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Hi, my name is Justus, I'm a Christian.I attended Patrick Henry College for three semesters, and I transfered to College of the Ozarks this fall. I love the Lord Jesus Christ the savior of my soul. He has made me new. He leads me in the Old Path; He is the Way. I am not perfect; my Lord is sanctifying me though.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Loneliness vs. Love

          One of my early posts was about loneliness. I think that loneliness is sort of like pain. It is  a warning that something is wrong. This social pain tells us that we don't have enough interaction with other people or that our interactions are not deep and fulfilling, as they should be. God said, "It is not good that man should be alone." So He made woman. Man and woman were created for several purposes, the highest being "to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." To borrow the famous catechism. However, one purpose for man and woman was to procreate. God made us to be social creatures, and as social creatures, we need others to fulfill a need that we (especially introverts) neglect. (Extroverts, I suspect, have a tendency to leave relationships underdeveloped.) This need, social contact, is more than just the need to be around people, though it is impossible without that dimension. We need to be stimulated both emotionally and mentally. (This is for those of you who tend toward logic or are all "feels.") Emotionally, we need to be able to express our feelings to others, not just bottle it up or show one or two "good" feelings. We need to be able to develop our expression in a healthy way, and in order to do that we need to express ourselves to other people. Intellectually, we need to wrestle with our ideas and beliefs as well as with others. We need to be able to perform appendectomies on our wrong beliefs inflamed by passion. In order to do that, we need to know that we are wrong, which means someone has to contradict us, and we have to tease out the implications from their point of view.

          This pain of loneliness tells us that we need a logical appendectomy or that we are bottling up our emotions or wrongly communicating with our fellow men and women. Often these things are caused by our search for love or for our place in life; this is especially true for adolescents. Paul writes to the Church in Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)" I want to point out that things that love is not are often things that we get wrong when we are alone, or when we get our relationships mixed up. They are the things that can make us lonely. In particular, love "does not seek its own." When we seek after love, we seek for our idea of love. We're usually wrong, which is probably why God chose to define what love isn't rather than to say what it is in 1 Corinthians. When we do get love right, we usually just find it, from what I've been able to tell. (Even if just finding it is on an online dating site, most people don't seem to expect what we they end up with.) We often love our family members who, outside of being in our family have nothing in common with us. I was blessed to love my family and have a lot in common with all of them, but there are times that I doubt that we are even from the same planet. Seeking for love is a selfish action. We want something to stop the pain of loneliness, like aspirin, but we don't expect to find that real love requires sacrifice. Real love hurts. Loneliness can also be a phantom pain that we get when we imagine situations where we could have done something different or where we might do something wrong. We imagine who could hurt us and how, so fear of being with people builds up in our hearts. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." Punishment is pain inflicted by another; sacrifice is a personal choice to endure pain. Perfect love casts out fear because we have already endured pain, so the pain inflicted by another is nothing new. Love "bears all things" and "endures all things." The lover has acclimated himself or herself to pain, so they shrug off the pain others cause. Patience is an important part of love.

           I've noticed that very few relationships, romantic or otherwise, have equal input from both parties. That doesn't stop me from trying to develop relationships with others. On the contrary, I try harder when I see a relationship that I want to succeed begin to fail. Sometimes I fail, but I always hope for grace. Love "does not take into account a wrong suffered," "believes all things," and "hopes all things." On that note, I want to echo Paul's sentiment in Romans 1:11-13 "I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles." There are a lot of people that I've always intended to keep in touch with, and failed to do so. I'm sorry for that. Can I get a second chance?

P.S. Love tends to seek others' good before the lover's own good. Philippians 2:3 "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." I hope I'm not being a hypocrite, but it's always hard to be honest about actions and intentions without conflagrating them. I intend to try to love those who are around me, but I am a selfish human, so I will forget. I ask you to gently remind me to love when I am not. I will try my best to do the same for you.

