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Intellectual disparities among people and the power in good habits

   I have known people who stood out from other people by the 
   amount of self-assurance, self-confidence they exuded.  They 
   knew everything and had all the answers.  They had remarkable 
   confidence in their own powers.  In most cases this self-
   assurance was accompanied by a gift for talking and a power 
   over people.  They would be very likable and one could hardly 
   help but like them, trust them, and believe what they said.  
   But with passing time I began to realize that they also stood 
   out in another way -- for an unusual degree of ignorance and 
   poor judgment.  And, also, often for excessive dishonesty.  And 
   I could not help but think to myself, "How can this be?  So 
   much self-assurance and confidence and so much ignorance and 
   lack of good sense!  What a combination!  What does one make of 
   this!  They believe they know everything and they know 
   nothing!"  I have seen people who could scarcely read or write 
   exude an amazing amount of self-assurance.  They appear to have 
   no inkling of their own lack.  They really believe they are a 
   little smarter than anyone else, know more than anyone else.  
   Well, there is a saying, "He who knows nothing is confident of 
   everything."   From this saying it appears other people have 
   noted this same phenomenon that I noticed.  In my younger years 
   the big problem that plagued me was lack of confidence, so it 
   isn't surprising that such a phenomenon would interest and 
   amaze me. 

   Let me ask this question: How much difference can exist between 
   people in regard to general intellectual development i.e. 
   knowledge, understanding, good sense, intellectual power?   In 
   an attempt to answer this question, let us consider another 
   question.  It concerns the cumulative effect of a single action 
   repeated over a long period of time.  Consider the following: 

   Let us assume a person walks 8 hours every day at a normal 
   walking pace of 3.5 miles per hour.  He will then walk 8x3.5 = 
   28 miles each day.  Suppose he covers two feet with each step.  
   Then a mile corresponds to 2640 steps and he walks 28x2640 = 
   73,920 steps each day.  If he continues walking 8 hours every 
   day for a year at this rate (a very doable feat) he will walk 
   28x365 = 10,220 miles or 26,980,800 steps over the course of 
   the year.  If he keeps this up, in 2.5 years he will have 
   walked a distance equal to the circumference of the earth.  If 
   he keeps it up for 24 years he will have walked the distance 
   from the earth to the moon (239,000 miles).  That would be 630 
   million steps.  If he kept walking for 48 years he would walk 
   the distance from the earth to the moon and then back which 
   would be 1.26 billion steps. 

   The purpose of the above exercise is to show the power that 
   lies in a single action that is repeated over a period of time.   
   The idea can be applied to many things.  The reason we are 
   interested in the example is to show the cumulative effect 
   associated with a habit that is practiced over a long period of 
   time.  For example, consider the habit of saving money, 
   practiced over many years.  There is a cumulative effect in the 
   form of accumulated money.  The same is true of the habit of 
   frugality.  Here again, the cumulative effect is accumulated 
   money.  How large is the effect?  The idea of a man walking the 
   distance from earth to moon and back gives some idea of the 
   power in this, especially when you consider compound interest. 
   Our interest in the cumulative effect of habit, however, 
   involves a different kind of habit.  We are interested in mind-
   improving habits.  What are some examples of mind-improving 
   habits?  A young person who has the good habit of assiduously 
   studying in school is an example.  Our habits make us or break 
   us.  They are very important to understanding life and people, 
   success and failure.  Suppose a young person studies seriously 
   and hard, 8 hours a day, for 16 years of school (12 years + 4 
   of college).  What is the effect of this habit in terms of 
   accumulated knowledge and understanding?  How much has he 
   accomplished for himself?  Well, a person walking eight hours a 
   day for 16 years will walk 163,520 miles.  That is two thirds 
   of the distance from the earth to the moon.  That is what he 
   has to show for that type of work (walking).  Now the student, 
   instead of investing his time and energy into walking, has 
   invested his time and energy into his mind.  He has in fact 
   invested 8x365x16 = 46,720 hours into improving his mind.  What 
   he has received for all that invested time can't be seen but it 
   is real.  Can we say that he has invested into his mind the 
   equivalent of 163,520 miles of walking?  Let us give some other 
   examples of mind-improving habits.  When I encounter a word 
   whose meaning or spelling I don't know it is a long-time habit 
   of mine to stop what I am doing, go get a dictionary, and look 
   it up.  It is some trouble, it takes time, and some people 
   would be too lazy to do it.  But I am curious and I want to 
   know. I expend the effort and do it.  It is a habit.  There are 
   dividends from that habit in the way of mental improvement that       
   accumulate over the years.   When I am studying I often have 
   questions.  It has always been my habit, when I have a 
   question, to stop, think, and try to answer the question.  It 
   takes time.  I take the time.  I think of another mind-
   improving habit.  The habit of thoughtful reflection.  I have 
   always been inclined toward reflectiveness. Reflection is 
   something you can do anywhere.  You can do it when you are 
   walking or when you are washing dishes.  You can do it at any 
   time of day.  Large numbers of hours expended every day in 
   thoughtful reflection gives an accumulating mental dividend of 
   increased understanding.  The cumulative effect is substantial, 
   just as the final result of walking 8 hours every day for many 
   years is substantial.            

