Reading the manual

I have a confession to make:  I’ve been reading some manuals.

And they’ve even been … helpful.

I know that reading manuals is almost as bad as stopping to ask for directions, but sometimes it’s just necessary.

Photography is a complex art.  I first learned it on the job as a newspaper reporter with an old manual camera.  I set it aside while teaching but began relearning it for our missionary work.  It turned out cameras had gotten much more complicated; the switch to digital had filled cameras with new modes and settings and new features, like the capability to take videos.

Video was not completely unfamiliar; in a way, it’s basically photography with movement, photography that records time rather than freezes it.  As I’ve brushed up on photography, it hasn’t been too difficult to understand some of what goes into video, but learning video means also learning audio.  Audio has been even more alien to me than processing and editing my photos and videos.

Hence, manuals.

Manuals often get a bad rap.  Some are badly written (some comically so), filled with too much jargon or giving too little information to help beginners.  Some things are hard to learn from them.  Many people don’t enjoy learning from manuals, and others have difficulty doing so.  As a teacher, I appreciate that people have different learning styles, but as an English teacher and writer, I also appreciate that there is great value in the efficiency and clarity of written instructions.

Without the manuals to my cameras and my audio recorder, I would be lost.  Learning through discovery, playing with settings, asking for advice, and looking up information on the Internet are all helpful, but they can also be misleading.  There are times that I just need to look through the manual from the maker and read about what these things can do.  Sometimes, I need to read the manual, look up definitions and clarification on the Internet, play with the device, ask a friend for clarification, and then go back to the manual, which finally makes a lot more sense as it explains precisely what these devices can do.

The information was there, even before I was ready to understand it.

There’s another manual that can guide us and help us understand things but is often neglected.  Sometimes, when I read it, I need to get extra information from other sources or ask someone who knows more about it for guidance and then revisit it.  I usually find that it makes more sense to me then, although sometimes I find that I need further study.

But the information is there, even before I am ready to understand it.

Photography is complex, with much to learn.  So are life, faith, and our relationship to God.  Reading the manual may seem too hard, humbling, overwhelming or boring, but sometimes there’s just no substitute.  Pick it up; you might be surprised what you learn.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions.

Proverbs 4:5-6

Get wisdom, get understanding;
    do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
    love her, and she will watch over you.”

Deuteronomy 6:1-9

“These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”


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