Practical Exercise

“As practical advice: Some of you will have heard the word concepts, as in the phrase ‘I understand the concepts, but I can’t cast the spells.’ In this context, belief in concepts is a dangerous superstition, the false belief that there are concepts.  This superstition will keep you from understanding what is going on. Said more succinctly:

Concepts are nothing.

Application is everything.

“There is a more advanced use of the notion of concepts. In the more advanced use, the concept is a handwaving tool used to help you remember how a spell works. The concept is not the spell, but it can tell you where you want to go.

“University is not like High School. The purpose of a University is to tell you what you need to learn and understand. Learning is something you do inside yourself. I can tell you what you need to learn, but you have to do the learning yourself.  For the most part, you learn by thinking about what you have been told, working homework problems, and studying the textbooks.  You are not all the same.  Some people more or less can only learn by casting lots of low-power spells.  For other people, homework problems are something to be gotten out of the way so you can get back to studying and understanding the material.  You need to work out for yourself where you fit.  “It’s less work” is not a path to working out what is correct for you.

No matter your subject, there are many texts on the topic.  To do well, head off to the world’s greatest library – it’s right behind you — and read several books on the same topic. Different perspectives may clarify your thinking.

“In closing, there are a few issues that I should emphasize.  First, many of you will be tempted to tamper with your agelessness spells, to grow from young adults toward grownup adulthood while you are still students.  The reasons for this are well known.” A fair number of my fellow students giggled or smirked.  “As you have doubtless been told many times, making this transformation on your own is not safe. Furthermore, so long as you are young adults, your ability to command the Fire of the Presence, the basis of all magic, will continue to increase.   Once you begin the transition to grown-up adulthood,  the increase in your abilities will come far more slowly or not at all.”  You would have, I thought, to be an idiot to tamper with that spell, but a considerable fraction of my classmates would appear to be idiots.

“Then there are the actual reasons for being here,” she continued.  “For most of you, Dorrance is an opportunity to make contacts, friendships that will last the rest of your life, and help you to advance in our careers.  From contacts, you learn about job opportunities, friends in need of help, and worthwhile patronage networks.”  OK, from her I’d finally learned something, I think.  I’d never heard of such a thing. Make contacts? Was it true?  It sounded very strange. My fellow students did not look surprised. I had been warned that the Academy laid out traps for the unwary, not traps that would really hurt you, but traps that would mess up your progress until you worked your way around them.  Did people actually waste their time doing things like that? Was she serious, or was she spouting nonsense?  “For almost all of you,” she continued, “Dorrance is an opportunity to expand your skills with manipulating the Presence, no matter whether you advance into Medicine, Construction,  or one of the other skilled arts.  Finally, for a few of you, Dorrance Academy will open the unseen gate that admits you into the company of scholars.  And, with that, welcome to Dorrance Academy.” 

The unseen gate….that was what I wanted. The Faculty members all rose and applauded us.  They’d do that again when we were graduated, those of us who finished.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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