Tag Archives: Varieties of Religious Experience

Day 29 – Learn from Others #30dreamdays

25 Sep

EmpathyExperimentMy daughter Krista is pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Cedarville University in Cedarville, OH.  Her Intro to Social Work class just completed a poverty simulation today.  They got to be homeless for a day! The only thing they knew going in was that it would be 27 hours long, they were allowed to bring a sleeping bag, their bible and $3.25. That’s it.  Before she embarked on this journey she posted:

“While I’m kind of nervous, I’m also incredibly excited to see the work God is going to do through this experience! Please be praying for my class tonight! Thank you!”

I have yet to actually talk to her about this experience but below is her post upon completion of the simulation:

“Words can not even describe how awesome that experience was! I mean it was probably the most humbling thing I’ve been apart of and my experience does not even compare to what the homeless go through on a daily basis! I went a couple hours without eating, some go days. I had to walk for hours on end, my feet hurt and I was so tired, but some homeless people do it every single day. I mean the knowledge and resourcefulness of the homeless astonishes me, I doubt I’d even be able to survive on my own for two days, let alone months and years on end. Even with the difficulties that came about during my experience, I still had the comfort of knowing that I could reach my professors if anything too serious happened and that I’d be coming back to my dorm today, with a shower waiting for me, with food, and with a bed that I get to sleep in. This last day was such an eye opening and heart breaking experience but it was also a confirmation that I’m meant to be a social worker. I’m so excited to spend my life helping the people around me!” 

Empathy is a powerful learning experience.  We can develop a deep appreciation for the resourcefulness of the homeless or other’s who struggle with things we pray we never have to actually experience.


the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

When people talk of empathy they almost always refer to empathisizing with negative emotions or experience.  I value that ability and consider it a key to connection and relationship.  It also has learning benefits as my daughter Krista clearly articulated.  However, I don’t want to put EMPATHY only in a negative box. I want to learn from others who are passionate and excited about stuff that I know little about.

In college I had to choose a Philosophy or Ethics class to meet the curriculum for whatever degree I was pursuing at the time (I changed my major a few times and attended 3 colleges before graduating).   I chose Philosophy of Religion.  I absolutely loved that class.  It was taught by a Hindu professor and the main “text” we used was Varieties of Religious Experience, a Study in Human Nature by William James.   I misplaced or sold back my copy but was SUPER excited when I realized I could download the Kindle version for FREE from Amazon.  You can too…click on the hyperlink above.  If you don’t have a Kindle (like me) you can download a Kindle reader for your computer and read it on screen, print it…whatever.  My gift to you!

This book is considered “one of the most important texts on psychology ever written, not only as a vitally serious contemplation of spirituality, but for many critics one of the best works of nonfiction written in the 20th century. ”

What I loved most about reading it was that it dug into a variety of religions from the perspective of people who were REALLY passionate about that religion and who felt they had an encounter with the divine.  I didn’t feel preached to or like a target convert, it was more like  I was invited into a love story.

Sometimes I think we just need someone who LOVES something to introduce us to it in order for us to have a deeper appreciation for it.  We may even come to love it just as much, if not more, than they do.  Isn’t that what happens to kids?  Isn’t that how many of us first found the things we love and are passionate about?

Do you think we outgrow this ability?

I don’t like hiking.  Or at least I don’t think I like hiking.  But I have to wonder if my perspective would change if I were to be led through a hike with a person who was so passionate about that activity–the physical, emotional, spiritual side of it and could walk me through it step by step with why they love it so much.  Maybe I just haven’t had the right experience or I just needed a passionate guide.  Maybe I really haven’t even tried it…which I haven’t…not really.

Same goes for gardening.  I am intrigued but really clueless.   I am not passionate enough about gardening YET to bother to try to learn it on my own.  But might that be different if I worked alongside someone who was passionate about it and could share with me why they love it so much and make the hard parts easier?  Might I then spend hours trying to dig deeper and learn more?  Maybe.

I decided to look up Hobbies on Wikipedia to see if I missed anything (I’m still a recovering perfectionist remember) and found a rather thorough list.  The only one I would add to my “interests” that I am not currently pursuing would be Urban Exploration.  That one definitely seems like you would need a tour guide!!!

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I love learning.  I am committed to Lifelong Learning.  I want to inspire others to continue learning, especially those who hated school and who never considered the Varieties of Learning Experience that exist beyond the classroom.

People who are passionate about their interests and hobbies LOVE talking about them with others who share those interests or are curious.  You can learn so much by listening to a passionate person and you are building connection and encouraging that person simply by being interested and listening.  This is how I have kept learning over the last 13 years since I graduated from college.

I never thought of it this way.  But now that I have, I will actively pursue learning from other’s experiences and hope that I will discover even more things that interest and excite me.  I realize this is one of my favorite ways to learn and teach.

What are you passionate about?  Do you like it when people ask you about it?  When was the last time you learned from others?

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