Monday, July 10, 2017

Learning by Elimination

The chief object of education is not to learn things;
nay, the chief object of education is to unlearn things.”
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
(“An Essay on Two Cities,” All Things Considered – 1909)

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:17-32

As the former Professor of Christian Education at Calvin Theological Seminary, Darwin Glassford, once said: “The most difficult thing in education is to unlearn things,” we actually find his words ring true in our everyday life.  Learning new things are much easier than unlearning what we have learned.  The Mount Everest of education is not on learning new things but on the unlearning of the old knowledge and skills.  Often the failure of learning happens when the old things have not been unlearned.  The old things more often than not hampered the person in acquiring new understanding or skills.  Professional athletes know this truth too well.  Pro golfer like Tiger Woods for example, struggled mightily as he attempted to change his swing.  It took him so many years to shed the old swing.  Without shedding the old swing, he would never learn the new one.  But the muscle memories hampered him big time.  The old habits truly die hard.  The old swing continued to surface and ambushed him every single time he was in crucial moment.  Woods failed so many times in his transition to the new swing.  It’s just the nature of things.  We can’t just learn new thing and think we can get it easy.  The greatest difficulty is when we are face to face with the unlearning process of the old knowledge and skills.  Not few people give up in the end and thus go back to their old way.  Because the degree of difficulty in unlearning the old habits is paramount.  Jesus said in Luke 5:37-39: “37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.

Therefore, for Gilbert Keith Chesterton, it is not the learning of things that is the main goal of education, but the unlearning of things we have acquired along the way.  The old way has immersed in the person and hard to let go.  No wonder Jesus told Nicodemus that he should be reborn:

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
John 3:1-15

The old knowledge of the curious Pharisee named Nicodemus took him captive that his imagination was restricted which caused him unable to take in new insights.  Without unlearning the old knowledge, one can’t learn the new one.  And this has been the fact about our learning process.

            A simple example from the TV Show “Master Chef” can illustrate this in the modern imagination.  In Season 8 episode 5 of Master Chef there was this “Elimination Test” in which Master Chef Gordon Ramsey demonstrated a very ordinary cooking, scrambled egg.  However, what was demanded was not any scrambled egg.  Ramsey demanded the Master Chef level of scrambled egg, the Ramsey scrambled egg.  Ramsey was the teacher, and the contestants were the students.  Master Chef Christina Tosi specifically said that the elimination test was meant to find out who can be good students.  Because the Master Chef Kitchen was like a school where all contestants learned to become Master Chef.  So the contestants observed how Ramsey cooked the perfected scrambled egg.  Then they were tested in what they learned from observing Ramsey cooking the egg from start to finish right in front of their eyes.  15 minutes were given to them to present the dish to the judges.  Six people struggled to do exactly the Ramsey scrambled egg.  And so they were given another chance.  Usually they should have gotten it the second time around.  Two out of the six. Yachecia Holston and Dino Luciano Ignacio, rose to the occasion like heroes.  Master Chef Aaron Sanchez said of those two that they rose up from zero to hero.  And Jeff Philbin and Caitlin Meade followed the two up to the balcony being saved from elimination.  Two contestants were left, Sam Reiff-Pasarew and Heather Dombrosky, behind due to their egg not being up to the Ramsey scrambled egg standard.  It’s tough for them because they had to shed whatever they knew about cooking scrambled egg.  The second chance the six contestants got was an opportunity to unlearn their old way of cooking scrambled egg and just focused on the new way, the Ramsey way.  But Sam and Heather failed to unlearn their old way.  They failed to do exactly like what Ramsey demonstrated to them to do.  Their default system brought them back very quickly to their old way of cooking scrambled egg.  And the result was not the Ramsey scrambled egg.  As they failed to unlearn their old way, they also failed to learn the new way.  This is the gist of Chesterton’s remark on learning.

