Studying, to me, is a means of grace. I am stupid--I was born stupid--and it's part of being human to recognize that and get on with the art of self-improvement. But I only recently have learned this. I went to college to get a degree that would qualify me to earn a living and leave my mark on the world, but studying was only a means to that end. Rarely did I learn for the sake of learning, for the sake of becoming a better human on this planet.
The past few years have been defined by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and chronic illness, and I've found myself confronted with pain and problems deeper than anything I'd ever experienced. Deeper than anything I'd ever heard of. I'd never really felt the pain that melts minds or the heartbreaking nostalgia for love and a life that seemed impossible to recover. And while this isn't the place to get into all of that, it's necessary to say this to form the setting which birthed my current passion for learning and growth.
When I first got home from college (February 2013) I studied a couple hours per day, wherever I could find the space--which ended up being the kitchen table, or, when forced to abandon my position due to mealtimes, the dining room table. I was just trying to get stuff done, but I was more nervous about how and where than what.
The summer of 2013 was the last big push against what I thought was just a bad case of mono. I still tried desperately to get things done, but found myself spending most of my days in or near the bed.
Most days I studied in the bed, propped up on pillows, using as little energy as possible, but there were times when I had enough energy to sit up for an hour or two and get real work done. So much work just can't be done in the bed.
The happy medium was this set up. I had a big monitor on a table adjacent to my oversized chair, so I could be more productive while still reclining. It was awkward and didn't last long.
Finally, I bit the bullet and set up a no-kidding desk so that when energy was with me I could do real work. I found this desk stuffed away in the attic and resurrected it for a few months. At this point I was doing a couple summer classes, studying the Bible, and doing very light research into random topics somehow directly related to suffering or Christian Living.
At the turn of the year I began reading voraciously. I had epiphany after epiphany and learned more in one week than I had in one month before. I was fully awake while laying in bed, pressed into deep thought by the pain of fatigue and sorrow of loss. Self-pity gave way to discovery, and productivity gave way to Presence.
I kept saying, "It's all connected!" And, "Truth is everywhere!" I was discovering what people have known for ages: God's Word is the fabric of life and it connects everything together so that if you have the clarity and mental ability to see it, you can find God in Christ, in His Word, in every moment and aspect of life, either in its positive form (as God is), or its negative form (as evil is). Either way, God is Truth and Truth wins. Evil and muddy unmeaning is just the foil to His Truth.
I began seeing the connections between disciplines. How science was related to art, and how every aspect of life could be categorized into generalized "Big Ideas," compared with other ideas, and how this process was the process of seeking wisdom, a process based upon a Christian epistemology which demands real reality, and fueled by the Christian ethic of wisdom as the chief pursuit of man (outside the fear of the Lord). Only later did I realize I was just doing the discipline of philosophy.
So I was having serious internal brain hemorrhaging from all the data piled up in there, and that's why I began to write a book--which turned into 3 books, which turned into a series of books that I planned to write over the course of 3 lifetimes. No kidding, I needed to get this information out.
So I moved into our guest bedroom and began using the walls as a whiteboard. Standing, writing, brainstorming for no more than 30 minutes at a time before I had to prostrate myself and recover from the effort. Before I'd ever seen the movie "A Beautiful Mind," I started this wall of notes as a way to externalize what I was learning. Then I saw the movie and began to question my sanity.
But the wall of notes set me free. I would lay in bed and picture the notes I'd made, the position of ideas in time and space. It gave me a location for ideas, and it set me free.
As I made the move over, I got a bigger desk (real wood this time, not particle board from the attic), a huge monitor, more books, and a tiny bookshelf which immediately began to overflow. My pursuit of wisdom knew no bounds and I found the deepest lessons I'd ever learned in the craziest, unthinkable places.
My nerd-dom (that's Nerd and Kingdom) kept expanding. I think this was the moment when I realized something had to change. (Note the books on the floor to the left.) My walls were full, the floor was filling up, and my bed, where I rested and read, was slowly being swallowed by more books and junk I didn't have storage room for.
At this point, I began to turn the corner into a more mature, settled routine of research. I realized what I was doing when I did research, and I began to develop a set flow for that process--a workflow. I can't automate my learning, but I can automate the process so that little time is wasted when learning a new topic.
My goal, in the year of 2014, became clear to me at the end of the year, and I realized it will be the goal of my entire life. I don't just want to know theology and religion. I don't just want to be well-versed in modern Christianity and all its acronyms (TGC, T4G, etc etc etc). I want to come to know God's creation, to learn to see His fingerprints all over it, to be able to navigate life in every discipline as a True Human should be able to do, and, most of all, I want to be a faithful minister of the Gospel, leaving nothing to chance and ignorance.
In short: I want to be able to know Him and help others know Him.
This is definitely the final straw. (Notice the cinder-block shelves to the left.) One of my top shelves in the small bookcase is missing because we were matching the stain for new shelves. In other words, as a disclaimer, this was a temporary mess, our house is not this messy. My Mom hates this picture and would burn it if it weren't digital. I personally don't mind it; it sets a great context for my nerd-dom as it is now.
After years of studying, thinking, writing, and learning to learn, I finally have a nerd-dom, that now is also a man-cave, worthy of some pride and self-esteem. I have streamlined my writing process, acquired new apps which handle my crazy brainstorms so that now you can actually see the paint on my walls and you don't feel like you're in an asylum. I still write on the walls, I just do it digitally where I can have infinitely big walls and still feel sane since they disappear as soon as I power off the Mac.
As for me and my books, my initial fervor of discovery melted into a resolved understanding of how things work in the book world. I have acquired a greater fluency with literature and have come to realize my place in the world (read: how small I am, how little I know, and what little is truly needed for me to say yet again in yet another book.) I am currently writing fiction (short-stories), Christian non-fiction (handbook of the Christian worldview for high-school students), this blog, a wiki, and other small things.
My voice is small and insignificant, and I am only a newbie. But as I look at how far God has brought me I am reminded that that is ok--it is good. I have a long way to go, and I'm so very glad. Otherwise, I'd have nothing to do for the next 60 years or so that I have left to walk this jaded, fading planet. I'm just getting started, and I'm happy doing small things. There will come a day when my voice is needed, but until then, I will write small, learn big, and enjoy my new man-cave when I have the energy to be in it.