-Written from my dining room at home.
In love,
Justus

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Be Good

     This semester has been filled with lesson after lesson after lesson. I think that the lesson about compassion that I shared earlier has had the greatest impact on me, but it was backed up by another lesson that I was (and still am) learning at the time. In the class that I have been writing about, we read Plato's Gorgias, which is a Socratic dialogue about the purpose of an orator and of persuasion in general. As Socrates tends to do, the conversation became an ethical argument. (Now I'm all for searching for the truth, but Socrates is really annoying about the manner in which he goes about it. That being said, I agree with him, with reservations.)
     The argument that Socrates eventually centers on is what power means. He insists that to be good is the only power. Socrates then argues that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong. I agree with Socrates that doing wrong is worse than suffering wrong, but my argument diverges from his in that I don't merely see the effects of both as pain versus painlessness or pleasure. There are bigger things at stake here.
     However, looking at Socrates' argument and coupling it with Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, I learned that virtue is the only way to happiness on the earth. (I don't think that it is possible to be entirely virtuous until we have reached heaven, and I think that the happiness we get from virtue finds its source in being godly.) Aristotle's argument is a sort of corollary to Plato/ Socrates' argument regarding power. Aristotle insists that virtue is the only way to happiness, and Plato insists that goodness is the only (or at least the greatest) power. Plato, also through Socrates, argues in Phaedo that the purpose of rhetoric is to lead men into the Good. Coupling this with his argument in Gorgias, we must assume that Socrates thought that rhetoric is intended to make men powerful. Socrates' idea that good is the highests power is backed up in the Bible. Proverbs 3:27 says "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,when it is in your power to do it." Other passages mention being in someone's power, which means they have the authority to do good or evil to you. That being said, Socrates' argument about doing wrong or suffering wrong is an argument about power. God has given us all some extent of power (2 Peter 1:3), and the more power we have the more good we can do, but when we have power we can also do evil. This is where Plato's argument and Aristotle's argument couple with the Word of God. If we have the power to do evil, but doing wrong is worse than suffering it, and virtue is the only way to reach happiness, then we need to be able to do good and to be virtuous in order to be happy.
      This is where Romans 7 comes in. In Romans 7, Paul is discussing his inability to do what he knows is right. He doesn't have the power to do it; even though he knows what is good and virtuous, he can't. Socrates would tell us that he didn't really know, but I disagree with Socrates' definition of knowledge in this case.
      I'm going to backtrack here. People want to be happy. And in our culture, "a virtuous person" is not on the top of many peoples' lists of "what I want to be when I grow up." They want to be happy, but they seek happiness outside of virtue; that's a surefire way to avoid happiness according to Aristotle. The Bible says, "Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" Even when we were told directly by God that the way to peace and happiness is His Way, humankind rejected Him.
     If we want to be happy we have to follow God, but as Paul says in Romans "For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." We can't do the good it requires to be happy. That's where grace comes in. At the end of this semester, I went to a friend's musical performance. She wrote of grace, and in order to help the audience understand her point, she had a theology professor explain some things about grace. He spoke about the practical implications of grace and what it meant to us once we are saved. We cannot be good without God's grace. We are slaves to our sin. However, once we have been set free from our sin, we are able to be good, virtuous people and to show the compassion I spoke of in my last post. It takes God's transformation of us to make us into good people. It takes God to make us happy. And though we will not be perfect on the earth, we are charged with being "perfect as [He] is perfect," "holy, for [He is] holy," pure "as He is pure," and "merciful [as He] is merciful." We will not reach it here, but our work on earth will bring glory to God and will last into eternity. We should think about what we do with eternity on our minds. Since virtue is the only way to happiness, it shouldn't be a chore, but rather a joy to do these things; besides, we have God's grace giving us the power to do all of this. Also, since it's Mother's Day, I thought I'd leave you with the admonition with which my mom sends me into the world: "Be good!"

P. S. Written from my dining room at home.
P. P. S. Thanks, Mom!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

0h the Humanity!