            In light of this knowledge, we then turn to the first formation of skill or knowledge or even disposition that happens in one’s life.  Since unlearning is the most difficult task in education, and since prevention is way better than curing, it is wise to learn anything (be it skill and knowledge, or even moral and spiritual learning) the right way the first time.  This actually holds the secret to the path of excellence in education.  Because once the right learning has set in, it would be difficult to uproot.  And what is more, the right learning produces good things.  The good things produced serve as confirmation and confidence to continue the path of the right learning.  Once the belief of its goodness has been laid, uprooting it would be almost impossible.  Proverbs 22:6 provides the wisdom for this rule:

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The next level would be to internalize the right learning in the principle level.  When a child reaches 11 years old, he or she is entering into the highest cognitive functioning.  And that would be the best time to internalize in the principle level.  At that level, the good things do not stop at the concrete experience of good according to the five senses, but has already reached the principle of good in the abstraction.  Thus, even when the physical experience is troubling, the person who has reached this principle level and has internalized as well as cultivated the principle would continue to do the right thing.

            To make sure that one learns the right learning the first time, a truly excellent teacher must be present to teach.  This understanding places a heavy emphasis and unnegotiable demand on the quality of the teacher.  A teacher that truly embodies in him/herself the truth.  A teacher that truly internalizes and cultivates the truth.  This is not a teacher that does not live according to his/her own words, but instead this is a teacher that lives his/her own teaching.  Thus the excellent teacher is not only one that can teach or knows the best teaching method, but also one that can teach the right thing.  Secondly, the prime time of someone to learn the right learning the first time is understood to be when he/she is younger.  Age 0-5 is well known by educators to be the prime time or the golden period for children to learn.  Educators everywhere dub that period as the best time to teach children.  The golden period is the most important period for one’s formation.  It is the best because children at that age period do not struggle too much with unlearning the old way.  It is starting fresh.  Combine the excellent quality of the teacher and the golden period and you will get the best learning process and outcome.

            The older the person the harder the learning becomes because the more unlearning one must wrestle with.  Learning becomes more complicated when one resists to unlearn.  And there is no shortcut here.  One can’t just learn new things on the same ground without first uprooting the old things from the ground.  It is like farming.  A farmer can’t just plant corn in a wheat field when the wheat is already growing and hope the two crops can grow together and produce good result.  If the farmer truly desires to grow corn instead of wheat, then he should uproot the wheat first before starting to plant the corn.  If he wants to grow corn and wheat at the same time, then he would have to prepare two different fields.  This is why Jesus talks about being born again.  Because God can’t sow His Holy Words in a person that has already made his/her root in the ground that is set up to reject His Words.  That person must be reborn through the Spirit.  Once the person is born again in the Spirit, he/she is a new field that is ready for the new seeds.  The old way of life must first be uprooted before the new way of life can set in.

            The apostle Paul understands this concept when he explains this matter in Ephesians 4:20-24 to the church in Ephesus:

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The old self can’t grow together with the new self.  One must choose which is which to live in.  The old life is corrupt and is anti-God.  The new life is reborn through the Spirit and is pro-God.  If we understand the law of non-contradiction, then we understand that the life that is anti-God can’t coexist in the same person at the same time with the life that is pro-God.  If the Ephesians are to follow the way of Jesus Christ, then they ought to put off their old self, their former way of life that is corrupted.  In Romans 6:1-11 Paul elaborates this truth even further within the reality of our repentance:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Of course Paul is talking here about learning to live spiritually.  But the same principle actually applies to all kinds of learning.  Paul’s conclusion is very powerful in verse 11.  Christians who have consciously accepted Jesus in their repentance from sin, can’t allow sin to govern their life anymore.  For they are dead to sin.  Their life is a life that is for God.  Therefore, Christians can no longer work to enjoy sin.  Instead, Christians can and must only work to glorify God.  The old way of life, which is the sinful way of life, must be unlearned before one can truly learn to live for God.

