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Monday, February 24, 2014

On Intellectual Habits, the Fallibility of Reason and Being Transparent.

When Reason turns us against ourselves
"The reasoning power, acting in a more or less mechanical and involuntary manner, does not necessarily work towards the morally right conclusion." (v3, p117)

Have you ever experienced this?
"We all know that, entertain a notion that [so and so] is dishonest, that a friend is false, that a dress is unbecoming, and some power within us, unconsciously to us, sets to work to collect evidence and bring irrefragable proof of the position we have chosen to take up." (v3, p117)

This was my Thursday. It might be my tomorrow.
Wait. I'm about to be transparent. Are you ready for this?

This was a day I woke up with lots of 'reasons' to be annoyed, several of which are listed below, not in order of occurrence but by severity of annoyance.

Because of the existence and consistent insistence upon the rule - 'Thou shalt not exit thy room and shall remain quiet, if not speechless, before 7 am', I feel it is reasonable that one might wake up somewhat grumpily before 6 am, to the tune of a six year old neighbor's singing, at the top of her lungs (even if it was Great is Thy Faithfulness), after an awake-til-2am-late-night experience of blissfully picking billions of lice out of somethree's hair.

To me, it seems perfectly reasonable that I could be annoyed that someone took my running shoes outside and forgot them there overnight. It rained. They were right where whoever left them when I went searching for them, still outside, and FULL of water.
Things can potentially take a LOOOOOONNNNGGGG time to dry here in the humidity...
I don't have an extra pair.
I can't effectively walk on the treadmill in this seventh month of bulging belly in flip flops. Can't.
Yep. more annoying.

Some child bursts into my room (while I am still in bed looking upon the Proverb about how to handle loud early rising neighbors) and presents incriminating evidence re: a teenager. Evidently, Certain-Fifteen-Year-Old has decided to, this very day, break a rule that he has broken weekly for the last two months, for which has been doled out timely, just, and painful consequences every.single.time.
Try to imagine the pattern with me. Infraction. Weeklong restriction. Infraction. Weeklong restriction. Infraction. FOR WEEKS LONG ON END. Today, the cycle continues.
My husband being away, I get to deal with it
You get it.
Yep. super annoying.

Honestly, I was annoyed. Very. Multiple times.

Do you know what?
In part because of my recent rumination on this subject, but entirely for grace, I was able to quickly detect, even before leaving my bedroom, some fallacies in mine and my son's reasoning and therefore choose me that day whom I would serve.

You see, though there were without a doubt lots of things to be annoyed about, there are always innumerably MORE things to be thankful for. For example, that I have legs and am able to walk; that eventually, the sun will shine again, my shoes will dry, and even if they don't, I can afford another pair or ask my mother-in-law for one ;). And, how thankful I truly am to have a 6 year old daughter, a delightful child (who sings Great is Thy Faithfulness to boot).

Now in the case of the teenager, it was a little more difficult to find the bright side... heheh. Well, seriously, I'm only partly kidding. However, what an immense privilege to talk with him about how the decisions made right.this.very.minute do have an impact on who he is becoming, his character; about the importance of self-government; and how submission to authority now is simply practice for days when he'll have to will himself to obey an Invisible Authority without parents who look over shoulders. He may have said 'Amen' to that.

We got to discuss how we are capable of convincing ourselves using our REASON that certain things, while forbidden, are not that bad... or, it isn't really going to hurt anyone... or, this rule is unreasonable compared to... or, if I can indulge and just not get caught... or, only this one last time. I can stop this habit whenever I decide to... or... whatever.

Sin is sin. Disobedience of authority is disobedience of Authority. We can and naturally will use reason to justify sin, UNLESS we keep in step with the Spirit. The lights came on. The waters broke. I gave an illustration, which I can't remember now, and complimented myself on it; as it was really quite perfect considering. I wished aloud I could have recorded it. He told me, he wished he'd recorded the whole conversation it was all so good.

Praise the Lord. PRAISE the Lord.
It's all grace.

In this battle against fallible reasoning, where right thinking may become a matter of life or death, thankfully, we are not left alone. God has graciously given us a Standard of Truth by which we may judge aright, to which we may refer, rather must refer, and that often.

