The Well-Ordered Mind
2 Chronicles 27:6 -- "So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God."
Over the past few weeks I have so often encountered mentions of "the well-ordered mind", I don't feel inclined to write off all those occurrences as coincidence, Rather, I'm trying to puzzle just how does a "well-ordered mind" work.
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St. Augustine, in his Confessions, refers on several occasions to a well ordered mind. A historian noted Augustine "used faith, reason, and courage to shepherd his people who were in serious danger of denying their faith." So, on my list of qualities of the well-ordered mind, I'll include faith, reason, and courage.
C.S. Lewis asserted that "The human mind is generally far more eager to praise and dispraise than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value . . ." From this, I will add to my list a reluctance to judge, which agrees with Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged."
Friedrich Nietzsche, whom, once we disregard his prophecy of special people becoming Supermen, we ought to credit with offering lots of wisdom, wrote, “ . . . A traveler who had seen many lands was asked what quality in men he had discovered everywhere he had gone. He replied: ‘They have a tendency to laziness.’ To many it will seem that he ought rather to have said: ‘They are all timid. They hide themselves behind customs and opinions.’ In his heart every man . . . being unique, hides it like a bad conscience – why? From fear of his neighbor, who demands conventionality and cloaks himself with it. But what is it that constrains the individual to fear his neighbor, to think and act like a member of a herd, and to have no joy in himself? . . . With the great majority it is indolence, inertia, in short that tendency to laziness: men are even lazier than they are timid, and fear most of all the inconveniences with which unconditional honesty and nakedness would burden them. . . . it is on account of their laziness that men seem like factory products." So I will add the will to overcome laziness to my list and underline courage, as it is the antidote to fear and timidity.
Now, for those who prefer not to trust such famed intellectuals as Augustine, Nietzsche, or Lewis, how about considering J.K. Rowling, whose professor Dumbledore argued in favor of the well-organized mind,
What follows is from Finding Unauthorized Faith in Harry Potter by Nicole L Rivera.
Dumbledore's Proverbs Year 1
[Dumbledore responds to Harry who has expressed surprise that the Flamels, who could live forever by drinking the Elixir of Life produced by the Philosopher’s Stone, agreed to allow the stone to be destroyed.]
“To one as young as you, I’m sure it seems incredible, but to Nicolas and Perenelle, it [giving up the Stone] really is like going to bed after a very, very long day. After all, to the well-organized [well-ordered] mind, death is but the next great adventure. You know, the Stone was really not such a wonderful thing. As much money and life as you could want! The two things most human beings would choose above all — the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.” - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (p. 297)
In Dumbledore’s answer we find two important nuggets. First, death is an adventure to the well-organized mind. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus came to conquer death so that those who believe in him do not have to be afraid of death any longer, because we too become conquerors of death by our belief in him. In conquering death through Jesus, we know this life is but a prequel to the great adventure to come.
Dumbledore’s second nugget of wisdom points out that we have a knack for choosing precisely those things that are worst for us. In our bodies there is a battle between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh wants to go the least painful perceivable route. [On account of laziness and fear?] However, the flesh can’t see more than a foot away so it often misses the thorns lying a mile down the road. The Spirit, who sees the entire path, often chooses what seems to be the hard route to the flesh but is actually the easier, least painful, and most efficient of the two paths. (Galatians 5:16-26).
Death seems the painful, least desirable route to Harry. But Nicolas and Perenelle see that their physical deaths are just a momentary pain for a greater gain for themselves and everyone else. With the destruction of the Philosopher’s Stone, they are keeping this power of prolonged life out of Voldemort’s clutches.
What makes death so scary is our not knowing what is on the other side of it. But when we know where we are going, death really does become the next great adventure. Once we accept this truth, we can begin to truly live and enjoy the greatest prequel to the greatest adventure there is.
So it appears requirements for the well-ordered mind include: Courage of the sort that will relieve us of the need to hide our uniqueness; reason, meaning the willingness and ability to think; resolve to overcome laziness and to learn the skills required to reason; faith, either in God or whatever else can disable our natural fear of death; hope, a necessary component of faith; love that empowers a willingness to withhold judgement of other people; And, I must add, the determination to seek and express the truth and so to guard against lying or believing lies.
Remember John 8:32: ". . . the truth will set you free."
Since I have hardly completed this puzzle about the well-ordered mind, I will return next week with some thoughts about humility, patience, intuition and who know what else?
Meanwhile, wishing you lots of beauty.
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