Two Thoughts. Of “Discipleship.”

  • μαθητής is a learner. The fanciness of the word disciple, the favored translation, obscures the simplicity of μαθητής, makes a humble way of life into an elite title. But splitting hairs over words—learner versus disciple—is not upbuilding in this case. Of importance, rather, is calling attention to the concept’s progressiveness: Christ sent out the Eleven to make his people into learners, who are continually and progressively learning through his word, but not to make them into the learned, who have comprehended the great mysteries and forgotten why they first endeavored. Christ’s learner is not someone accomplished; his only accomplishment is his beginning, and even that was done by the Teacher’s power.
  • If you choose to call yourself a “disciple of Christ,” be aware that you are currently and actively under discipline, being disciplined. Not a champion, you have the humble position of an athlete-in-training. Not an expert, you have the humble position of sitting at the feet of wisdom. Not a master of the house, you have the humble position of a sojourner on the way to a home in the great palace of the King.

John Dollard in 1930s Indianola

I with Yankee eye did cast my vision down
The tarnished streets of shining Southerntown.
I in calm reply did mind my manners here
As I spied truth beneath a white veneer.
I saw signs whereby the folks kept folks in place—
In class through caste by past beliefs of race.
I exposed a lie disguised in symbols fair:
black child denied adulthood by white “care.”
I have found out why—until the symbols sway,
White father to black brother—caste will stay.

A Prelude. Of Worry and Its Cure.

A man desires a degree of wealth so that he will have “nothing to worry about.” Say he gets it. Of course, he would not be free from worry. His momentary relief is overwhelmed by the worry of keeping the wealth that freed him from worry.

Whoever believes that wealth or any external condition might guard us against worry has forgotten that the very source of worrying is the human imagination. Our worry is composed of both things-that-are-not and things-that-are, of both possible and actual conditions, of both future and present needs. Worry is not in the world but rather in our consciousness of time and of possibility. The one who has “nothing to worry about” is the one whose future is settled and whose thoughts are not lost in an alternative present. Maybe a still soul in Sheol. This last thought reveals a correction to what was said before: death is the one external condition that might guard us against worry.

That is not to mention an internal condition to deliver us—that internal condition of the lilies of the field and of the birds of the air.

A Criticism. Of Reliance on Most “Experts.”

Go ahead and listen to that expert again. See what good it does. He may have the tone of a prophet, but the voices he hears and the visions he sees are his own. The latest chapters in his novel called “news” all fit in perfectly with the last; even if the last was dead wrong, the story flows on and you continue reading eagerly.—Why? Because the storytelling is so good? Because the fiction is preferable to the fact? Because it is better to mask worry about tomorrow with feelings of certainty than to disclose doubt and be healed of it?

A Quote. A Warning. Of Self-Love. Of Praising the Youth.

The education ordinarily given to the youth is a second self-love that we breathe into them.

—La Rochefoucauld, Maxim 261

Be careful how you praise the youth. Praise their way, and they will continue in it. Praise their nature, and will they not rest from all good work? A good child has nothing to do to be good if nothing can be done about nature. But it is not so: one’s way may overcome nature*—and it would do so even if one’s way were idleness.

* Cf. Pascal, Pensées §92: “custom is a second nature that destroys the first”; and Montaigne, Essais III.10: “custom is a second nature, and no less powerful”; and Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1152a32-33, quoting Evenus: “long-lived habit becomes, in the end, a human’s nature.”

Advice. Of Prayer. Of “God’s Will.”

Are you interested in discerning, as they say, “God’s will for your life”? Begin by praying about your ignorance. Ask for revelation. Ask again that night. Ask again the next morning. Ask again, day after day. When you have finally become frustrated by silence, ask again. Shout if you can. When you have passed the point of frustration, pray about your ignorance, and begin again. And if no answer is ever heard, you can be sure you have found God’s will for your life: that in ignorance you should depend on his guidance, or as another has said, that you should “walk humbly with your God.”