And look what I found today while rummaging around in my commonplace for an appropriate quote. Whoa. Great minds think alike...
"How are we to get this vital knowledge, without which we assuredly perish? - not in some unknown future state, but here and now, a slow paralysis creeps upon us. We have seen that there is but one source of illumination, the Bible itself. It is true that the divine Spirit is a light in every man's soul; but if a lamp is to be kindled, there must be the lamp; and it would seem as if the process followed by the Holy Spirit were to teach us by an arresting illumination, from time to time, of some phrase written in the Bible. Hence, our business is, before all things, to make ourselves acquainted with the text. (v4, p84)

By long, slow study and by quick heart's love we shall learn to discern God, to know in an instant those words which are not of him... (v4, p89)"

And this is the advice I gave myself on the temptation to be 'reasonably' annoyed on Thursday, and that which I subsequently shared with my son for 'truthfully' dealing with the temptation to use faulty reasoning to defend his wrongdoing.

Turn reason right side out.

We have a choice regarding what we will think about.

We can sit and smolder, thinking of all the reasons 'Why I am justifiably annoyed today', which will absolutely not help the situation, even if it feels by far the most reasonable thing at the moment.
Or, we could list all the reasons 'Why I can do this thing and disobey just this once'.
We can defend ourselves with good reasons to act whichever way the wind blows.


"...We turn away our thoughts from beholding evil, the evil in another or the evil suggestion to ourselves; and we do so, not by reasoning the matter out, but just by thinking of something else, some other pleasant or interesting thing belonging for the moment to our lives. For we are so made that there is always with the temptation an easy and natural way of escape."

I can't even tell you what good advice this is. Seriously.

Turn the thoughts.

To Scripture. Listen to an audiobook for 5 minutes. Take a shower. Eat peanut butter toast with limited edition raspberry jelly. Make coffee. Sit and read a visually appealing book with a 6yo Great is Thy Faithfulness aficionado. Search the attic for an old pair of running shoes. Sing a folksong or three and read poems. Make every opportunity to avoid direct speech with teenager until full composure has set in, toast and coffee are digested, etc.

When faced with temptation, think of something else, find something pleasant or interesting (and lawful) to do or think about.

Fallible reasoning can be overcome.

By testing with truth.
By thought turning.
By taking in big gulps of grace.


"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."
2 Cor.9:5

This post is based on thoughts on the first part of Chapter 11 in Volume 3, School Education by Charlotte Mason. The topic, Some Unconsidered Aspects of Intellectual Training, is one option for posts advocated by the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival 2014 Schedule. If you'd like to read other posts on the subject, be sure to read all the February editions.
If you'd like to share your post with the upcoming carnival, find out how here.
Find links to past CMBCarnivals here.


Tammy Glaser said...

Guess what our school song is.... GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!!!! Think on "Morning by morning new mercies I see." Even mornings when we have every reason in the world to be grumpy. Ducking and running!!!!

Kristyn B said...

Love this, Amy :-)
Thanks for giving us a transparent view of your life.

Kelly Petrie said...

I love Great is Thy Faithfulness, I think we will make it our next hymn! This is a great reminder Amy. I often use this "We can defend ourselves with good reasons to act whichever way the wind blows." for much of the trivial and annoying things in my life. I have been, with God's grace, able to behave in a much more loving and forbearing manner during tribulations in my life. It's those little things that I succumb to....

Alesha H said...

Thanks Amy...big gulps of grace indeed. Re-read your post to turn my thoughts this morning. I might can handle school now. :)

Celeste said...

Really helpful post, Amy. I can definitely relate. (Especially on the kid doing the same misbehavior for weeks and weeks in a row despite consistent discipline--ahem.) I pride myself on being "reasonable" in the midst of chaos, emotion, etc. But sometimes its better to cast reason aside, forget all the *reasons* we can be frustrated (and yes, they are there!), and look to being merciful instead. Great reminder.

amyinperu said...

she doesn't know the second line of the chorus, yet... ;) this morning it was 'on a hill far away' before trailing off into her own version.

yep. you and the hymnist are absolutely right - morning by morning.
of course, we don't really have to wait all the way 'til morning to see those new mercies. this afternoon is just fine. :)

amyinperu said...

i'm so glad you've seen progress! keep it up! we're fighting the same battle!

amyinperu said...

you're funny! i'm pretty sure i'll need to re-read it sometimes too! :)

JoyH said...

This was really beautiful, Amy. Thank you. I also have those types of mornings and hate when I lose to the grumpy mood. I will be thinking on this as we return to Asia next I'm sure all the changes will give me ample opportunity to practice patience and grace.


Kristin Spittle said...

This is the most insightful, honest and true thing I have read in a very long time (aside from the Bible!). Thanks for laying it all out and reminding me to take my thoughts captive, and in so doing help my children do the same.

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