do this now you can spend more time studying on the weekend instead of doing laundry. Rationalize that it's a trade off.
9. With a load of laundry going, return to your study area and continue working on your assignment. Reach for your glass of water and find that it's empty and you're really really thirsty, especially since walking the dog. Get up for water, decide to make a pot of coffee to help you in concentrating. While it percolates, return to your books. While reading about spirituality and mysticism and how it relates to virtue, ponder Mystic Monk coffee and the Monks who roasted it for you. Put on some Gregorian Chant. Get a cup of coffee. Sit down to study.
10. The washing machine is done, go up to put it in the dryer and add another load to the wash. While passing the bathroom, you see that it's filthy and that annoys you. Take out the garbage, return to clean the sink, tub, shower and toilet. Decide the floor can be mopped later when you're done studying for the day.
11. Return to your assignment. You have enough notes to type up into at least a draft, so go to the computer. You've been waiting for the professor to return your assignment from last month, so check email to see if he had any helpful criticism that could be applied to the current paper. He didn't send anything but you see an email from an old friend who had been meaning to email for awhile. Write back; in charity you don't want your friend to have to wait, and you really miss talking to her, so you make sure to respond to each of her questions/comments and ask your own to correspond to her enthusiasm which is, of course, mutual.
12. Close the web browser after reading and responding to five emails. Start typing your paper, being careful to add footnotes where required. It's very important; this professor is a stickler for proper citations, down to the last punctuation mark!
13. Look at the clock on the computer. It's time to start dinner. The dog is asking to go out and wants to be fed. There are more emails waiting to be answered. The mail is still waiting to be sorted, junk mail tossed away. Stand up to handle each of these things, intending to return to studying later.
14. Make dinner. Turn on the TV to catch the news, return a phone call. Grab your food when it's ready, push aside a couple books so you can sit down on the couch and watch the sitcom that came on after the news. This is a good one! Thoroughly enjoy your meal, intending to go back to your homework.
15. In the middle of your favorite primetime show, look around and notice that your theology notes and books are scattered all over the livingroom and the place is quite untidy. You look like a geek with all these books everywhere! But you're happy because the laundry is done and the carpet is clean. And you have a great idea for a blog post if only you weren't too exhausted to write any more tonight.
16. Turn off the tv, take the dog out, and go to bed. Bring one of your theology tomes up with you thinking that it might help you fall asleep and maybe dream of the subject matter: one way to internalize it! Lie down on your bed, decide to pick up Anne of Green Gables to read your favorite part, put it aside, turn off the light and go to sleep.
17. Dream about Hamlet's MacBeth "Out! Out damned spot!"
18. Wake up wondering why you were dreaming about Shakespeare and why the Bard was washing bird poop off of your car.
19. Sleepily make coffee and realize you never cleaned the coffee pot out. Make instant coffee so you can get a quick fix, and en route to the livingroom to turn on the morning news, trip over your Canon Law book and spill coffee all over the floor. Return to the kitchen sipping what's left, grab some paper towels and try to soak up the coffee. Realize that it will stain. Shrug. The carpet is old and has seen better days. Return to the kitchen to make real coffee since the act of wiping up the spill woke you up a little. Take your fresh coffee into the livingroom, sit down on the couch and regard your unfinished notes from Moral Theology.
20. Set the coffee down, pick up your book and start reading and highlighting various sections. Then realize that you can see the stain the coffee made on the floor and it's distracting you.....