The Value of Learning by Not Thinking

Today’s the first day of classes. Whew. It’s been a busy month since Christmas. Dec. 23 my wife got total knee replacement surgery, and since then I have bounced around from taking care of her to taking care of the house to taking care of classes for my final semester of teaching at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas.

Suffice it to say, my book project was put on hold during this time. Shelly’s doing a lot better now, in fact she’s hobbling around the house without her walker and without even a cane. And just in time with me going back into the classroom. But with all the stuff I have been responsible for, including a lot of computer work, I didn’t want to deal with anything that had to do with computers.

That’s when I came across paint by numbers. Some of you may be familiar with it; others may not. I told a couple of former students about it yesterday and all I got were blank stares, but those with a few more miles on them seemed to know what I was talking about. Today there are apps you can get for your phone where you do it digitally, but like I said, I didn’t want anything to do with computers.

The last few days, when I am not taking care of classwork, housework or wifework, I am settling down in my living room chair with a high intensity lamp, staring at a 16 x 20 canvas covered with squiggly lines that outline a beautiful would-be painting, and lots of numbers, and am dipping my paintbrush in various numbered paints to fill in the blanks. It’s mindless fun. My daughter called it creative, but it’s really not even that. It’s more akin to mowing the lawn, raking leaves or washing dishes. It allows me to empty my mind by focusing on details that take no active concentration. And I am loving it.

I have posted here before the value of downtime, including mindless exercise like washing dishes or walking the dog when it comes to writing. I categorize this the same. I suspect that I will become more creative because I allow the creative side of my brain free reign while the logical side is otherwise occupied.

One last thing: don’t think I am any good at it. I will be the first to confess that I am terrible. Despite the fact that I have several great artists in my family, I’ve never been able to draw or paint anything. But I don’t let that hold me back, just as writing that first novel, as bad as it might be, should never hold you back. It’s a work in progress.

Just as we all are.