A Recess & Rhetoric Blog Post by Evan Covell, Athletic Director
An important reminder when thinking about spiritual disciplines
There are some things you need to know about me in order for this blog post to make sense. I am an athlete at heart. I am competitive; I really enjoy winning. Because of those two qualities, I tend to be hard on myself. I desire to be good at everything I do and when I start to make mistakes, I beat myself up for them. I truly value being disciplined, particularly with my physical training and my work.
Often when I think about spiritual disciplines in my life, I spiral out of control. I start to think about how I’m not reading the Bible enough, praying enough, taking Sabbath rest consistently enough. I begin to beat myself up, thinking lowly of myself for not being good enough for God.
Then I take a pause … and I remind myself of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will never be enough, I will never live up to God’s glorious standard. And just knowing that truth brings wonderful freedom. Because I know the rest of the story; that because I am human, a broken, messy human, Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life I can not live, died the death that I deserve. And the story doesn’t stop there. Jesus defeated death, gifted me the Holy Spirit, and joined the Father in a perfect union that he freely offers me.
This Gospel truth reminds me that cultivating spiritual disciplines has no impact on my eternal salvation. Scripture is clear, we were dead in our sins and God rescued us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
When I think about this truth, an image often comes to mind. I picture myself struggling to keep my head above water when Jesus reaches a hand out to grab me and I take hold of his hand. He saves me, right? No. I don’t think this image conveys the actual truth. A truer image would be me, already dead, floating lifeless in the water. Jesus gets in, drags me out, resuscitates me, and miraculously brings me back to life. You see, in this image, I have absolutely nothing to do with my salvation. That’s the way it truly is. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—” (Ephesians 2:1 and 2:4-5).
I want to offer this truth to you, too. As we look at the life of Jesus and the way he modeled spiritual disciplines, remember that even though we seek to live like Christ our salvation is not dependent on our success. Our salvation is securely safe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Now, let’s look at three disciplines Jesus modeled for us: prayer, rest, and community.
In fall of 2019, I was feeling disconnected and discouraged in my relationship with God. I decided to retreat for a half day to a place that is special to me: a little turnout on Mountain Drive. I parked my car, set out a blanket, sat down, and opened the Bible. I decided to read through Luke’s gospel and take some notes. As I was reading, I started to make note of how frequently Jesus was recorded doing just what I was doing that day. I counted at least 10 instances recorded in the Book of Luke where Jesus retreated to solitude to pray to God.
Clearly, this was an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle for Jesus; time spent alone in prayer, cultivating his relationship with God the Father. Jesus set his followers a goal to bear fruit. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The way that we are guaranteed to bear fruit is to abide in Jesus. Abiding means staying connected with him. We can do this through consistent prayer and conversation with God.
This conversation with God can extend beyond carving out time in our weeks to find solitude and to practice focused prayer. I teach my athletes something I call “breath prayers.” Essentially, they are prayers you can say in one breath: “Lord, help me” or “thank you, God” or “here I am, Lord.” These small prayers can recenter us and remind us of God’s active grace in our lives. Try it out, if you’d like.
Sabbath rest is a glorious gift from the Creator of the world. God knew from the beginning that we humans would need to rest in order to thrive. I do not consistently keep Sabbath, but I wish I did. And when I do get in a good groove with taking a day of rest each week I recognize a difference in my mood, energy, productivity, and kindness to those around me. Initially, the idea of taking an entire day off from work seems impossible, especially to high school student-athletes. There’s homework to do, tests to study for, and seemingly not enough time in the week to get it all done. I often surprise students with a suggested 24-hour period in which they could Sabbath: Saturday sundown to Sunday sundown. By being efficient with weekend homework on Saturday morning or midday, students can set themselves up for success and simply put in some finishing touches on Sunday night. Try out this schedule to see if it blesses you.
I often get too fixated on Sabbath rules, which really are rules that I set for myself. So I remind myself to simplify Sabbath-keeping by focusing on activities that are life-giving, recentering my focus on God, and refraining from activities that I consider “work”. For me, “work” includes laundry, cleaning, emails, writing practice plans, etc. I don’t consider exercise to be “work,” because, for me, exercise is life-giving. I recommend taking some time to create a list of life-giving activities and “work” activities to help you structure a Sabbath day.
Finally, I want to touch on Jesus’s knack for creating and investing in a community. I think this is a key spiritual discipline for cultivating a healthy lifestyle. Jesus surrounded himself with people, unless he took a deliberate break for solitude. He called his disciples to follow him closely and to live life together with him. He consistently shared meals with others and generously served and accepted being served by others. Demonstrating love and compassion for friends was a staple characteristic of these communities. I am forever astounded by Jesus’s kindness and love for others. I strive to follow Jesus by showing kindness and love to others, and there is no more important place to do this than within my consistent community.