Humanity-- to be humane-- human-- what does all of this mean? I have been receiving a lesson in this for my entire life, but over the last three months it has been especially emphasized to me. The professor who inspired the last three or so posts on this blog influenced me once again, along with another professor. In a class called Classical Ideals of Character, he suggested that to be human does not mean, as Aristotle defines it, to be a rational animal. He suggests compassion as the main trait that sets humans apart from animals. Learning to be human is what the humanities are about, so learning what a human is is of utmost importance to one studying the humanities.

As a side note, knowing what it means to be human is why the humanities are important in the first place. They aren't there just so that people can enjoy them, though if someone doesn't enjoy any part of the humanities I would suggest they need them more than those who love them. To hate art, literature, and history would be to hate the creations and stories that teach us what beauty, love, mercy, and all the other virtues are like. Someone who hates that would find it hard to exemplify those virtues to others.

Compassion is something I have always admired. Occasionally I lack compassion due to the miasm of the culture and my own shortcomings. And occasionally I feel the sharp pangs of empathy worse than anything I can imagine. But usually I am somewhere in the middle. Compassion links us together. It creates community and breaks the walls of isolation to pieces. We attend funerals to mourn the passing of a loved one, and we visit hospitals to encourage our friends, and we volunteer our time, money, and assets to help those in need. Without compassion, community and civilization would crumble. Humanity would fall.

When the Hindenburg burst into flames the famous cry was "Oh the humanity!" This was a spur of the moment lament that carried the sentiments of despair for life and compassion for death. There was nothing that anyone could do to save the lives lost in the accident, just like there is nothing we can to keep our bodies alive forever, until God makes them new. Death is a part of humanity, and compassion for the dead is part of that too.Consider "The Ruined Cottage" by Wordsworth. It is a poem about a man who meets another outside of a cottage in shambles. The second man, Armytage, is a peddler who knew the family that lived in the cottage. Armytage watched the family fall apart like the cottage when the husband went to war in order to keep them alive, since he could find no other way to do it. When the first man urges Armytage to continue his story after taking a moment, Armytage responds (emphasis mine):
It were a wantonness and would demand
Severe reproof, if we were men whose hearts
Could hold vain dalliance with the misery
Even of the dead, contented thence to draw
A momentary pleasure never marked
By reason, barren of all future good.
But we have known that there is often found
In mournful thoughts, and always might be found,
A power to virtue friendly; were’t not so,
I am a dreamer among men, indeed
An idle dreamer. ’Tis a common tale,
By moving accidents uncharactered,
A tale of silent suffering, hardly clothed
In bodily form, and to the grosser sense
But ill adapted, scarcely palpable
To him who does not think.
This response and much of the rest of the poem indicate that memory of the dead and mourning as a community create and hold community together. This is also evident in the Odyssey. When Odysseus is shipwrecked, the men who do not mourn his loss, the suitors of his wife, have forgotten him. They have left his memory by the wayside in order to further their positions in life, and this is cruel. The memory of the dead in the Odyssey is sacred. And without it civilization falls to pieces, which is why those people who did the unthinkable and did not consider those who had fallen while the kings and warriors were at Troy were punished through diverse means. Even in the Bible mourning was a public event, and the community participated in it together. (See the story of Jairus and the story of Lazarus for instances.) In today's society mourning as a community is much less dramatic. There is a short service and then most people just go on with their lives, leaving those most affected to mourn in solitude while we should be mourning together.

