it’s not the method, it’s the madness

Once upon a time there was a wealthy old tortoise who had a large garden. The garden was very beautiful, and at the end of it there was an enormous wall. On the other side of the wall was the sea. One day the tortoise decided that it was time to change the view and that he would like to be able to see the sea behind his garden.

He called his four gardeners, the rabbit, the bear, the dog, and the tanuki, and said, “This wall must come down. I want to see the sea. I know it is a very large wall so I will give you as much time as you need, but eventually, the wall must go.”

None of the gardeners knew anything about demolition, so they were not sure at first what to do. They read a little here and there, and got some advice from the other animals, some of whom sounded like they knew something about the subject.

The rabbit was very clever, and decided that he had to understand the structure of the wall in order to break it down most effectively. He studied for a long time until he knew exactly how each brick and post and pin was put together. Then he got some good but simple tools, and once he finally got started, the demolition went smoothly. It still took a while, but after two years of steady work his section of the wall was down.

The bear wasn’t especially smart at all, but he was very very strong. He tried to do what the rabbit did, but gave up after a few days of puzzlement, and set to work furiously with his enormous paws. The wall came down in no particular order, but after two years hard graft his part was cleared, and he was also stronger than ever.

The dog thought the best way would be to get the very best tools he could find and learn to use them as effectively as he could. No one spent more on equipment than the dog did, and no one was better at blasting, disassembling, bulldozing, and so on. He also had to work every day for two years, partly because it took him a while to master his formidable arsenal, but his part of the wall came down neatly and steadily.

The tanuki had no great inclination for work, but needed to at least look busy, so he also began studying how the wall was put together, and started collecting tools, and started a little manual labour, but his study was never good enough to satisfy him so he kept getting different books and plans, his tools didn’t seem to suit him quite right so he kept changing them, and as for grunt work with the sledgehammer, he didn’t like that at all at all, so never lasted more than a few minutes. He discussed the work at great length with the other animals, and understood it perfectly (from the standpoint of several different theories), and frequently mustered up some fresh resolve and began work again, but after two years his wall was a little dented and scratched but just as high and thick as ever.

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2 responses to “it’s not the method, it’s the madness

  1. How depressing…! I think I’m a tanuki! 😦
    For about 3 or 4 months now I’ve made a mental plan of organizing my massive number of Japanese related bookmarks (I have about 150…) and make a weekly study plan. I’m still yet to do this and my study is pretty haphazard. I don’t think my wall is still standing (in fact, I KNOW it isn’t), but I’m not progressing anywhere near as efficiently as I could. *sigh*

    • I know how you feel!

      The main thing, I think, is to keep doing something, anything at all as long as it’s getting you used to Japanese – and understanding the difference between rearranging your tools and using them. Maybe those bookmarks are fine the way they are. Use that time for more reading instead 🙂

      As long as you’re using an SRS more or less appropriately you’ve got most of the efficiency nailed down. The rest is just time. Time, exposure, attention, and curiosity. All you need.