By the time a man is ten years into his career, he will have professionally encountered a few people who cannot stand him. A man makes his way in the world, sets goals, refines his methods, and in the midst of it all, at least one person with whom he has a professional relationship will say, “I do not like you and I intend on doing something about it.” Politicians meet such adversity every day. Missionaries often meet such adversity. So do classical educators.
In the Divine Comedy, Dante discovers an odd rule of Mount Purgatory. Every soul there may ascend the mountain as they will except at night, where a great and horrible darkness falls over everything. At times like that, the only thing to do is to sit and wait in the dark. Throughout the poem (and in typical Medieval symbolism), light is representative of God. Those in Hell, being separated from God, have no light. Those in Paradise, being in God's presence, have all-light (or all the light that they desire).
In Paradise Lost, the hours before the Fall see Adam and Eve in a disagreement about work. Eve tells Adam they should part ways for the day so they can get more done, for when they are together, they distract one another with conversation and flirtation. Eve is not content the two are accomplishing enough. Every night, the day’s work of pruning and trimming is undone by the natural growth of the limbs and branches and fruit. But Adam is not persuaded this really matters. God cares little about the shape of the garden and much about man’s delight in it.
Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you."
The enemy does anything he can to keep us from asking, seeking, and knocking.
Three effective things include:
1. He convinces us that it has already been given and there is no more need to ask, that we have already found and there is no more need to seek, that the door has already been opened and there is no more need to knock.
As a young man, Benedict left his hometown of Nursia, journeying to Rome to continue his education. His time in Rome left him deeply troubled, the city apparently overcome by paganism and depravity. Eventually, Benedict simply tired of people. Seeking solitude and quite, he moved to a cave near Subiaco (about 30 miles east of Rome).
A young woman sits at the feet of Jesus. She is transfixed by his presence, hanging on his every word. Can you glimpse the delicate smile that hovers about her lips as she contemplates him? Her eyes are bright, captivated. She is Mary. See the somewhat older woman walking across the room deliberately towards Jesus? Her eyes are warm and straightforward, but her brow is furrowed and her expression troubled. Here is Martha.
Probably, when your little child catches the flu and lies in bed, shivering and miserable, and asks you why she hurts so, you tell her that she caught a playmate’s germs, and they made her sick. Probably, this answer does not do much to console or to satisfy either of you, though you both accept it as truth.
Probably, it does not cross your mind to tell your little child that bad, mean fairies made her sick. Probably, if that answer did escape your lips, she would be intrigued. You, on the other hand, would feel the discomfort of telling an untruth. But would you be?
In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously states that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” For reasons unknown to myself, Christians of our own day yet repeat this proverb in discussions of statecraft and human nature as though it were obviously true. While I have respect for the aphorism, and I appreciate a counterintuitive maxim, the saying in question is laughably unacquainted with Scripture.
I hope all is well! As promised, I am writing to offer you any advice I can as you start out your journey with your new family and teaching. This is the first letter, but I hope our correspondence will continue for as long as it proves to be helpful.
In his 1987 essay “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer,” Wendell Berry offers a rationale for his reluctance to make the transition from pen and paper to mouse and keyboard. Berry was only interested in technological change if it was as affordable, as compact, or as useful as his current technology. If new technology offers no clear advantages over traditional methods, why upgrade? He concludes his essay with a list of justifications for upgrading technology, and his final criterion is germane to education, especially in a civilization saturated with technologies of various stripes.