Monday, July 30, 2012

Immersion Learning

I am an admitted Olympics geek. I love watching Olympic sports that I would never watch, in their non-olympic forms. At work this week I've even been streaming some games to keep an eye and ear on while I work, and I've been fascinated to find that some of them are being streamed without commentary.
There is something to be said about immersion in this. I just tuned in to badminton and it's impressive to see, but also sooooo quiet. I can hear the birdie hitting the racquets (or, vice-versa, I guess) with little clicks, and sometimes the squeak of a sneaker on the court. And when something good happens I can hear the crowd cheer. When something thrilling happens (a dive from one of the players, or a near-miss) I can hear the spectators say "ooooh!!!" I am learning a little bit about the game by experiencing it with my senses, even though no one is telling me outright what's going on.
I've learned a few things about a few sports already so far this Olympics, some of them through the commentary. I heard someone the other day talking about how fast that birdie flies, and that was pretty fascinating. But it was definitely a different kind of learning- facts, vs. experience. It was transactional, not communal. It's still good learning, but different.
It reminds me of the power of the community to teach. It makes me think of the catechetical power of attending Mass with a community, vs. sitting in front of a teacher, or textbook. And here's another thought: no one at the badminton game knows that I'm learning from them, but they're still teaching. They're teaching by being present, by caring about the game, by participating in their way. At Mass on any given Sunday, someone is learning from us as a community, even when we don't know that we're teaching.
We're teaching about how to behave at Mass. We're teaching someone that a lot of people care enough about the Eucharist to come to Mass every week. We're teaching that this Eucharist is good stuff, worth showing up for, and we're teaching that a community of believers exists and gathers.
What if we keep teaching, but no one comes to learn? What if someone comes to learn, and there are no teachers there? Just being Mass makes a difference- forms the next generations of Mass "fans". If we do it right, they'll catch on, and teach the generations after them.

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