My wife and I have fervently sought community throughout our four years of marriage. We know that it is crucial to our well-being that we have friends to hold us accountable, who check in on us, who we can share our lives with, from joking around to praying for each other. I highly recommend finding a group of friends who share similar values and meeting with them frequently. Your time together doesn’t need to be structured or formal. But it’s best to be as consistent as possible. We gather with our community once a week. For you, it might be once a month or twice a week. Whatever is best for you, I pray that you will find community and experience the love of Christ.
As broken, messy humans, practicing—not necessarily mastering—the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, rest, Sabbath-keeping, solitude, and community, among others, lead to a healthy, Christlike life that blesses us as individuals and the people around us.
A Recess & Rhetoric Blog Post by April Torres, Sixth Grade Teacher
Take a moment to remember
Who God is and who I am
There You go lifting my load again . . . .
His yoke is easy and His burden is so light
I’ve been listening to these words from a song, “Take a Moment,” by United Pursuit over and over again the past few weeks and have been struck with the idea that the heart of compassion—something we all need to practice and to receive— can be characterized by the first three words of this song: Take a moment.
I invite you to listen with me as you read this blog post.
Compassion and taking a moment
Two concepts of compassion emerge from the Old Testament.
First, compassion is the intense longing of tender love that can cause physical pain, extending from the innermost depths of our vital organs or the womb.
Second, compassion is the act of sparing someone from harm or pain or difficulty.
We see examples of these concepts of compassion many times in Scripture.
In Genesis 43:30, a prideful, favored son turned slave and prisoner finds himself lord over the entire Egyptian empire. Interactions with his starving, fearful brothers cause him to take a moment to allow his intense grief and tears to rise to the level of deep longing for restoration even after suffering grave offenses. After taking that moment, Joseph’s compassion leads him to extend his resources to save his father Jacob’s family—including the brothers who betrayed him—and thereby preserves the Hebrew family tree.
In Exodus 2:8, a privileged, protected, pampered princess takes a moment to notice a basket in a river and investigate its contents. She connects the cries of the baby she finds there to the Hebrew families who must sacrifice their children to obey her father’s commands. She spares the baby, a direct descendent of the once-favored Joseph, not only out of the basket, the river, and death, but to a lifetime of care and protection. Pharaoh’s daughter spares Moses with multifaceted compassion that hinges on the moment she took on the banks of the river.
A personal experience with taking a moment
Recently, a young woman kept popping up in my mind. I eventually texted her a short message: “Hey, thinking of you.” It turns out, her mother had just passed away from COVID pneumonia. She was on a sudden three-day trip to Georgia to meet with her sisters and say goodbye. She so appreciated my tiny kind words. When she returned, we walked along the harbor while she shared her memories of her mother and the mysterious struggle with grief. It only took a moment to activate compassion.
How do we help students learn, practice, and value compassion?
Providence School, where I teach the sixth grade class, has a mission, motto, and various “habits of the mind” we strive to develop, with the goal to see them flourish in our graduates. Compassion is one such habit.
Recess-time provides the perfect arena for spreading wings of compassion. Students leave the routine and structure of their classrooms and race toward relief, freedom, and recreation. They move their bodies and renew their minds running across the field or climbing up slides and ladders. Most of the time, partnership and laughter prevail.
At other moments, students jam their fingers, scrape their knees, struggle to compromise, find their ideas are not chosen, or even are ignored. Their eyes dim; their shoulders droop. In that moment, another student may reach out with help and comfort. These daily experiences provide the perfect opportunity to learn and practice compassion.
Teachers are moment-makers, hoping one day these children will be moment-makers on their own. Our goal is that they will take a moment and help someone, apologize, love someone, or lift someone in Christlike compassion.
Daily life on the playground and in the classroom provides students the arena to nurture compassion through consistent practice. Extended isolation and too much privacy short-circuit opportunities for bending, adjusting, and showing preference for the needs of others over oneself. With social interaction, our students have built-in motivation for extending second chances and a gracious perspective.
What about adults in the school setting—and elsewhere?
At Providence, as well as at other distinctly Christian schools, we who encourage students to take moments for compassion must ourselves actively practice compassion. Words of kindness, offers for support, encouraging texts, or reassuring calls make a big difference in the lives of our communities.
