Dear Inspiration Seekers,
Paul changes his tone at this point in the letter from abstract ideas and rhetorical styles to addressing practical issues related to the church in Ephesus. The traditional focus, which I recall, from chapter 4 of Ephesians is that of the “body of Christ” and turning away from childish ways. When reading the section this time, the idea of how we learn came to my mind. This is the role of Experience.
Paul quotes Psalms 68:18, in reference to Christ ascending on high (4:8), then adds his interpretation that “ascending” implies “descending” also. This relates to the belief that God made the divine human in order to provide grace through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. In order to save people, Christ had to Experience earthly life. Paul then makes several references to teaching and learning in the follow verses: … you are no longer infants… blown here and there by every wind of teaching… (4:14); … you heard of him and were taught… (4:21); … you were taught, with regard to your former ways… (4:22). Paul then progresses the role of this learning Experience to changing one’s behavior.
Teaching and learning in our western society revolves around years of school. Elementary, middle, and high school dominate the ages from 5 to 18 years. Government regulations set standards of learning regardless of whether a child receives education in public, faith based, or home schooling. These days, another four or five years of bachelor level college and internships are necessary to apply for many jobs. Another two or three years of graduate school are becoming a norm for many professions with state licensure requirements. Doctoral degrees are even becoming rather commonplace, adding a few more years of education. Adolescence has been pushed up to age 23 or 25 (when the frontal lobe completes brain development), and education might span into the late 20’s or early 30’s. Furthermore, many second career learners might return for additional degrees into their 40’s and 50’s. I know of two who pursued additional degrees in their 60’s. This hardly mentions the annual requirements for continuing education (i.e. weekend workshops) credits in many professions. Much of this emphasis is on lecture and reading (books, internet sites) style learning.
Prior to 50 years ago, with the GI Bill after WWII, education beyond 8th or 12th grade was relatively rare. Prior to 100 years ago, public education hardly existed. Private schools and tutors, and single room schools for elementary school might have existed in more populated areas. For those with financial resources, nannies and lessons educated children. Prior to 150 yeas ago, universities were for training priests, military leaders, and lawyers (i.e. political leaders). The rest of us learned by Experience.
The above book and school learning mostly focus on acquiring knowledge vicariously. We learn about something. Experience teaches by doing. Growing up in the suburbs of California, I learned about the Four Food Groups in school. Our track home was built in a former cherry orchard. I learned about picking cherries because I was light weight & could scamper up into the top branches of the trees. I’m not sure how that fit into the Four Food Groups. A neighbor, here in WV, has a Royal Anne cherry tree on his property. He invites us to help pick what we want. The first cherry picking trip we made, Linda could not figure out where I disappeared to. I scampered right up into the branches, while she picked from the ground. Experience. The Four Food Groups may have given way to the Food Pyramid and now My Plate. Regardless of how we organize foods, cherries should be on the list.
When our neighbors got milk goats a few years ago, they asked us to milk them one weekend, as they would be away. We pulled out the book, Raising Milk Goats, and read it on the way to work. When we arrived at their farm after work, we told them that we were ready to go at milking, “We read the chapter on milking”. They looked at us… “You’ve never milked a goat? There’s a book about this?” Farm life is not about book learning, but Experience. We first observed their technique, before giving it a whirl. No book can help you develop the kinesthetic understanding of how to grasp with thumb and index finger, followed by a sequential rhythmic closing of middle, ringer, and small fingers, with just enough tug on the goat’s teat to press out the squirt of milk. Pull to much and that goat will give you a quick kick, that will knock some sense into you.
A few years back, when the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Some had rushed out as the sea receded to pick up flopping fish from the extended beach sands, or out of curiosity. They may have had little or too much education, but not about geology and hydraulics. On a tiny island off of Shri Lanka a group of uneducated, native people lost no one. They live with the land with no education, but much understanding of natural events. They followed the monkeys who went up on the trees in the center of the island. Experience.
Schooling leads to the development of -ologies and -osophies… anthropology, philosophy, theology… These have the benefit of accumulating and organizing knowledge, beyond what one can do through personal Experience. However, Knowledge without Experience is likely soon forgot or distorted. Order exists and functions regardless of how someone’s belief system tries to organize it. Mystery is by it’s definition beyond the ken of Knowledge. Experience, like Prayer, when lived might be our link to Order and Mystery.
Until Next time, Inspiration Seekers