Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Embracing the Initial Idea

As I watch the children daydreaming at their work occasionally, I attempt to pinpoint the struggle. What I see is a lack of focus. I notice an attitude of "This is taking so long and it's boring. I think I will look around for awhile. Hmm, here is a book I didn't put back on the shelf. I wonder what is written on the back? I was about halfway through it last night. I wonder what happens next?" and voila! the child has allowed herself to become distracted from the task at hand.

I do it too. It goes like this: "I really ought to get ready for the day before I go out to the living room. But I just want to check something really quick on the email. Oh look-- here is an interesting discussion on Yahoo Group A. I have been wondering the same thing! What do people have to say about it? Hmm, that reminds me of a website. I think I'll just go look at what it says quickly." And before I know it, an hour has passed, it is time for breakfast, and here I sit in my pj's.

Miss Mason says that "most of our actions spring from thoughts that are not conscious." She calls this unconscious cerebration. The cure, she says, is introducing a new idea. It must be repeated in order to be effective. The mistake most people make is in allowing lapses. Then the new habit must be retrained.

For instance, I used to have a very good habit of keeping my house tidy. The bathrooms were clean and the kitchen sink empty. I kept up with my laundry. I had to turn into a bit of a shrew to accomplish this regularly, but I did keep up the house. However, I couldn't figure out how to keep my house really clean without being cranky about it. Finally, I decided it was better to be a content mama with a lived-in house and occasionally backed-up laundry than a cranky mama with a beautifully kept house. It is probably possible to keep the house beautifully kept and also be gracious and kind, but I had a struggle because my initial idea was wrong-- I allowed thoughts like, "I'm working so hard to keep the house tidy, and no one cares enough to pick up their socks or rinse their dishes!" So now I work on changing the first thought that comes to mind when I begin to tidy things up. My house doesn't stay as clean now, but the cleaning I do doesn't affect my mood negatively.

[Later note: Please don't get the idea that I am advocating shirking responsibility for the sake of a good mood. I don't think CM agreed with that either. The housekeeping thing is an area of struggle for me currently, and it is more involved than just my attitude. I would be overworked if I kept our house spotless with all the other things we do, and the housekeeping training of the children goeth slowly. It probably wasn't a very good example, but I don't want to take it out because I published it already.]

The initial idea is most important. Once the initial idea has been embraced, the reasoning abilities of the person will carry the thought "down the road," so to speak, to its conclusion, somewhat based on the prior knowledge and experience of the person, but mainly based on what the person wants to believe. It is not necessarily a right conclusion. Miss Mason believed that any initial idea (even a wrong one) could be proved to be right by the reasoning ability of the person who accepts it; so we need to be careful which ideas we and our children embrace!

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

A little side thought about prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit: this must be where the Holy Spirit does miracles for us, helping us to right conclusions when our knowledge and experience (and desires!) would not normally lead us to the proper conclusion. It is a good thing to pray for our children's thoughts (and ours) to be directed by the Lord. This will help a lot with their developing good habits. An education rich in good examples without preachifying is also to be desired.

Since it is entirely possible for us to convince ourselves of the rightness of an idea which is wrong, it is important for us to know ourselves-- not "finding yourself," the discovery of what is peculiar to you as an individual; but the knowledge of what man is in general-- what is common to all men, which CM says is "a sound cure for unhealthy self-contemplation."

It is good to learn that we are capable of reasoning any idea, right or wrong, to a favorable conclusion; what we are aware of we can guard against. We then begin to recognize the need for deliberate habits in thinking, and in other areas too. If we just allow any thought that pops into our heads, we become as animals; thinking becomes merely an involuntary act, almost like a sneeze.

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