Hamlet is a play that ponders, among other things, the human urge to direct. In the context of a play, a director has the power to lead and guide the actors to fulfill his vision. A play within the play, commissioned by the Danish Prince, is a central catalyst of the plot (“The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king”).
The verse we are using for this month’s assurance of pardon is a familiar one – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:9). The word “confess” is a compound Greek word that literally means “to say the same thing.” In other words, when we confess our sins, we are saying the same thing about our thoughts, words, and deeds, that God would say about them. If we do that – if we own up to our sins, then God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us.
"The Fighting Bulls and the Frog" by Aesop
Two Bulls were fighting furiously in a field, at one side of which was a marsh. An old Frog living in the marsh, trembled as he watched the fierce battle.
“What are you afraid of?” asked a young Frog.
“Do you not see,” replied the old Frog, “that the Bull who is beaten, will be driven away from the good forage up there to the reeds of this marsh, and we shall all be trampled into the mud?”
Classical educators like myself frequently talk of inspiring wonder and “irrigating deserts,” which is all well and good, but unless students understand that wonder must take place within the boundaries established by traditional Christian dogmas and creeds, inspiring wonder is reckless. Children need room to play, but inspiring wonder without also teaching that some things aren’t up for debate is like loosing little children to explore, create, and discover on a busy interstate.
So far in this series we have explored what habit training is in part 1, and how it is done in part 2. In this final article, we will explore the why question. Perhaps you have read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and like me you are convinced of his thesis. Maybe this article should have gone first. I decided on this order (what, how, why) because before we could actually get to the why, we needed to clearly define what it is we’re talking about regarding habit training.
Freedom is gained only through discipline. Discipline is regular, continual effort to enact self-governance in some way. Discipline comes in many shapes and sizes, from budgeting to exercise to reading. In each of these examples, one applies oneself to self-govern in order to enjoy a future freedom. We budget in order to enjoy financial freedom. We exercise to be free from health problems. We read to be free from ignorance. Discipline, though, is not easy.
Author's forward: If you are disappointed that a post with such a title is nothing more than a short story, I do not blame you. Money is a divisive subject, but fiction is ambiguous, and what is the point of reading anything which does not warrant a strong response? And yet, the ambiguity of fiction also has curative properties that defy reason, just as a sad face is good for the heart.
As classical Christian educators, we place a high value on cultivating such qualities as wisdom, virtue, and piety in the students God brings into our care. A question that has challenged educators down through the ages has been how to effectively train students in these qualities. Do we put on the hard press, systematically breaking down their wills so that we achieve the kind of conformity one would expect of a military drill camp? Seems a bit extreme and dehumanizing. Do we create elaborate schemes of rewards and punishments?
Classical education seeks to return to the old paths of wisdom and finds nourishment from those excellencies and virtues which our predecessors judged worthy of preserving. It is not concerned with the transient or ephemeral, but sends its roots into deeper soil. Thus, classical schools devote much time to the reading of old books as they cultivate a posture of respect and admiration towards the best of what has been thought or said.
My one-year-old has lately begun to “color.” A supply of pencils, crayons, and paper sits ever-ready at his small table in the corner of the kitchen, and when he first wakes up, or whenever he finds a free moment in his little day, he hastens there to draw, with all seriousness, beautiful inscrutable lines and swirls and loops. So intent is he that I sometimes have a hard time tempting him away for the day’s other tasks; he ignores offers even of snacks or outside play; I have to lift him, wailing and wriggling, to carry on with things I deem more needful: mealtime, bath-time, bedtime.