Compassion for the injured, sick, and dying is also something that makes us human. We cringe when we see a man do something cruel, such as the villain stepping on some helpless child's broken arm and laughing at their pain. That cringe is a moment of compassion that breaks through the numbness we have in our violent society. We even cringe when we're laughing at fail videos on Youtube. Compassion is inherent to what it means to be human. That's why visiting hospitals, sending get well cards, helping sick friends to take care of themselves, and all of these other gestures of compassion are seen as such essential parts of friendship. Friends are those people in whom we see humanity the clearest. We see their vices and their virtues, their cruelties and their compassions, and their hatreds and their loves. We know them by what makes them human, not simply by what makes them a fellow student or a neighbor or a coworker. Friends or enemies, when we see someone's compassion, we see them at their most human. They are participating in humanity with other humans by empathizing with their pain. (And this doesn't even just apply to compassion toward humans. See Proverbs 12:10. I have some trouble with this one because I tend to think that compassion is misspent on animals if people are still suffering, but I know that the Bible indicates here that compassion is for the suffering, not just humans. And the world groans with us, so why shouldn't I groan with the world? Romans 8:18-23) To participate in the pain of others, whether you have felt the pain yourself or not, is to participate in a community with them. We call that community between men "humanity," and participating we call "being human" or even "humane" when we are specifically talking about compassionate participation.

I have felt the sting of compassion. That is, I have had compassion that leaves me groaning with the suffering, but helpless to do anything to prevent the pain. The only action we can do in those cases is to pray to the One who has all power. In those cases compassion hurts, and why shouldn't it? It is an empathetic emotion and state of mind. Christ knows this feeling more deeply than any of us could fathom. He took all of our pain and all of our death upon himself and directly experienced it all. Isaiah 53 and Philippians 2 bear that out. To be compassionate is not only to be human, but it is also to be Christlike, to be Christian. That is why Christians throughout the ages have been involved in prison ministry, hospitals, insane asylums,  funeral homes, slums, third-world nations, war hospitals, and even social justice movements. The Church has always been compassionate. The Church has a long history of mistakes, but those mistakes are only clouds that will burn away when the sun rises on the eastern horizon. When Christ comes back the Church will be glorified for the compassion she has had in this world. How will you contribute? How will you be Christlike? How will I?

P.S. God wants us to have compassion for our enemies too. Proverbs 24:17-18, Matthew 5:23-28
Written from my dining room.
P.P.S. Bonus verses: Psalm 25:6

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Right Way to Educate: Part 2 (What is the Goal?)

This post comes from a paper I wrote for the same class that inspired the last post. The views included do not represent anyone other than myself, unless you agree with me. (That goes for all of my posts unless otherwise stated.)

The citations are in the MLA style.

