Midterms are a pain. Finals are even worse. You prepare and study and try to get enough sleep so that you’re (more or less) functioning during the exam, and then a third or more of your mark is decided in a few hours in a room. A lot is required, but if you make the effort, you can be rewarded for your work.
I often find that it’s when I’m focused and studying for an exam that I learn the most, and, sometimes, I enjoy the process and find joy in the same material that once put me to sleep. I find there’s something rewarding about learning, and in a wider scope, growing and maturing. Religion often focuses on developing oneself into the best person one can be. There’s always more to learn about the universe, God, oneself, relationships, etc., and the choice to grow is ours.
An interesting parallel among many religions is the notion that our material possessions ultimately have little value. When we die, we cannot take anything with us except ourselves, and so it is pointless, in the end, to have many possessions. What really matters is who we are, and who we are becoming.
On the other hand, our society usually tells us the opposite. Once we finish post-secondary education, that’s usually enough in the eyes of other people. If you want, you can go further academically or physically, travel more, develop spiritually, and grow in many other ways, but as long as you can get a job, you don’t need to. Anything above the status quo is considered a good thing, but not something anyone is really pushed towards. What’s often the focus of society is what we have. Do you have a nice car? A nice house? A big television? An iPod? An iPad? …. an iLife?
It’s a bit of a divergence from our religious principle. While society tells us to be content with who we are but not with what we have, religions tell us to be content with what we have but not with who we are.
Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating you sell everything you own and go live in the forest and seek God there, or that you eschew medicine and technology and indoor plumbing to avoid being vain, but I think the contrast between these general ideas is worth some reflection.