Intensive Learning: Depth and Distance

If you join me for a hike or a run, you’d see I toggle between two modes: cruising and perusing. When cruising,  I move fast and use my senses purposefully, ignoring the amazing detail around me. When perusing, though, I’m willing to spend travel time in an observant trance, captivated by the squirrels at my feet or the late-summer fruits ripening in the trees.

Both have some value, but I believe I more deeply enjoy the forest when I don’t rush, when I don’t pay attention to my time and speed. A healthy and fortuitous benefit from the observant approach is often a better sense of my own activity: Where, why and how am I in the system around me?

Detail without Reduction

Working in health policy, I can catch myself in that dichotomy: either I’m traveling intently on some transect of a large system or I visit a subtopic for days at a time. From this dual experience, I advocate for and prefer time in the weeds. That time in the weeds offers the only route, an intensive one,  to really appreciate the where, why, and how of the system under consideration.

When we consider where knowledge emanates, it comes from closer and closer proximity to some basic unit and moving outward: physics underlies chemistry, chemistry underlies biology, biology (may) underlie psychology, psychology may underlie economics. This assertion should not make us all envy the physicist, but it should suggest we appreciate how depth can guide us to new distances, informing our direction and increasing our enjoyment.

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