Saturday, May 18, 2013

Of Hermits and Monks

What do Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and John Bunyan all have in common? One had a serious health issue, another a brilliant mind that caused him to be labeled as a reject and the last, the unfortunate experience of unjust incarceration. Each of them had to endure a kind of isolation. Helen, without sight and hearing, no available communication. Albert, the isolation of social rejection (home educated as a result) and John, years separated from family and society, left alone in a prison cell. At the time of their "misfortunes", the loneliness must have been tormenting. Hope of being a blessing to society must have been laughable, yet here we are, still enjoying and enhanced by each one's gift to the world, long after their death. What others would have seen as a detriment, God used as a blessing...through isolation.
New Brunswick's current Lieutenant Governor, Graydon Nicholas, spoke at a homeschool function once.  I will never forget what he said. Many of the most influential people in history went through a time in their life of some sort of isolation. He indicated that times of isolation are good for people. It allows for uninterrupted thinking, focus and prayer. All three of which are rare commodities these days. Homeschoolers often are accused of "isolating" their children, as if it is always a bad thing to do. Obviously, it can be bad in some cases where motives of fear and control are involved, but is it always??
We decide to take the 12 or so years of formal learning into our own hands and give our kids the best we can to it.  We decide to remove the noise from those years. The sea of peer voices that distract and contradict ours. Us...the ones responsible for what they actually learn. Peers and officials will not stand before God to give an account for our kids' education...the parents will. Not that I think I will never make a mistake or an omission, but if I am the one that will be charged either way, then I may want to do the work myself.
 One of the things that is most important to me for my kids to learn about and develop is the ability to think and take "every thought captive". If allowing them to be alone with their thoughts and activities for a long period of time will help this, then bring on the isolation. It sounds like a dirty word, but don't let it fool you. The ability to be alone with your own thoughts and not be afraid, depressed, productive or even bored is a precious gift. It builds strength and peace and allows for communication with Jesus the Life Giver. Nations that slowly and subtly had this removed from their people suffered communism and even destruction. It ruins individual and community health and freedom. 
 I also read an article lately that claimed the most valuable asset for the next generation, according to business owners, will be attention. The ability to stay on task and finish a job is desperately lacking in young people today. The constant interaction with people via social media is crippling the mind.  With the presence of texting at your fingertips, you cannot be left alone...ever. The world of interruptions is distracting people from thinking. If we can't think anymore, then we will be controlled. Not that texting and the sort are all bad, they are very convenient.  Just like anything else, abuse of a good thing will harm. I'm fairly sure though, that most young peoples' use of social media, in both content and amount, is not very well monitored nor controlled.
You don't have to be  handicapped, in prison or homeschooled to be isolated and alone, however. We can all remember that certain kid in school, always alone, never looking up, teased, unaccepted, desperate. Isolation is in the mind. With the opportunity and ability to think, reason and pray, lonliness and bondage can be the new strangers to a person, no matter where they find themselves spending their days. Homeschooled or public, isolation occurs, in ways beyond our control. It should be used for our growing. Seen as an opportunity to exercise this thinking task. In fact, maybe it can be something to be perused or valued. I think I am finally understanding possible motives of hermits and monks.
God made us social beings, however. Eventually, we need to come out of our wood, shake a hand and have a conversation. He wants us to depend on one another, so we don't become an island unto ourselves. Too much "me time" could make me a self-centered blob of uselessness. Have a party. Join a club. Play a sport. Text your overseas buddy. Just learn to see that quiet place for one as a sanctuary. Don't avoid it, go there often and use it for prayer and reason.

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