            In the debate on education reform, the most controversial perspective is one that calls for no reform. Obviously, the education system could be improved; the only serious debates now are how to reform it and why one method is better than another. The two most controversial conversations currently on the docket are whether morality should be a part of the educational system and whether students should get a broad, general education or a narrow, specified education. These questions come from a difference in philosophical ideals. Increasingly, educators adopt the view that morality is not something that teachers should promote and that a narrow education is more useful. These two positions, however, undermine the whole purpose of education: to shape a virtuous and intelligent populous which can care for itself and lead others.
            In the United States especially, the goal of education is to develop moral people. Benjamin Franklin suggested that “[w]ise and good men are... the strength of the state; more so than riches or arms.... [and] that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortation of adult persons” (Federer 240). This country was founded with the trust that schools would continue to promote virtues. However, in the last century, virtue has been undermined in the school system. C. S. Lewis noticed this trend in the middle of the twentieth century in England, a trend which was occurring simultaneously in the United States. In his work The Abolition of Man Lewis uses a book he calls “The Green Book” to illustrate his point (13). He argues that works like The Green Book subvert the work of the educator to inculcate morals. Lewis notes that the way the authors achieve this subversion is not direct: “It is not a theory they put into [the schoolboy’s] mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all” (16-17). The moral nature of education is part of an ancient tradition which has only recently been broken, but the break was so sudden and so surreptitious that it was accepted with little protest; Lewis refers to this tradition as the Tao (29). He indicates that the difference between education into the Tao and modern education is the difference between a bird teaching its young to fly and a poultry keeper developing his chicks for the slaughter (Lewis 32-33). A moral education is necessary for the populous to be able to care for itself; if the education system does not develop morals to live by, the people will not be able to live independently. Someone will have to tell them what to think.
            If people are to think for themselves, they had better think well. Uninformed decisions could lead to very dangerous results. However, the problem here is not whether students should be taught, but how. If the students are taught in a narrow, focused education system, then the students will be able to perform better in their jobs or careers. However, if they are trained in a broad, general system, they will be able to make connections that a focused education would not afford. Cardinal Henry Newman approached this dilemma in The Idea of a University. Newman, defending the university against the utilitarian cry for practical education, suggests that a general, or liberal, education holds knowledge as an end in itself rather than a tool as a practical, or servile, education does (524-525). He argues that knowledge “is an object, in its own nature so really and undeniably good, as to be the compensation of a great deal of thought in the compassing, and a great deal of trouble in the attaining” (Newman 524). He later writes that “we are satisfying a direct need of our nature in its very acquisition” (Newman 524). However, Newman insists that knowledge can and does lead to more than itself; his main argument is that it need not, but he agrees that it is useful in attaining other ends as well. With that in mind he argues that the Liberal Arts teach that “which... provides the most robust and invigorating discipline for the uninformed mind” (Newman 537). Yet modern thinkers argue that a practical and focused education would be more beneficial. Even those who argue for a binary system, allowing students to choose which they will pursue, assume that those who will choose the Liberal Arts “don’t have a sense of direction,” implying that the Liberal Arts is a mere failsafe for the students who do not know where they belong in the society (Allitt 594). Patrick Allitt, though well meaning, has fallen for the trap set up centuries ago, that education must bear fruit apart from virtue and knowledge. The idea that “physicists who want only to study physics should be free to do so, without laboring through courses in art history that seem to them a waste of valuable time” is born from the assumption that knowledge itself is not worth the thought it takes to understand, or the time it takes to acquire (Allitt 593). This utilitarian view of education misses the point, however, a liberal education affords students more tools to solve complex problems, making it more useful than an education in the practical arts in the long run. Knowledge itself is the main goal of an education, and a liberal education is best suited to that pursuit.
            Education has been such a troublesome subject because those who argue about what it should do have not taken the time to understand what it is. Cardinal Newman says that “education is a higher word; it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent, and is commonly spoken of in connexion with religion and virtue” (529). The character that education forms is part of the purpose that Louis Menand assigns education: “to empower people, to help them acquire some measure of control over their lives” (597). However, implications and purpose still do not answer the question of the definition of education. The word education comes from the Latin educere, which means “to lead out.” An associated word, pedagogy, has similar connotations; it comes from peid ago: “to lead children.” Now, to lead requires a leader. Manand indicates this when he argues, “[I]t isn’t what [teachers] teach that instills virtue; it’s how [they] teach. [Teachers] are the books... students read most closely” (599). In the definition of educere, the idea of leading also indicates that the students are being led out; but from where? One assumes that Plato answers this question with his analogy of the cave. The enlightened man leads those chained out of the cave of ignorance into the light of the sun, viz., knowledge.
In an education system where the end goal is the production of workers, as opposed to self-reliant citizens, reform is necessary if the society is to resume its original, successful course; likewise, this reform would be best if it were to make the education method like the one in place during the height of the society’s growth. Therefore, the system best suited to the reform of the current methods of education is that of the Liberal Arts— let free men be taught as such.
           
