Sunday, January 2, 2011

Leading out

I stumbled accidentally into academia a few years ago (much to no one’s surprise but my own, as it turned out). After a year of living in an intercity commune, I listened to the wise counsel of some of my housemates who suggested, after living beside me for a year, that I may find the logistics of a public school teacher (the vocation I had been pursuing actively for seven years) to be stifling to my flexible lifestyle. They suggested I consider teaching community college instead, and, after a teary conversation, they encouraged me to leave the commune to pursue my master’s in a nearby city, assuring me that the doors were open to me should I decide to move back after my quick M.A.

It was a confusing time for me (incidentally, the time I started this blog), a time when I was slowly realizing that I had no place for Grace in my worldview, that I related to God like a slave to her tyrant, that I didn't know how to think of myself when I wasn't trying to single-handedly save the world, that I was motivated more from a hero complex than from love, that I didn’t know how to distinguish my voice from his or the million other voices clamoring around me. In that time, oddly enough, academia became a place of refuge for me, a place where I felt the closest thing to healthy I had felt in quite a while. Part of that reason may be because it was the right fit, certainly, but I had an inkling that the primary reason was quite simpler:

Academia gave me something to analyze other than my own mind.

This comment must not be interpreted as a criticism of self-examination or psychology or other forms of understanding oneself. On the contrary, I assume I still have a life full of inner probing in front of me. What I needed for a time, however, was time; I needed to learn to leave my unanswered questions unanswered for a while, to gain perspective that was outside myself, to listen to voices other than my own.

At any rate, I remembered all that as I read the closing chapter of At War With the Word, a book about liberal education by a scholar who has meant quite a bit to me over the past three years, R. V. Young. For any of my readers interested in scholarship or education (from either the producing or receiving end), I am including it.
The Latin educare means to “rear or bring up (children or young animals),” and it in turn derives from educere, “to lead forth” or “to lead out of.” Implicit in the term is the idea that education consists in leading the young out of something, and the something out of which everyone must be led is the peculiar, self-interested ego; for to be self-centered is the common predicament—that narrow, stifling subjectivism that is the universal prison of all human beings. A great work of literature is, then, a book that extends our horizons, that alters our perspective, that makes us take notice of something beyond our immediate needs and desires.
-R. V. Young
May I never leave the journey of knowing myself, and may I never lack for people to lead me out of myself!

1 comment:

Judy@learningtoletgo said...

I just clicked on your blog from Jen's Conversion Diary, and I can see from your first entry that I am going to enjoy reading what you have to say. Fortunately, a glance at your archives shows me I have something to look forward to! I just wanted to say hello and to let you know you've caught a new friend.