            This is learning by elimination.  We eliminate things that do not fit into the new framework.  Learning by elimination is tough.  Often one fails to do so because the root has gone too deep.  Our human limitation in time also contributes to our oft failures in this department.  Some time ago there was a very talented young violinist.  He learned violin very well surpassing many other violinists.  At a very young age he was already well known in his hometown.  He appeared in many concerts and shows.  People praised him for his talent.  He wished to be the best violinist in the world.  So at eighteen he set out to study in the best music school in the world.  So he was admitted to one great music school in London.  He was so excited.  His family was so excited.  All his friends and also music teachers were so excited.  They were so happy.  Arriving in London he was so eager to study the best violin.  And so on the first day of class, he was ready to learn.  His professor asked everyone in the violin class to perform the most basic of violin position, posture, and play the very well-known basic song, twinkle twinkle little star.  And came his turn.  He showed his violin position and posture and then he started playing and he played smoothly and with ease.  As he finished, his professor looked at him intently, and he told him to meet with him after class in his office.  Everybody thought he was so great that the professor was going to put him in a special class.  After class he went to the professor’s office.  His professor was sitting on his chair and he told the student to sit down.  Then the professor started talking: “I think you should return home.  You can never be a great violinist.”  The student was so shocked by the professor’s remark.  He asked: “But why?”  The professor asked him to hold his violin in the violin position.  And he did.  Then the professor said: “Your violin position was the reason.”  “But professor,” asked the student, “What’s wrong with my violin position.”  The professor shook his head and he said: “You are sustaining the violin with your violin hand instead of holding the violin with your chin and shoulder.”  One grief mistake that he had developed since a very young age cost him the opportunity to become a great violinist.  He started his violin lesson at age 4, but he did not get the best violin teacher.  After 14 years playing violin the wrong way, it was very hard for him to unlearn it.  And so the professor told him the plain truth.  The student cried so hard.  Then he went back home grieving.

            The violinist story is a true story.  When I heard that story I felt sorry for the boy.  But nothing much could be done at that point.  He could start relearning the whole thing, but it would take forever for him to achieve the excellent level needed to enter the music school.  The more skillful one becomes in the wrong art, the more difficult it is to unlearn it.  The longer one stays in the wrong art, the more painful it is to uproot it.  The saying is true: “Old Habits Die Hard.”

            Learning by elimination is also painful for the person.  Eliminating the old things that have taken root within is not an easy thing to do.  It is especially more difficult when the old things have provided comfort and confidence in the person’s old life.  It was especially difficult for Woods to unlearn his old swing because the old swing had provided him with great achievements, fame, and wealth.  Therefore we ought not to underestimate the power and the grip of the old self.  The battle within could be very intense at times.  Not many people are willing to fiercely fight with their own self.  This learning process is a discipline of its own.  It takes willingness of heart, openness of the mind, and a great amount of time in order to master this process.

What makes it more difficult is when we have to keep the guard up from the intruding falsehood.  Because when one starts to open the mind, one must be sharp in distinguishing which is true and which is false.  The slippery slope for this path is when one becomes too open for all kinds of teaching, unsure of which is true and which is false.  Again the excellent teacher must be present in order to keep an eye on the learner.  In the case of Christian faith, the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son in order to dwell within our hearts to teach and to guard our spirit from being corrupted by false teachings.  There are ways to figure out troubles in the pool of teachings.  At least there are three laws of logic we can follow: 1) Law of Non Contradiction, 2) Law of Identity, and 3) Law of Excluded Middle.  The Law of Non Contradiction is particularly powerful in identifying potential trouble in the pool of teachings.  For, it would become a disaster if we take contradictory teachings into the same pouch and be at peace with the tension.  It would be a mockery of logic if we insist that ice is hot and cold at the same time.  It would be the fall of reason to force that 1+1=2 and 1+1=3 are both true.  The collapse of humanity started when the serpent contradicted the words of God by saying that eating the forbidden fruit would not result in death.  The result can’t be both death and no death at the same time.  But it must be either death or no death.  Following the Law of Identity, what God said about eating the forbidden fruit resulting in death is true, for it meets reality.  Therefore what the serpent said was false when he contradicted God’s words.  And following the Law of Excluded Middle, 1+1=3 is either true or false, it can’t be anything else.

However, unlearning the old knowledge and skill is not as simple as identifying whether 1+1=3 is true or not.  What’s needed is the strong will to forget the knowledge or skill that is already rooted within.  It is the fight of the will.  The battle is internal.  Internal battle is always difficult.  The I is fighting the I so the I would lose some parts of the I in order to be replaced with the new parts that will make the I a bit different I.  In the Christian faith, as Paul said, the I is to toss away the old I, which has made the I the I, and replace the old I with the new I so that the I will become a completely different I.  Just thinking about it would make us insane.  Imagine the resistance that comes from the old I.  For sure, not something that we can underestimate.  Denying the self requires the totality of the entire self to succeed.  Here the will of the I is the key.  In the realm of faith, a divine intervention is necessary in order to start up the will.  Without God’s intervention, no one could will the denial of the self.