   Suppose a person, from the age of 5 or 6, engages in activities 
   for eight hours each day that improve his mind -- activities 
   like studying, reading, thinking, reflecting -- activities that 
   increase his knowledge and understanding of life and the world 
   about him.  Let us say that from force of habit he invests 8 
   hours every day in mind-improving activity. Instead of walking 
   8 hours a day as our walker in the example above does, he 
   invests the same time, effort and energy into his mind.  Where 
   does he then stand after 48 years of this?  Has he perhaps done 
   for his mind something comparable to the feat of a walker who 
   has walked for 48 years? (Walking to the moon and back).  Now 
   let us compare him with the person who never was interested in 
   school, never put any effort into studying, scarcely learned to 
   read or write, never invested any time into mental improvement 
   type activities and, instead, spent all his time in the pursuit 
   of pleasure, playing, in manual work, and in other activities 
   that are non-mind-improving.  Now just how much intellectual 
   disparity might there be between these two individuals after 48 
   years?  Think about it.  One cannot look at a person and tell 
   how much knowledge he has in his head or how much understanding 
   he has.  A person may give some clue in one way or another, or 
   he may not.  But really great intellectual disparities between 
   people can and do exist.  It is true, of course, that one can 
   learn a great deal just from life and observation.  We are not 
   talking only about textbook learning.  And one can develop his 
   mind greatly just from the habit of reflection, the habit of 
   thought.  But great differences do exist between the minds of 
   people in regard to knowledge and understanding.  Now let us 
   consider something else.  It has been my observation that the 
   more you understand of life and the world about you, the 
   greater becomes your capacity for understanding.  As you 
   understand more, more and more doors open up for you to 
   understand yet more.  A prerequisite for an understanding of 
   many things is an understanding of other things. In addition, 
   the better we understand a thing, the more things we observe in 
   connection with it, the better our memories are for the details. 
   When you invest time and effort into the improvement of your 
   mind there is a payback of increased power for comprehending 
   and judging.  Just as one can improve one's physical body and 
   its powers by body exercises one can improve his mind's powers 
   and abilities by discipline and use.  The study of mathematics, 
   for example, is of great value for the exercise and discipline 
   of the mind. 

   From what we have said one can see the consequences of the 
   character trait (habit) of laziness in regard to mental 
   development.  Mental development comes about through effort.   
   It is acquired through work, effort, persistence, perseverance.  
   One gets out of life what he puts into it.  Life gives its 
   rewards to hard work.  Mostly, the rule in life is: "No pains, 
   no gains";  be lazy, do nothing, and you get nothing.  It is a 
   law of nature.  Work and effort require self-discipline, 
   character.  Learning, studying, understanding things requires 
   seriousness, resolution, self-discipline, character.  The 
   studying required of a school child is work and often 
   unpleasant drudgery. (It is also often interesting and interest 
   may often propel the student.  However, if a student is lazy 
   and averse to work he may never learn of the rewards it holds.) 

   It is easy to be lazy.  Being lazy is the easy way in life.  It 
   is easy to develop the habit of laziness.  It is easy to 
   succumb to the temptation to just be lazy and do nothing, to 
   just play and have fun.  Everyone can enjoy sleeping in late on 
   a cold morning.  The body tempts us.  If people were not forced 
   to work because they need to eat, most would probably just be 
   lazy, do nothing, play and have fun (like children).  Why?  
   Lack of character.  Most people will just follow their natural 
   bodily inclinations, take the easy road, follow the ways of 
   pleasure, sleep late.  Most people work only because they have 
   to, and then work no more than they have to.  Adults may be 
   forced to work due to the realities of life but children in 
   school aren't in the same position.  If they choose not to work 
   in school there is no real penalty.  They will perhaps get bad 
   marks, if the teacher isn't the kind that just automatically 
   gives everyone A's (so as to not damage their self-esteem).   
   If getting poor marks doesn't bother them, they have gotten 
   past a sense of shame from that, they can just do nothing and 
   entertain themselves.  If a child lacks character, prudence and 
   good sense he can just put in time, play around and have fun. 
   Then later he can drop out of school and compete in the job 
   market with others who have labored hard and done well in 
   school.  He has the brain of a monkey and they have brains 
   filled with 12 or more years of solid mental development in the 
   form of knowledge and understanding. 

   I believe very strongly in the value of education.  However, 
   after having said all I have said, something else must be said.  
   The most important thing in life is that personal relationship 
   with God found in the Christian faith.  It is knowing God, 
   faith in God, and obedience to God.  It is the wisdom and 
   understanding that comes from this relationship.  Without this 
   personal relationship with God there is no wisdom or 
   understanding.  There are a great many very highly educated 
   people in this world who don't know God, don't have this 
   relationship with him.  They are of this world, followers of 
   Satan and his ways.  They don't know wisdom; real truth has 
   eluded them.  And there are a great many simple, poorly 
   educated people who do know God, love him, serve him, and have 
   that wisdom and understanding that comes from knowing him.  
   This later group has found truth and the former group has not.  
   So one can observe it not just about how much walking one does.  
   It is also about where one is walking, is he walking to any 
   destination of importance?  One can walk and walk to nowhere.  
   One can work hard throughout his life and all the time be 
   working on something that has no value.  One has to invest his 
   efforts into what has value. 

   Oct 2008

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