Modus Operandi

One of the great myths of our day is the belief that education is the key to a better future. It’s not just that the words education and better are existentially assumed concepts, or that this is an epistemologically flattened out and reductive explanation of how the human mind works, that makes the mythology of this belief so predictably ill-conceived – but it is in how the implied subtext, openly suggests that if everyone would simply get there mind’s right – we’d all be better off . . . never mind that what defines having one’s mind right is a question left wide open to interpretation.

Such an approach views us as nothing more than programmable hardware, awaiting an operating system upgrade – because undoubtedly, bad data has somehow corrupted our current OS . . . making the more culturally acceptable good data uninstall-able. It is an idea solely predicated on the formula — when you control data input, you control functional output . . . as if human volition were a simple matter of overwriting a bit of errant code. But is this really the modus operandi of the human heart and mind?

I have a friend who is fond of pointing out that it only takes two documents to find out what somebody really believes – a check book and a calendar. People will tell you with impassioned detail what means the most to them – but just as often, where they put their time and money, will tell you a completely different story. But how can this be, if what we say and what we do, emerges from the same mind? Or is this just the cognitive dissonance of self-deception convincing us that the erratic nature of our actions will somehow catch up to the good intentions of our right thinking . . . eventually?

cover_image.jpg.640x360_q85_cropIt is the fatal flaw of modernity to believe that placing mind over emotion will ever result in anything, other than a self-affirming conclusion – as if the wrangling of the human will into submission were an academic puzzle to be solved. But our hearts and minds, by design, are meant to work in concert. Passion in tandem with imagination are what drives the desire of the will. We were meant to have an inspired and creative mind that would act upon the impulse of what is beautiful and true. So it is no surprise that God would make his appeal to us, not in an impressive assemblage of incontrovertible facts . . . but rather, in the irresistible narrative of redemptive sacrifice.

So when I read Psalm 19, David’s beautiful opus declaring how overwhelming, is the knowledge of God, its beauty bursting at the seams of human description – I am filled with the desire to join in with David’s beseeching of God to “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord” (Psalm 19:14). Because I want to have my will so profoundly altered, to have my heart and mind so preoccupied with God’s will, that my actions will become almost involuntarily in step with his will. Is this not the preeminent function (modus operandi) of our Christian faith?

Maybe we should have all been poets . . .

One thought on “Modus Operandi

  1. Fascinating post. In a way, though, the view of education as “mind” over emotion is itself one of the unfortunate results of the flat-earth consciousness of modernity.

    In ancient and medieval India, education at its best (as exemplified by Nalanda University) meant a drawing out (in the Platonic sense) of that Divine Intelligence which is at the heart of our Being.

    I’m not suggesting that the masses of ancient and medieval cultures anywhere had this kind of education, but it existed as an ideal and perhaps was embodied at Nalanda and a few other places.

    Even at the start of modernity, in the Renaissance, the education of the mind wasn’t a flat STEM education, solely preoccupied with what can be measured (by rules or checkbooks or calendars) but a rich humanistic education considering all aspects of humanity and the universe to be subjects to be delighted and immersed in not merely objects of cold, calculating study.

    if the thousands of students around the world who are being introduced to contemplative education (see Arthur Zajonc’s work to learn more about this) are a sign, things may be changing, and perhaps a true “education of the soul” may be emerging. And, most important, not confined to a particular building or place but one which makes all of the earth a “Universe-City.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s