Works Cited
Allitt, Patrick.  “Should Undergraduates Specialize.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education 16 June 2006.  Rpt. in Current Issues and Enduring Questions.  Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau.  Boston:  Bedford/St.Martin’s, 1999.  591-594. Print.
Federer, William J.. America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. St. Louis: Amerisearch, 2000. 240. Print.
Lewis, C. S.. The Abolition of Man: Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1965. Print.
Menand, Louis.  “Re-imagining Liberal Education.”  Rollings College, Florida. Speech. Rpt. in Education and Democracy. Ed. Robert Orill, City of New York College Entrance Examination Board, NY, 1997. Print.  Rpt. in Current Issues and Enduring Questions.  Eds. Sylvan Barnet and Hugo Bedau.  Boston:  Bedford/St.Martin’s, 1999.  597-599. Print.
Newman, John Henry. “Discourse V, Knowledge its Own End.” The Idea of a University, Defined and Illustrated. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1898. 99-123. Rpt. In The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to Be an Educated Human Being. Ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2010. 522-533. Print.

---. “Christianity and Letters.” The Idea of a University, Defined and Illustrated. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1898. 256-265. Rpt. In The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What it Means to Be an Educated Human Being. Ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington: ISI Books, 2010. 533-537. Print.

In love,
Justus
(Written from my desk at school)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Right Way to Educate: Part 1 (What is Wrong and What is Missing)

     I have a wonderful class this semester called Composition II. It is basically a class in written rhetoric, or persuasion if you will. Those who are in the class with me are engaged and engaging, the professor who teaches it is a wonderful and thought provoking man, and the content of the class is superb. Both in and out of the class I have been piecing together this blog post.
     Throughout the semester we have been discussing a set of ideas centering around Natural Law. We wrote a paper discussing the similarities or differences between Sophocles' "law of Zeus" in Antigone and the "Law written on [men's] hearts" in Paul's letter to the Romans. We considered Machiavelli's ideas and compared them to the Declaration of Independence and to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail." And we read C. S. Lewis's work "The Abolition of Man." All these sources have led most of our class to the conclusions that persuasion is the only alternative to violence and that in order to be persuasive it is necessary to have shared values to which the rhetorician must appeal.

      I thought I would share some of my thoughts on this subject. Firstly, I agree with the above conclusions. I am a realist, as opposed to a nominalist, which means I think that words mean something outside of what meaning the hearer chooses to give them. I also believe in definite virtues and vices which are defined by their adherence or lack thereof to God's character. That aside I think the rest of my argument will fit nicely together.