Jesus had to shock Paul so he could start desiring to lose his old self.  All he knew was the teaching of Judaism, taught in the strictest sect Pharisaism, and the belief that anything other than what he was taught in was blasphemy.  Therefore he adamantly went from town to town in order to execute Christians because he sincerely believed that they were blaspheming the God of Israel.  The intervention that Jesus did reorient Paul and turned him upside down.  No longer did he chase down the Christians, but he became Christ’s apostle to proclaim the Christian message to the Gentiles.  In that way he lost his old self, the old Pharisee Paul, and thus regained a new identity, the new Christian Paul.  He himself experienced the dramatic turning point, and so he could encourage others to put off the old self in order to be able to put on the new self in Christ.  He did it and his life was never the same.  And so many other Christians.

In the general world of learning, we too need some kind of intervention in order to shock us.  We need our will to be jumpstarted in order to unlearn what we have learned and what have become a part of our identity.  We need some kind of disequilibrium in order to challenge us to acquire new understanding and skill so that we could adapt.  If we continue to stay in our comfort zone, we won’t learn new things.  The disequilibrium challenges our old knowledge and skills.  In order to find a new equilibrium, we must negotiate with our self what knowledge and skills are not working anymore that we must shed, and then search for new knowledge and skills necessary to adapt.  This is the process of re-equilibrium.  The negotiation of what to eliminate is a very difficult process.  The re-equilibrium stage holds the key to the success of adapting the self to tackle the challenges.

Now, in education, what must a teacher do in order to set up a learning environment that has enough disequilibrium that is safe and controlled in order to get learners to unlearn the things that do not help their adaptation process and learn the things necessary for their finding new equilibrium?  It won’t be easy to answer this question.  A properly planned learning process takes more than just knowledge of methods and content of the materials one is teaching.  The teacher’s creativity and the students’ motivation must be taken into account.  A lot of ingredients must come and work together in a balanced mix in order to achieve the optimum learning result.  In all the orchestrating of the learning process, figuring out the things to unlearn is the most difficult task.  An open dialogue, a wise counsel, a keen observation, willingness and openness of the learner, and an adequate challenge to stimulate disequilibrium must be done masterfully.  God is the greatest Master in orchestrating the entire thing.  As humans we are not God.  And we must be careful not to play God.  When we plan for the learning process, we must allow for the natural course to take the lead.  We need to be sensitive to the things that happen naturally.  This we must always keep in mind especially when designing an adequate challenge to stimulate disequilibrium.  The best way is to simulate real life challenges rather than creating an artificial challenges.  And the direction of the design must follow the learners’ interest.

A Swiss educator by the name Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who lived in 1746-1827, gave a hint on how to orchestrate the learning design.  He argued for teachers to figure out the child’s interest, and then for the teacher to build the learning experience from it.  So, for example, if the child desires to learn about drawing, then the learning process must be designed accordingly.  Acquiring a certain skill will naturally come with its challenges.  The child first will need to master his/her hand movement.  Then the child must learn how to hold the drawing tool properly.  After that he/she will need to learn what effect the drawing tool does to the “canvas” he/she is using to draw.  Then the child can experiment with the two tools, both the drawing pen or pencil and the “canvas.”  As the child struggles in overcoming the challenges of mastering the grip and movement and creation of effect on the canvas, the child acquires skills naturally.  When the old challenges are no longer challenging, the teacher must quickly provide a more challenging task that will stimulate enough disequilibrium for the child.  Providing a model to imitate can be quite challenging for the child.  As humans we grow naturally toward things around us.  Providing a reasonable model that we can find in the child’s everyday life would be the most natural way.  For example, the teacher may direct the child’s attention to the apple on the table, or the rabbit in the garden, or the tree in the forest, and so on.  In that way, the challenges will come naturally, and thus they fit better to the learning desire of the child.  Besides, as teacher you do not need to craft an artificial explanation as to why the child must undergo such difficult and disorienting task in the first place.  Internally the child knows by instinct that the difficult and disorienting task must be done.  And thus resistance to learning is lessen by a mile.  Not to mention that this path is much healthier than the artificial one.

