The Tower Handbook

13.12 A lifetime of learning?

a: What happens when I know all I need to?

We can't really answer this question because we've never met anyone who knows all he needs to know. If you think you do, you have probably set your sights lower than you need. There is always something new to learn, even if it is only better ways to help other ringers.

b: Why try to learn methods that are too complicated for me?

Why would you want to? The most satisfying methods to learn are those a little more demanding than the ones you already know, but not too much. That way you have the challenge with little risk of failing to succeed. With the standard methods, you should find other people with whom to ring, either at a practice or a ringing meeting. If you are learning new methods as a band, rather than individually, then you must agree on the method. Apply the old rule about 'the speed of the troop is the speed of the slowest soldier'. It is in no one's interest for one of you to be over stretched and fail to ring the method effectively.

c: Is it worth learning things we will never ring here?

Most of us do most of our ringing in our home tower, but many also ring at other towers. Going regularly to another tower where you can ring more will help motivate you and ultimately will help your tower also, since you will become a more competent and reliable ringer there too.

d: Will I go backwards if I have to reduce my ringing activity?

Many people find their ringing curtailed by work, travel or other events. Practice makes perfect, and lack of practice will always cause some slippage. But it need not be great. Ringing infrequently will take the edge off your skills, but quality rather than quantity is probably more important. Taking part in half an hour of good ringing once a month will probably keep more skills alive than crashing through an hour or two of un-rhythmic ringing every week. Many ringers have given up completely for some years and when they started again have fairly rapidly regained their former proficiency. The more thoroughly you have learnt in the first place (bell control, method ringing or conducting) the more easily you should be able to pick up the ropes again.

e: When will I be too old to learn?

You are never too old to learn, but it is easier for the youngsters. Learning new things is what 14 year-olds do for a living. Learning motor skills, like bell handling, gets harder as we get older, but it can be done given the greater perseverance that mature recruits often possess. Intellectual skills like learning methods seem to decline much later.

Like all generalisations these trends have exceptions. There are plenty of ringers whose tutors despaired of their ability to handle a bell in their teens, but who went on to become extremely competent ringers.

f: Is learning just about new methods?

No. Methods are stimulating and have a central position in our ringing culture, but there is far more. The world of ringing is a microcosm of the world. It has many facets: (better) bell control, ringing methods, conducting, teaching, helping, organising, managing, recruiting. These skills can be practised at individual, tower, branch, association or Central Council level. There are plenty of unsolved problems in most of these areas.

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