Most of my argument will come from "The Abolition of Man" (hereafter "The Abolition"). C. S. Lewis's work is a masterpiece and I don't think one blog post could do it justice. You should definitely read it at least once. In it he argues that the way children are taught, and the way teachers are thinking are destructive and that Natural Law, or the Tao is being thrown out for the first time in history which will lead to "the abolition of man". Now this was written several decades ago, and we can see that his argument is more relevant than ever before. The Tao indicates that we should honor our parents and look in wonder at beautiful things and be kind to our fellow man. The appendix in "The Abolition" gives examples of this from many cultures. One of his main focuses in the first chapter "Men Without Chests" is that of the two tourists in front of a waterfall, one calling it pretty and the other calling it sublime. Lewis brings this up via the authors of what he calls "The Green Book." These authors debunk the idea of sublimity by saying that it is merely how the man feels about the waterfall. Lewis suggests that the waterfall merits wonder, which is why we call it sublime. Even if we didn't feel that wonder, Lewis argues, it would still merit that feeling. I learned this my Freshman year of college in a class which almost everyone else complained about. The class was meant to teach us meta-cognitive techniques and to help us to combine our learning into a harmonious whole. In one of the lectures the guest speaker spoke about intrinsic and instrumental good. He differentiated by telling us that intrinsic good is good in itself, whereas instrumental good is good because it eventually leads to an intrinsic good. This struck me because I had spent a couple of years trying to understand why snow and traditions like keeping the top button of my shirt unbuttoned were called good. (I learned that tradition is there for a reason and that snow is beautiful and thus intrinsically good by applying this lecture and some other things that were going on at the time.) All that said, Lewis is arguing for the real, objective existence of intrinsic values. Intrinsic values are, like intrinsic good, values that exist in the thing in question.
     The example of the waterfall was carried further in my class. The waterfall not only merits feelings of wonder, but also feelings of dread. In this way, the world is much more complicated than we try to make it. Once we made that observation I thought back to my Western Literature class in which we read "The Franklin's Tale" by Geoffrey Chaucer. I compared the waterfall to the black rocks in the story. They merit fear. Dorigen cannot think of any useful reason for the rocks and in her monologue by the cliff she questions the wisdom of creating such "fiendish" works and prays that they may "sink into hell." This fear of the rocks was not simply how she felt about them; the rocks were dangerous. Countless men had died on them and few, if any, lived. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, as the old adage says. The purpose of education is to teach the way to recognize and to appreciate that beauty. (It also teaches us to recognize and appreciate other intrinsic values such as fear.)
     Quintilian, an early rhetorician, addressed this "education of the heart" that Lewis calls for in his "Institutes of Oratory." In chapter two of book six in his work, Quintilian writes, "But what more peculiarly belongs to it [ethos] is simulation of some virtue, of making satisfaction to some one, and εἰρωνεία (eirōneia), "irony" in asking questions, which means something different from that which it expresses." Lewis adds to this as he discusses education of the heart. He refers to his own attitude toward children: "I myself do not enjoy the society of small children: because I speak from within the Tao I recognize this as a defect in myself just as a man may have to recognize that he is tone deaf or colour blind." Here he refers back to St. Agustine's ordo amoris: "the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind and degree of love which is appropriate to it."
     Lewis's attack on modern educational trends is not limited to "The Abolition." Eustace, in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is described as liking "[A]nimals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card...[And] books of information [that] had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools." Here is the result of "The Green Book." This passage describing Eustace is also mentioned in Anthony Esolen's book "How to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child." In it Esolen uses Eustace to make the same point. Proverbs 22:6 is an axiom which indicates that children inculcated with the Tao at early ages will not leave that path. (Tao means the Way. ;-) ) This works both with the Tao and against it. For a child trained to debunk will debunk and train others to do so as well.

I hope to write another post like this one. It was getting long, and I have a few tidbits which wouldn't fit into the topic I chased.

Blessings,
Justus

(Written from my desk at school.)


Friday, October 4, 2013

Kingdom Fandom

      This one will be short. I was talking the other day with some friends and the idea of  fandom came up. For those of you who might not know what that is I'll try to describe it, then I'll give some examples. A fandom is a group of people who are radical fans of a TV show, book series, movie, or something else. Popular fandoms include Ringers (Lord of the Rings), Whovians (Dr. Who), and Potterheads (Harry Potter). I was curious what the difference was between a casual fan and a member of the fandom. The first option we considered was their internet presence. That is are they constantly on blogs, Pintrest, Twitter, Facebook, or forums talking about the fandom? We rejected this  as a good definition for fandom because fandom has existed longer than the internet, and many of the members of these fandoms and others do not spend a lot of time on the internet. Our second thought was the purchase of items related to the fandom, but that didn't come out quite right either. After asking another friend I finally got an answer I liked. A fan is passive, whereas a member of a fandom is active. 

Now to the meat. I have nothing against being part of a fandom. I probably fit into one or two myself. However, I thought about the way we treat these interests and the way we treat Christ. Usually we spend more time thinking about the interest we follow than following Jesus with interest. Jesus calls us to follow. His origional followers were called disciples <followers>. (And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Matthew 4:19-20) We are called to be members of his fandom. And this doesn't mean we just post things about Him on the internet or purchase Jesus themed merchandise, though there is no problem with either of these things. This means that we are to actively pursue Him in our thought, our conversations, and our lives. (Yes I realize this idea has been done before; it's an old old story. I'm just updating phraseology.)

