The Weakness That Keeps on Blessing

The vagaries of DNA and life experiences leave us with an array of weaknesses and advantages.

For the latter, we tend to run in two extremes. We either exult in our superiority, as if no other person can match it, or we make the mistake of thinking everyone can and should do it our way. It’s rare when a person realizes their unique situation is a means to making life somehow just a little better for everyone. Not simply missing the opportunity, but it’s human nature to be blind to the value of caring for others on a broad scale. It doesn’t take much self sacrifice to purchase a vast improvement in our own lives.

It is a hellish task for me to memorize anything by rote. During my years in mainstream Protestant ministry, I discovered the average human mind is capable of memorizing small patches of Bible text, whether in one concentrated session or spread over a week or so, with only 35 exposures to that passage. If you are trying to memorize it, all it takes is about 35 times trying and it sticks, typically for life. My brain won’t do that. It takes me a minimum of 75 for single sentences, and easily several hundred exposures for paragraphs.

My brain does not work in such small units as single words. If you ask me a question, immediately in my mind a full paragraph rises to my consciousness. I may not give you the whole paragraph, but it’s how my mind operates by nature. I typically think in whole essays, but the smallest unit of standard verbal processing for me is a substantial paragraph. In history classes, the only way I could memorize dates of pivotal events was by having a lot of them together in sequence. I had to already know a bunch of them, or there would be no place to insert that mental peg. I had to absorb history slowly, over years of learning.

On the other hand, I always think of history in terms of the broad sweep of things. I can read a history narrative text, and immediately see connections the author did not reference. Ask me a question later and I’ll see answers which lay waiting on me to check the links. My brain retains patterns first, then facts. Sometimes the patterns are false, because something is missing which clarifies, but adding another fact causes everything to shift and accommodate rather quickly.

Every experience, every time of labor at one vocation or another, always exposed to me the grand patterns by which the thing operated. I probably messed up plenty of details until I saw their place in the pattern, but I always saw the bigger picture before I understood my job very well. When it’s my turn to lead or manage others in anything at all, my first thought is to estimate how much of the pattern they need to be told first, and how to fill in the details and add more pattern. Because I am aware of this divergence from the norm, I always try to calculate how much pattern any person or group can absorb. I rewrite the whole thing on the fly as I probe where they are.

Oddly, it has made me easily accept the limits of others. Almost everyone, when you show them the patterns they can’t already see, seems to appreciate that help. It’s a rare person who can’t use the patterns I offer. I can sometimes sense when they need room to process, or when they simply can’t go any farther. Then I try to rewrite the program around that. I suppose part of that is my insistence the only thing which really matters is the people, not the presumed task. I won’t do anything if I can’t discern how it helps people.

I’m not prepared to discuss whether my pattern thinking is the cause or the result of my lack of ability for rote memory. I don’t think it matters. What I do know is people tend to love what I am able to produce with this weakness, so I keep trying to find ways to offer the fruit of it.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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