Sunday, July 17, 2016

Of Fear and Trust

By: Susan

Note: The word essay really means "an attempt".  Here is an attempt on my part to understand the dynamic that fear and trust have played in my life.  These ideas are by no means scientific or definitive.  So I welcome your comments to help me further clarify my thoughts.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the difference between acting out of fear and acting out of trust.  It started with parenting.  I know that for the most part, my first response when it comes to my children was fear, fear for their safety, for their physical and spiritual well-being.  When they were little I was worried about them getting sick or lost in a crowd.  I spent many years afraid that they were not getting the best education possible.  In their teenage years I worried about what they did when they weren’t with me, afraid of what choices they would make.  Now that they are all young adults, I worry about who they will marry, will they be happy, will they be good parents, will they be financially secure.  A few years back I started trying to replace the fear with trust.  Trust that their father and I have done our best to instill a love of knowledge and learning in them so no matter what school they go to or who their teachers are, they will always learn something.  Trust that we have built a home on the foundations of faith in God and His guidance, so they know the difference between right and wrong.  Trust that they will make mistakes and be tested, but that God will guide them and protect them.  I wish I had learned this approach sooner!  Parenting out of trust is not any easier; it’s just more joyful, more liberating, less claustrophobic (both for the parent and the child). Fear spreads a fog over everyday life.  It smothers happiness.  It suffocates self-knowledge. Acting out of fear is like walking across an abyss on a rope bridge.  Living with trust feels more like walking on solid ground, in the sunshine, with a strong hand on your back, holding you steady.

Even though I may have parented a lot out of fear, I know I taught out of trust.  I started teaching when my last child was in kindergarten.  So I had had about fifteen years of experience raising children.  So I came to the classroom trusting that ALL children would love a good story, that ALL children would want to solve problems and get in touch with their mathematical intuition.  I knew that ALL children were naturally curious and would love learning about their world.  That’s why my years in the classroom were definitely joyful and I want to think that my students felt safe and therefore learned better.  

Living with trust is not about being naive or delusional.  It’s about examining my assumptions. It’s about assuming the best, until proven otherwise.  It’s about believing that there is more to this life than self-preservation.  We can’t completely dissociate ourselves from fear.  It’s a part of our nature and it’s there for a reason.  But it’s the instrument of the lower animal nature.  Trust comes from a higher place, from that part of us that can hope, pray and have faith.  

So I instead of fearing the unknown, I am trusting in the growth that comes from stretching myself in new directions.  Instead of fearing differences, I trust that God in His wisdom created these differences for a purpose, for us to learn to see His image in all the diverse hues of our skins, the varied rhythms of our tongues and the multiple expressions of our souls.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

National Books by Carolyn

I'm going to break the rules of this blog (again) by copying part of a chapter from a book I am currently reading, rather than writing my own text. My intent is to begin some thinking and some dialogue about what this author writes. Read carefully and consider . . .

     In 1987, the bicentennial of the Constitutional Convention, three very important bestsellers swept America: Robert Bork's The Tempting of America, E.D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy, and The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. They presented essentially the same message, about law, society, and education, respectively: that we have straying from our founding - and not in a good direction. . . 
     Consider Allan Bloom's profound analysis of American education. As I read this modern classic, three major points stood out. First, societies are successful when people choose to be good. If people choose mediocrity, they end up with a mediocre society. If they choose excellence, they build an excellent society; if they choose decadence, society decays. This is not only common sense, it is historically accurate.
     Second, people choose to be good when they are taught and believe in good. People's choices are a direct result of their beliefs. And their beliefs are profoundly influenced by what they are taught by parents, friends, teachers, clergy, etc. If they are taught a falsehood or even evil, and if they believe it, they will choose poorly. Teaching influences belief, which guides action.
     Third, the thing which demonstrates how well they are taught is their national books. A national book is something that almost everyone in the nation accepts as a central truth. The national book of the Jews is the Torah; Muslims, the Koran; Christians, the Bible, etc. It could be argued that Shakespeare is a national author for England, Goethe and Luther for Germany, Dante and Machiavelli for Italy, and so on. Whatever the nation, its national books, the books that almost everyone in the nation revere and believe in, will determine the culture. Good national books, like the Bible or Shakespeare's works, will lead to a good nation. Bad national books like The Communist Manifesto or Mein Kampf will lead to bad nations until they reject such books.
     Now, what of a nation with no national book, with no central text which almost everyone agrees upon as the measuring rod of right and wrong? Such a nation is simply without culture, or at best is in the process of losing it. . . 
     In fact, there is no national book in America today. No national books mean no culture; and this is very ominous for the future. Any society which loses its national book declines and collapses in ignorance, dwindles and perishes in unbelief. 

     This seems to be a propitious time to think about this author's statements. We are close upon the anniversary of our nation's birth, a time for celebration. Yet, our country is in turmoil at every level - socially, politically, economically. We are searching for reasons, for someone to blame, for some positive, forward-propelling action we can take.

     So what do you think of his three points, and why? What are the implications for our nation and ourselves if his points are valid?
The author has certainly given me some food for thought.

From A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century, by Oliver Van DeMille. Published by George Wythe College Press, Cedar City Utah, 2008, p. 63-64.