Over the past 19 months, COVID has impacted our efforts for active compassion, at school and elsewhere. Deep relationship history and loving trust are tested by each families’ unique needs and perspectives. More than ever before, we are tempted to isolate, grumble, or make judgments that might strain or even break opportunities to cement lifetime friendships. Birthday parties, play dates, and parent events have to pass through complicated steps to reassure safety for participants.
We must reestablish markers of trust and respect and acceptance after months of letting go and prioritizing protection. The forbearance we extend each other demonstrates the active, wise, and loving compassion of Jesus within us.
We must cultivate, care, and respond to the moments around us. I know I couldn’t have made it through this last year of teaching without my loving and prayerful colleagues. Teachers need teachers. Moms need moms. Dads need dads. Kids need each other. We all need friends we can count on. Take a moment to embrace the vast resources in your community, as we are so blessed to have at Providence.
And, finally, what about Jesus?
I routinely ask my class, “How does this biblical story, verse, or concept point to the person and work of Jesus?”
In Matthew 9:36, Jesus sees the multitudes fainting and scattered, harassed and helpless, without a shepherd and hungry. He takes a moment to invite his disciples into his compassion for these followers and feeds them bread. Jesus broadens love to action and we can do the same with our meager offerings, comforting and preserving the people we do life with.
In Luke 23:39, as Jesus endures death on the cross, he takes a moment to speak with a fellow prisoner. He recognizes repentance and humility and hope in the person next to him. As the crucified One offers forgiveness to the crucified criminal beside him, Jesus offers us his compassionate mercy and grace and the reality of paradise, despite his own agony, blood, and labored breath.
Take a moment.
What do you see in the eyes of the person next to you? Do their shoulders, walk, or posture show signs of pain, weariness, conflict, or doubt? When we extend the mission and vision of Jesus’s compassion into the moments of our day, we will bless those around us with an easier yoke and a lighter burden. Habitually offering active compassion releases good into our days.
As you lift the loads of others, the Lord will lift you.
Libertas Scholars Blog | Bruce Rottman, Libertas Scholars Program Director
In the past several years, our country appears to be at an inflection point, with statist solutions to problems becoming more popular and more common. This July, ten Libertas Scholars from Providence spent four full days exploring these issues at FreedomFest in South Dakota. Graduates Christine Venzor and Olivia Bates, seniors Liza Coffin and Davis Peterson, juniors Avala Elwood, Emma Johnson, Ruby Kilpper, Jacklyn Pryko, and sophomores Teleios Zermeno and Eliana Bordin were chaperoned by Mr. and Mrs. Rottman for an intense and entertaining conference on the Western plains.
Libertas Scholars are required to attend a summer program, but COVID-19 made that impossible in 2020. This summer was a different story, allowing students to travel to Rapid City, where 2,700 “free minds” met “to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers.” There they were challenged by hundreds of options (presented in debates, talks, and films) and a variety of opinions.
Students took full advantage of the many opportunities.
— We heard Governor Noem of South Dakota and Senator Mike Lee of Utah
— Students were fascinated to learn how New Testament geography adds insights into what Jesus really said about justice and economics in a talk by Jerry Bowyer
— California gubernatorial candidate (and talk show host) Larry Elder inspired the attendees
— We saw several amazing documentaries at the simultaneous Anthem Film Festival
— Senior Davis Peterson served as one of 12 jurors on a Mock Trial on whether the pandemic lockdown was justified
— We heard insightful comments from economists Stephen Moore, Diedre McCloskey, and many others
— And we heard author Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s defense of America’s war on Islamic terrorism, countered by an equally cogent and convincing counterpoint from scholar Scott Horton
— Some of us saw a hilariously raucous debate, “Boomer vs. Zoomer: Which Generation Is More Dangerous to Freedom?” (Conclusion: they both are equally dangerous)
—We bought books, visited booths in the large exhibit hall, and laughed with comedians
— We explored historic downtown Rapid City, played mini-golf, and experienced a moving lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore
Students experienced first hand the problem of tradeoffs (should we see an inspiring movie or hear a senator speak?), were tantalized by vendors’ treats, and competed in daily photo contests, trying to capture the best and oddest images from the Festival.
In addition to ten hours of learning each day and experiencing a civil exchange of ideas, students from different classes also enjoyed getting to know one another, which they missed out on during the past year of enforced cohorts, while exploring a different part of the country.
But most of all, students gained an deeper appreciation for and understanding of the principles of freedom that have made our country a light on a hill.
