Thursday, July 05, 2012


   In my reading I came across a passage in Orison Swett Marden’s book titled “The Secret of Achievement.” Now this is a rather lengthy post for me but I think it has merit. The point where I became focused is when the question was posed, “what is the point of an education?”
 I asked myself what I think the point of an education, especially a higher education, is.
My immediate thought is to become a master at something that will
enable me to earn a good living while doing something that I enjoy. We all want to enjoy life and do work that is meaningful and that we draw satisfaction from, do we not?
May be, but that was not the answer that was given in this piece; I’ll write his insights –

“The object of an education is to unfold and to lay open to the sunlight all the faculties and powers of the body, mind, and soul. A rosebud may be a beautiful thing in possibility; but its petals must be unfolded, its tints must be developed, its fragrance evolved, before it becomes a rose, or before it answers the call of its existence.” 

As I read and pondered this imagining how a tight bud has within it all the potential of unfurling into great beauty, sweet fragrance and pure delight to those who encounter it, I began to understand his premise. Education of the body, mind and soul are truly like the bud, and with each of these independent parts of our being they must be unfolded in order to reach our true call of existence. He went on to further describe his point ---

  To be educated is to have every faculty of body, mind, and heart naturally unfolded and developed to the utmost possible sensibility, so that they shall respond to the slightest stimulus of everything in the universe which can possibly give physical, mental, or moral delight, or which can aid in their expansion or culture; while, at the same time, the man’s original genius is quickened or disciplined to do or to produce its best.”

Wow, so much more than my conclusion. Unfolding and developing to the utmost of our sensibilities so we can respond to the slightest, (I thought how much of life is hidden in subtleties, like the beauty of the violet that grows low, head down under the foliage of larger plants but casting sweet fragrance and beauty to the beholder.) stimulus of everything in the universe. Now this is more, much more; I began recalling subjects I have been educated in to some degree; while in my garden catching my breath over a spade: Why must a garden herb be crushed to release its most pungent scent? How the youngest tendrils grow and reach out in an aimless fashion and how the first blast of heat can shrivel and retard their growth. And on and on. 
Things come to life as we learn of them, whether it be physical tests, intellectual pursuits or moral revelation, when we are without education, we are truly in the dark.
Of course, we all want to delight in life; the Bible tells us the eye never tires of seeing and so it is, but if we lack physical, mental or moral education, this seeing casts its sight lower and lower until only the base elements of life are apparent. Promiscuous sex, intoxicants, high levels of excitement become the only stimulus we comprehend; we are blinded to the vast outer and inner universe, the things that give delight, joy, illumination and are hidden, crowded out and stifled by loud explosions of electric guitars, drug induced ecstasies, and meaningless sexual exploits, just to name a few.
 I began to consider how ‘every good and perfect gift comes down from God’, but unless we are educated we can go through life missing so much of these perfect gifts. He then made this comment – 
“The world itself is a university. Travel and contact with men and things, a mental collision with different races and peoples, and the struggle to get on in the world, are themselves educators in the highest degree.” 
Implied by this I think is that whether in academic pursuits or as we engage life, if we have a mind to learn and educate ourselves there are opportunities every where we go. But beware--
“The boy who leaves school or college with a head full of knowledge, but hating his lessons, shows that his education was a failure. It would be far better if he had only half the knowledge and left school in love with learning…..” We must love to learn things that matter.

  While meeting with the guys the next day I posed the same question to them regarding education and I was impressed to hear many of the comments along the line of this piece. Especially from the guys who have benefited from education. Teen Challenge has an extensive Bible education program and they spend many hours studying the word along with a host of other topics needful to men.

  I want to go on with this by including an illustration ----
  “As we pass before some painting, or some poem,” says E. R. Sill, “the question is, what does this give me? It may give the imagination some pretty image of nature. That is something.
It may give the feeling of peace or tranquility bringing up memories from the past. That is more. But if it be a truly great picture, or a great poem, the whole spirit in us is quickened to new life.” Our sense of color and form, our perception of harmonious relations, “our interest in some crisis of human destiny, our thought concerning this, and a hundred mingled streams of fancy and reflection and will-impulse, are set flowing in us; because all this was present in the man of genius who produced the work, and because his expression of it there means the carrying of it over from his spirit into ours. If it be a work of the greatest rank, we are more from that moment and forever.”

My mind hung on those words, “we are more.” Is this not the desire of every man and woman, to influence others to be more? Certainly every parent, school teacher, religious instructor hopes they can gift their hearer with thoughts that will make them more from that moment and forever. Don’t we all want to be a positive influence in this world?
 I think it is said best by Wm. M. Thayer in a letter to Mr. Burke ---

  My dear Burke; -- you will agree with me that every one must decide and direct his own course in life, and the only service friends can afford is to give us the data from which we must draw our own conclusion and look over the field of life and see what are its aspects.
   “Tell me, Burke, do you not feel a spirit stirring within you that longs to know, to do, and to dare; to hold converse with the great world of thought, and hold before you some high and noble object to which the vigor of your mind and the strength of your arm may be given? Do you not have longings like these, which you breathe to no one, and which you feel must be heeded, or you will pass through life unsatisfied and regretful? I am sure you have them, and they will forever cling round your heart till you obey their mandate. They are the voices of that nature which God has given you, and which, when obeyed, will bless you and your fellow-men.”

I love this quote and I have never met anyone who didn’t agree that no one can direct us, they can only give information; we are the captains of our own destiny. We all have that spirit within to know, to do and to dare. It can be dimmed but never extinguished. Some high and noble cause, like King David says, “my heart is stirred by a noble theme.” We want to be more, influence others to be more; accomplish more than we have to this point, and it may be, much more.
Can I not spend some bit more time exploring subjects of value, some additional time reading or searching out wisdom and knowledge by restraining some of my half witted entertainments? I will be the same man next year if my friends, books, influences and entertainments are the same. But I can ‘begin to become’ by redeeming some time for something high and noble.
When writing something like this I know there are some who will dismiss it, others who will obsess over it but my hope is to encourage those along the way and to awaken others and inspire all, self included.


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