Follow the Old Path,
Yours affectionately,
Justus

(Written from my desk at school.)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Think Again, or Don't Be a Cultural Lemming

     I haven't been doing a lot recently. Though I just started my transition into a new school, I've been relatively unproductive. Production is something necessary for a healthy society. A culture made of entirely consumers will soon consume itself.
   There have been a lot of  things that have brought these sort of thoughts to mind.I recently heard a police officer bemoaning the culture after yelling at several people who did not understand the traffic directions he had given. He said, "We live in a society in which people want to be told what to do, but don't want to think about what they can do." I thought this was an astute observation, one which applies to almost every aspect of life. We want to be told how we should dress, how we should eat, and what movies we should watch. We are always looking for opinions, we are  always looking to others. And yet we are looking to others in order to further ourselves. We want to know what the critics and our friends are saying so that we can show how sheik we are. But does that really matter? Do the things people tell us we should do get us anywhere? Where will we end up if all of us follow the crowd? Are we headed for a cliff? Like lemmings, will we leap off when everyone around us is? I hope not.
     Now, I'm not trying to tell you to go do whatever you want. Social mores are there for a reason. I learned this a couple of years ago. (The semester before this blog started.) I do not need to rebel against tradition, just for the sake of rebellion. Some traditions are there in order to preserve order, to keep us from running off by ourselves and falling off a cliff.
     What I am suggesting is that we think before we follow the faceless crowd. Jesus, in His "High Priestly Prayer" in John 17 says, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." We, as Christians are not to be like the rest of the world, so why should we look to them for our culture? Paul, likewise, admonishes: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." The way we think should be different. 
     The other day, my brother showed this video. The kid here, Jacob Barnett, has asperger's syndrome and is fourteen years old. He is on track to disprove Einsteinian astrophysics. His advice at the very end of the video caught my attention. (Here's a quote if you don't have time to watch the video:

Stop learning and start thinking. You guys have a passion out there, and you all know what it is. So I want you to think about that field instead of learning in that field. And, instead of  being a  student of that field, be the field.

His advice is interesting because I see in it Biblical principals. The writer of Hebrews chastises his audience  for similar reasons:

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

He tells us the same thing. We need to stop just learning and start doing. (Though I'll admit that I think both should be happening.) I am guilty of this. I love to learn, but I don't do much with it. Both Paul and James weigh in on this issue as well. Paul writes, "it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." And James echoes, "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves."
     This mindset pervades our thinking as deeply as our own vision for the future. We tend to think about our future in terms of where we will be, what job we will have, and what we will be doing. This idea was challenged in my mind at my school's orientation week, which I attended at the end of last month. One of the speakers spoke against drinking, as the school has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to alcohol. But instead of simply telling us of the dangers, he challenged our character, and our own vision of the future. He suggested that: "Who do you want to be is what we should be asking ourselves instead of what do you want to be."
     This question should be in the forefront of every Christian mind. Who do I want to be? I hope in my life that the answer is clear; I want to be a little Christ, a reflection of the mercy and love of the Living God. I see that reflection in Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon. Recently Dr. Carson spoke at my school, reiterating much of what he said at this year's national prayer breakfast. Here are some of my favorite quotes: "Humans are made in God's image, and God's no dummy." (And from his mother) "Do you have a brain? Yes? Then you can sort your way out of the problem."  But my favorite over all, and the one that is most relevant is: "When we stop looking for excused, we start looking for solutions." This is my favorite because of the practical value it has, and because it is an echo of Jacob Barnett's video in my mind. We need to stop learning, stop complaining, stop making excuses, and stop sitting on our hands waiting for something to change. We need to make change ourselves. We need to be doers.
     One thing we need to start doing is to start thinking. We need to learn to let our mind be renewed by dwelling on "Whatever is  is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and... anything worthy of praise." We need to abide in Christ and in His word (John 15). We need to meditate on God's Word. As the writer of Hebrews refers to the solid food, or meat, so we need to chew on it. And once we've learned to think rightly, let's do what God's Word says. Let's produce a new culture that won't lead to a dead end, a culture of life. Let's get out of the lemming parade, and "enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Let's get back on the Ancient Path and walk in the Way.

Blessings, Justus

Written from my dining room.