As Ruby wrote, “I was compelled by the consistent message of hope for America and progress towards a more free society.” Eliana added that she learned “new perspectives of the ideas we’ve learned about,” while Olivia noted how it was “healthy to talk across political divides.” Given how social media tends to move us into echo chambers, FreedomFest brought about “conversations with those who have different beliefs” and helped students “build up our own convictions as we participate in society today.” Liza noted that the broad range of ideas and speakers highlighted the “common values of freedom and individual rights that brought them all together;” like Olivia, she noted the “civil political discourse done with grace and respect” for other people’s values.
We trust that students will take these lessons into the upcoming school year, their college experiences, and their lives, and we are grateful for the generosity of Providence supporters, Robert and Margie Niehaus, who made it possible for our students to experience this enlightening and educational program.
TRIAD (Travel, Research, Investigate, Apprentice, Discover), is an in-depth exploration of student/faculty interests designed to promote active engagement with topics that promote curiosity, collaboration, and problem-solving. Providence, an independent Preschool–Grade 12 school in Santa Barbara, is restructuring the Upper School (grades 9–12) academic calendar into three terms to make room for the exciting new program launching in May 2022.
TRIAD offers students the opportunity to delve into areas of interest outside of regular coursework. Creatively designed classes encourage critical thinking and appreciation for increased complexity or challenge. This third term with capstone presentations will further the Providence blueprint vision of strategic influence in Santa Barbara and beyond as the school seeks to prepare students to engage and serve their communities.
TRIAD showcases the diverse abilities of talented faculty while offering a broader range of courses for students to explore. Students may experiment with something new or choose to do a deep dive into areas of academic interest. Students may also earn course credit through internships, international travel, and independent study. Students receive 2.5 to 5 credits for each two-week course, depending on scope and challenge.
Tentative course proposals include: Athens & Crete Excursion (antiquities and history), Backcountry Hiking (first aid and wilderness training), Toward a Moral Vision of Games (game theory), Business and Entrepreneurship, Linoleum Block Printmaking, Plein Air Painting, Mock Trial, Movie Making, Triathlon Training, and Conversational Spanish and Spain Excursion. Additional options are being developed to match faculty expertise and passion with student interest.
The name “TRIAD,” suggests the idea of three things fitting harmoniously together; for example, a chord of three tones. This three-part motif runs through the Providence School motto, “Pursuing truth, beauty, and excellence,” as well as the educational blueprint for achieving the goals of Intellectual Preparation, Spiritual Formation, and Strategic Influence. Additionally, participating in the TRIAD program will amplify three outcomes for students: developing their interests, their aptitudes, and their passions.
Middle and Upper School principal Rodney Meadth is excited and eager to launch TRIAD. Speaking about the new program, he says:
“Providence School rests solidly upon the creativity and enthusiasm of our teachers and students. We learned a lot during COVID about how resourceful and adaptable our teachers and students are. As an independent school, we have broad freedom to craft programs and classes that we believe are worth pursuing—not because any external entity requires it of us. TRIAD gives us a chance to showcase the talent and experience of our community in unexpected ways!”
To learn more about TRIAD and other educational opportunities for preschool through high school students at Providence, contact Admissions Director Tawny Kilpper (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 805-962-3091.
COVID, Learning, and Liberty
Bend the curve. Social distancing. A few months ago, these might have referenced grading trends or high school dances, but now, they seem destined to enter 2020â€™s lexicon as something weâ€™d like to forget.
Whatâ€™s it like to do distance learning at Providence? Two personal first impressions:
1) Providence teachers and students pivoted to online learning over a weekend, and though it wasnâ€™t seamless, it was amazing. We are still doing excellent work! Just speaking for myself (other teachers are far more creative and competent than me), Iâ€™ve given lectures, had one-on-one tutorial sessions, class discussions, conducted a mock trial, and zoomed quizzes and tests. And, of course, students get grades.
2) But. Thereâ€™s always a â€œbut,â€ right? Online learning teaches you why a traditional face-to-face education is so valuable and â€œlockdown learningâ€ (thatâ€™s my term) is so confining and incomplete. I miss lunchtime and study hall and before school and after school conversations with students. I miss the ease of traditional education. I typically had nearly 2000 minutes of face to face interactions with students each week, which is why I never longed to talk to anyone right after schoolâ€”I was too tuckered out. Now, Iâ€™m lucky to get a few hundred virtual face to face minutes with students per week and Iâ€™m talking to myself too much at home.
The good news is, this will pass. No longer will I hear a freshman say, â€œRaise your virtual hand!â€ I wonâ€™t miss the occasional garbled audio feeds, the â€œjust got out of bedâ€ appearances from some students, the barking dogs and binging computers, and my own steep learning curves with distance learning.
