One of my professors made a comment one day in class about football, saying, “At a football game you see 22 players on the field desperately in need of rest and 55,000 people in the stands desperately in need of exercise.” Our class had signed up to hear the famous lectures of this salty professor, but he let us know that we would not be spectators only, and his assignments proved that.
Though his lectures were stimulating, full of pith, and insightful, his assignments were designed to make students concentrate on all levels. They brought out the global picture of a text but also required noticing tiny details. The assignments were like an elaborate quilt; it gives up immediately what the main picture is, while at the same time including rich, small details without which the quilt would fail as a work of art.
I notice passivity in some students who come to college. They got by previously by being “good listeners” and taking tests or doing worksheets. The premium for them has been intake of information and the ability to replicate it from memory. Intake and replication are vital to any profession, but eventually the practitioner learns to discover how to use information in difficult situations where the human component is present.
That is the sticky part—the human part. Humans defy neat categories, and so applying knowledge to them goes beyond our spectator days. We have to put our knowledge into play on the field and not in the stands.
It is true that every endeavor has its virtuosos whom we love to observe. Certainly it is a wonderful thing to study and celebrate the works of a master in any field. However, virtuosos are not a separate category of human. All humans live by giving their all to play at something and serve others. Everyone has a game to play, and to play well means a move from spectator to doer, which reminds me of a scripture, “Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).