Thought for the Week 2 Feb

A wondering wandering

                                                                                Photo by Harald Arlander on Unsplash      


Ambling through a Lothian woodland in a light drizzle this past weekend I found myself part of a ragamuffin group of believers heading towards a bonfire of sorts. There, alongside the crackling of burning Christmas trees, we would share in an ancient acknowledgement of the rhythms of creation.

The farmers had for millennia known that early February was when the ewes would start to come into milk in anticipation of the eventual births of the next generation of lambs. The Celtic teachers knew the sun was heading back from its winter sojourn. The Church Fathers since the early church knew that the promise of new life in the Son would grow henceforth and burst forth eventually at Easter. All ancient rhythms that signified and reminded us about balance, tempo, purpose and inevitability.

These thoughts mingled in my mind with the conversation a friend and I had had ambling to the gathering in the forest. We were wondering about the seeming ever-urgent push towards achieving optimal educational performance from learners specifically focused on the STEM subjects. Our concern was not whether this single-minded focus on improved technological abilities, eventual possible increase in GDP and greater productivity is good. Our concern was more what is being sacrificed in the process by neglecting the importance of subjects focusing on beauty, meaning, morality, art, humanities and purpose.

Having learnt to split the first atom was scientifically wonderful. Having dropped nuclear bombs ruining the lives of millions was inhumane. Starting a foolish nuclear arms race has been terrible. Having learnt how to make fuel from oil and plastic as a by product has been highly profitable for societies. It definitely has not been advantageous for the world as a now dying ecosystem. Having developed artificial intelligence to the level where it will govern huge systems impacting the lives of many is powerful. Have we considered what type of morality or sense of aesthetics such AI will be aiding?

My teenage children are starting to live into the consequences of their own subject choices at school as part of the national education curriculum and schooling system. How much do they know about morality or meaning or beauty? Most likely this they have to learn from their parents, friends or the media. How much do they know about maths and physics and programming. Most likely this they are being actively and purposefully taught at school. There is much to be grateful for in the few social/humanities subjects that are on offer to learners. The perceived importance of such subjects and the range of these are, though, significantly limited compared to the perceived importance of the STEM subjects.

My friend and I shared our concerns that society and in particular the secondary and tertiary education’s system are ultimately geared towards producing economically viable production assets but the purpose of which is left rather unclear.

Calling out to the Divine there in the small clearing in the woodland, asking for peace and healing for a broken world, light and inspiration for an anxious humanity made all the more sense then. My heart’s cry rising heavenward like the smoke from the burning Christmas trees is not so much for more stuff or longer lives or more comfort but for more joy, more meaningful lives and deeper wisdom, particularly for the generations to come.

As the Anglican priest said the last amen and we opened our eyes suddenly there arched the most present, most complete rainbow we could have wished for. Unexpectedly, unequivocally and quite awe inspiring in its beauty and its serendipitous timing.                                                                         

Rev Alan Childs



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