In the Bible we find that Israelites learn to live by faith when they meet the natural challenges for anyone going into the desert.  God did not build an artificial labyrinth and then released monsters that were ready to devour them if they had no faith in God (like depicted in the movie The Maze Runner for example).  All God did was to bring them into the desert.  The natural course took over as they could not easily find water or food.  A natural disequilibrium was there to challenge the Israelites way of life.  Their old way of life was shaken to the core.  In Egypt they could just find carrot or potato or fish relatively easy, but in the desert they could not find carrot or potato or fish.  They had to unlearn their old way of life because they realized that it was not working.  And God was right there to counsel and help them.  By no means did the Israelites achieve a perfect test result.  Instead, they struggled mightily.  They even complained to the Lord.  Throughout their journey in the wilderness they learned step by step what it meant by believing in the Lord.  As a nation, Israel learned to unlearn everything they knew about life that they acquired in Egypt.  God was ready to provide them with the better way of life, to help them become what they were meant to be.  It is important to understand this narrative with the perspective of looking at Israel as one united body, and not looking at Israel as many people that need to be dealt with individually.  God used the natural thing in the context of the life of the Israelites in order to guide them in their learning process: 1) Unlearning the old way of life, and 2) Learning the new way of life.

In the same way, teachers too should craft the learning plan that rely on the natural course of things in real life.  Maria Montessori encouraged her readers to expose the children to nature.  Because nature naturally is rich and loaded with learning materials waiting for the children to encounter.  Both the natural interest of the children and the natural challenge in nature fit perfectly to form the best learning process.  God has so designed the match in such a way so we all may learn at the optimum condition.  The gradual leveling of our understanding of the world, our knowledge of things, our skill of doing things, and even our way of living is orchestrated by God to fit both our natural development, physically and spiritually, and the external environment.  In our course of life, we naturally unlearn the old things and learn the new things many many times, especially when we were younger.  But as we grow older, we tend to be static and refuse to unlearn the old things.  The case for adult learning is much more complex in the unlearning department.  Only a handful adults are usually able to unlearn the old ways and learn new ways.  However, if one has had the tendency to unlearn the old things (not the right and true foundation or fundamental things) in order to learn new things or better things, then even when he/she is old he/she would be able to adapt accordingly.  Having said that, it is then important to encourage our children to learn how to unlearn the old thing which is non foundational.

This brings us back to what Chesterton said.  In planning for a teaching and learning activities, we therefore should always remember to teach our kids how to differentiate which is foundational and which is not, which things are not to be compromised or thrown out and which things are negotiable and can be tossed out.  This is one mighty difficult task.  Wisdom is necessary here.  And the guidance of the Holy Spirit is indispensable.  In this way we must not teach the kids how to unlearn independent of such wisdom.  The kids need to understand that their tendency to unlearn things has its limit.  And the limit is the things that are unnegotiable.  One of the biggest troubles in this matter is when someone is very adaptable and skillful in unlearning things but do not have any foundation.  He/she will just uproot things even foundational for whatever reason they deemed useful or practical.  When Paul says about putting off the old self, he pointed out to the unshakeable replacement, which is the new self in Christ Jesus.  This new self in Christ is foundational and unnegotiable.  Thus, we can’t then replace the new self in Jesus Christ with the “new self” in Atheism for example.  If we stop only at the mastery of the skill to unlearn things, we would fall into a dangerous pit.  We need to seriously consider what should become the replacement of the things being unlearned.  Consider Matthew 12:43-45:

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Even though Matthew does speak about the possession of the evil spirit in a person, the truth about finding the proper replacement applies to things other than spirit as well.  Ideology for one, or way of life, and so on.  The emptiness in the heart craves for a replacement.  When one thing is unlearned from someone’s mind, the mind is immediately entering into a state of craving for a replacement.  It can’t be left empty.  Replacing the unlearned thing in an empty space of the mind or heart thus is extremely crucial.  The emptiness of one’s heart causes debilitating pain.  This reality we know in an intense sense normally when one experiences a broken heart.  Youth romance is an excellent example to illustrate this fact about the craving of an empty space, be it in mind or heart.  And this is our human construct.  God has so designed us in such a way that our mind or heart can’t be empty.  It must be filled with something.  The only “thing” that can fill it to perfection is God Himself.  St. Augustine said: “Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”  Blaise Pascal brilliantly said:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”[1]

Now, when God has filled the empty heart, it is to be permanent for all eternity.  God cannot be negotiated.  He is not an old thing that needs to be unlearned or replaced with new trend.  All other common things may be negotiated and eliminated even, but not God.  Only in this balance may we learn properly and firmly upon the unshakeable truth.

[1] Blaise Pascal, 1670, Pensées VII (425).

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