Scott I think you’re trying too hard to find fault with Blender and it’s showing or it’s showing your ignorance of nodal programming. Step back and come at it again with fresh eyes.
Nodal programming systems are very often much slower for simple tasks but come into their own as the project scales. Houdini is a classic example, it’s fiercely frustrating to do simple tasks one takes for granted in C4D. There is no faster software to create a load of objects, pass an effector through them and wow your audience than C4D…only nowadays that audience has moved on and no longer impressed with these toy like demos as they’ve become accustomed to much finer art of passing data around the system from shaders to material into deformers etc etc. This is where Houdini excels…
Fields answers some of those issues but is limited by its use of the layer paradigm. I defy anyone to look at a complex Fields system and understand it by looking at the object manager. It’s a mess. Take a similar system in Houdini and it becomes very obvious how the system is working in a well laid out and commented node flow.
This is also true for complex shader building and image compositing. Imagine creating a material in a layer based system that uses the same image on several material channels. Any changes you have to change every image, in a nodal system you just change the one and it is automatically piped into the desired channels. Very often you’ll want to composite several images together before piping them into parts of the shader, can you imagine the hassle it is to make even minor changes in a layer based system having to navigate layer and folder groups on every single channel?
If you are serious about learning Blender’s nodal shading system why not pop over to Insydium and have a look at some of the Cycles4D tutorials, it’s Blender’s shading system inside C4D which might break down a couple of barriers to your learning progression.