Saturday, December 16, 2006

Did I past the test? Because I want my spiritual certificate.

I had this dream about taking a spiritual test. I was sitting in a row of desks waiting for someone to set the test booklet down so I could start filling in the little circles with my number 2 pencil on the answer sheet before the time was up. There was person sitting behind me whispering, "I have all the answers, just mark down what it says in this book." He then slips me a copy of the Bible Red letter edition. Sure enough, everything I need is in the book and I whip right through the test booklet.

This worked great until I came to the practical exam. There was this complicated machine before me that I was supposed to fix before it stopped working. There were all kinds of valves, pressure indicators, and pipes going all over the place. I realized that I had no idea what I was supposed to do and the machine sounded like it was going faster and vibrating all over the place. I had no idea what that meant since I didn't even know what the function of the machine was. It didn't know if it was going to blow up or what, but whatever was going on the machine was getting louder and vibrating more violently.

By that point I wasn't all that concerned about getting it to run properly. Shutting it off was more of a priority. And no one giving the test seemed all that concerned about what was happening. Tweaking a few valves didn't seem to have any effect at all. Predictably I wake up before machine blows up or shuts itself down.

This got me thinking about school and testing and what tests really mean. I knew a number of students who did great in the test taking phase of their training. They spent hours memorizing every possible fact from the text book and got straight A's. But, when they got to the real world and there was something that wasn't in the book or couldn't be solved by an answer, they had no tools to deal with that. In fact, there was hardly anything in the practical training phase that was directly in the book.

I went to school to learn how to solve problems in the real world, not to pass tests. But, when I was in school the focus was on passing the tests. I was fortunate that I was able to actually work at my profession while I was in school. This allowed me to have both perspectives, so that by the time I had to do the practical internships, I had already been working for quite a long time. I learned what was a good test and what were poor tests that often questioned things that had no practical application in the real world of my profession. In fact, some questions implied information that was flat wrong and in reality there was no way to answer them.

I'm not implying that life is a test or that testing isn't useful. What I have observed is that solutions often present themselves within the experience of life and not before. So the requirements for my "spiritual certificate" may not come from passing a test, but by simply engaging in life. Learning from other peoples journeys, trying out different experiences, and taking risks are all ways that I engage in life.

Now, where am I going to hang my new certificate?

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