I need to make a confession. I have a very low tolerance for badly designed user interfaces and overly complicated mis-uses of technology. We are using Joomla for The Trillium School website, and all I wanted to do was add a simple page announcing our Holiday Craft Camp next week. I’m sure it’s not just Joomla’s fault; it’s also the way our designer had shoehorned everything into Joomla’s structures. But in any case, things are way harder than they need to be. I update the website just infrequently enough that I tend to forget how things work every time.
Well, this last time, I started to notice my blood pressure rising and decided to step back, cool off, and do some thinking. “I really don’t want to learn Joomla right now; I just want to get this page created.” I didn’t have much else that’s pressing today, so I decided to take this as an opportunity to cultivate patience. Patience is often thought of as “grinning and bearing it” or waiting reluctantly with clenched teeth. But I like this definition better: “Patience is the ability to dwell gladly in the present moment when we have some desire, or what would normally be a reason to desire, to depart from it.” (Robert C. Roberts in Strengths of a Christian, p. 53)
One of the sources of my resistance is that I prefer to learn things comprehensively—or at least comprehensively within some well-defined range. That’s why I tend to enjoy smaller programming languages (like XSLT 1.0) and domain-specific languages. Joomla is a full-featured Web content management system with lots of bells and whistles. I’m not planning to use it for anything other than the school website I inherited. I’m not very inspired to learn it.
So today I found myself whining, complaining, and wanting to distract myself. This feeling caught me by surprise, because lately I’ve been really loving technology. There are so many interesting programming languages to learn, so many powerful tools and frameworks to unleash one’s creativity on. In fact, technology has been really exciting for me lately, even though it seems like it’s been years since I felt this way. I think the key for me has been gratitude. Rather than trying to hoard knowledge or get overwhelmed by all the things I won’t ever possibly learn, I somehow was able to let go of all that and begin to receive everything as a gift from God. Programming languages are part of the wonderful world we live in. I don’t have to walk in the woods (although that’s nice too) to appreciate and get excited about this planet we live on.
Learning things comprehensively can be useful (and fun), but I’m finding it’s not a good general policy to live by. For one thing, most things are impossible to learn comprehensively. For another, I don’t really operate this way. There are lots of technologies I merely learn just enough to “get by”—without understanding some of the fundamentals that would be required if I had to work with these technologies everyday: Ethernet networking, email protocols, DOS batch files, etc. So I’m fooling myself even when I say that’s how I prefer to learn things. There are lots of things I’m not an expert in, and that’s okay.
Joomla can be the same way; the key is to just take some notes so I can refer back to them the next time I have a task to complete. This doesn’t have to be as painful as I’m making it. There is an underlying logic, and I can learn just enough to get by, capturing the knowledge in OneNote (what a great technology!), so I can refer back to it next time and save myself a lot of headaches.