The Struggle is Real
Richard Weaver said, 'Ideas have consequences'. Weaver taught English at the University of Chicago, but he was also an intellectual historian and philosopher of sorts. The thesis, in its most basic form, is correct. What people believe about how the world 'is' will affect how they live in the world or our 'worldview' is not just a set of disembodied ideas, but has consequences on how we live. Taken as a large meta-narrative of human history, it could be argued that the thesis is a bit more tenuous, but I will leave that to intellectual historians.
This phrase, however, has been bumping around in my head lately. Part of the reason for this is because I am seeing more and more how my education over my entire life is a series of challenges to my preconceived ideas. Each time a new idea came I found that that new idea had consequences. It would challenge an old idea and often there was a visceral reaction of sorts. I immediately wanted to militate against this new notion. I would fight to keep my old way of thinking.
We see this with the development of children. They grow up and they believe that they are center of the world, but as they get older a parent's responsibility is to educate them in the fact that they are not the only person on earth. They need to understand that there are other people in the world. For many young people, the realization that other people exist causes an existential crisis of sorts and often they can act out in an attempt to reject this new found truth.
I know that this has been true of me as I have been educated. My education has been a series of challenging what I thought to be true. It is easy to have very simplistic views of the way things are. However, the older I get and the more I interact with other people, the more I come to understand that the world is much more complicated than I once thought it was.
Take for instance my current research. I went into my PhD thinking that I had Bavinck more or less figured out. I had read a lot of his works in English. I knew him. I knew what he was about. Therefore, it was disorienting for me as I came to read, study, and discuss him more with fellow scholars. I realized that he was a much more complicated figure than I had come to know. At first I was a little annoyed. I assumed that other people were just misreading him, but as I read more, as I talked to friends more, I realized Bavinck is complicated. Bavinck's work isn't black and white. He is a complex figure with multiple layers that need to be peeled back.
It can be really easy when exploring any field (science, math, humanities, art) to reject other opinions or refuse to read the people with whom we disagree. We can reduce the solution to every problem to something neat and simple, something that fits our current worldview. However, what good education does is challenge those preconceived notions of the world. We may not always feel comfortable. We may want to militate against it. We may get angry. Nevertheless, once we get over this emotional response, we may find that this new idea nuances, changes, adds, and amplifies our lives and our thinking.
Ideas do have consequences. One of those immediate consequences is often discomfort. But this is what education does, it disturbs us. It forces us to refine our thinking. It causes us to grow. We should be thankful then when we encounter something that disquiets our life because often the best changes come in those moments of struggle.