Life will get much better. I have always reminded students how good we all have it. We are 35 times, give or take a few â€œtimes,â€ wealthier than our ancestors. Our problems are often (though certainly not always) trivial. The Black Death killed a third of Europeâ€™s population in the 14th century. Chinese peasants mugged each other over the results of their retrieval of buckets of â€œnight soilâ€ from the common latrines. Life is strained now, but our ancestors faced worse issues. We will defeat this virus, and when we do, inexorably, life will not only return to normal, it will be so much more sweet! The pent up demand will find goods, businesses will rehire workers, weâ€™ll be able to sit down at restaurants, and the koinonia will return in full measure to our church gatherings.
Some things may change. In the past, crises tended to birth a statist leviathan; I hope that doesnâ€™t happen. The handshake had a good, 1000 year run; that may be over. Some ways of doing business will evolve. We might want to stomp, virtually of course, on our Zoom software. And some good will perhaps emerge–a re-emergence of federalism would be refreshing, as states do their own experiments in reacting to the virus.
But letâ€™s also embrace the â€œnot changeâ€ portions of our lives when the corona virus is dethroned. Letâ€™s enjoy lively give and take, good communal meals, hugs and shoulder rubs. Letâ€™s continue caring for the vulnerable, and look forward to the day when students and teachers can both return to our classrooms, white boards, shared dining tables, sports, plays, games, lounging on the artificial turfâ€”the things that make life sweet.
See you all, hopefully soonâ€”in the classrooms, not at all virtually, but in flesh and blood, and sooner than we expect or fear.
By Chloe Olsen, Class of 2021
Coercionâ€™s grasp is capable of stripping American society of liberties, and our deliverance relies on cooperation.
On Tuesday, February 21, Drs. James Harrigan and Antony Davies presented a talk to Providence students targeting these concepts. Dr. Harrigan is the managing director of the Center for Philosophy of Freedom and the University of Arizona, and Dr. Davies is a professor of economics at Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh. In their popular podcast, â€œWords and Numbers,â€ the two delve into philosophy and economics. They are currently traveling the country and have now visited Providence three times in the past four years to impart their wisdom to high school students entering into a world where an awareness of subjects like these is crucial. Providence is a school that places an immense gravity on studentsâ€™ knowledge of ideas, including economic and political ideas. They talked about the governmental hold on citizensâ€™ lives, the extent to which coercion should be accepted and considered beneficial, and the fruits of cooperation. As authors of Cooperation and Coercion, a book that unpacks the tendency in human relations to either comply or constrain, they posed the pros and cons of both trends during their talk.
Harrigan began the discussion on the topic of coercion. Explaining the problematic nature of societal constrictions, he addressed the myriad of limitations on day-to-day activities such as those on our use of water and where we can cross the street. Another form of coercion from the government appears in the price of harmful products. He gave the example of the dramatic increase in the cost of cigarettes. During the 1980s, a pack of cigarettes could be purchased for roughly one dollar, while today a pack costs nearly seven dollars. In an attempt to prevent unhealthy habits, our government has nudged citizens into living a life they believe is best for us.
Students were encouraged to question these regulations. Should such constraints exist to prevent self-inflicted harm, or should regulations be in place solely to prevent one person from harming another? Nations exercising too much coercion become consumed by a sea of regulations on everyday life which compromise the liberty that keeps our country afloat. With examples such as Chinaâ€™s social credit system and its former limits on the amount of children per family, Harrigan warned of the damaging effects of a coercive government.
|Post-presentation, students in the Libertas Scholars program meet Dr. Harrigan and Dr. Davies.|
Rather than forceful leadership, perhaps our prosperity depends on cooperation. Davies led students in an interactive experiment that emulated real-world commerce. Students divided into groups of four who traded within the group, aiming to multiply their products and create the largest amount of goods possible. One side had a comparative advantage and was significantly more efficient at production than its competition. However, despite one groupâ€™s lack of skill and oneâ€™s clear industrial domination, both gained from the cooperation; in fact, those who were the poorest improved more. Through this experimental economics, Davies demonstrated that trade works to not only make us all better off, but also to decrease economic inequality. With an engaging, palpable take on production and consumption, his example helped students understand the often unrecognized fairness of cooperative exchange. Similar to this exercise, there exists a reciprocity in cooperation that debunks the popular notion that all sellers are thieves. Trade produces profit for the disadvantaged in the deal and lessens economic inequality.
|In groups of four, Providence students and teachers participate in an interactive economics experiment led by Dr. Davies.|
|Students work together to solve production and efficiency problems through trading.|
|Drs. Harrigan and Davies conclude the discussion with a Q and A, where students had the opportunity to ask questions about the talk and about economics and politics in general.|
The matter of whether force or compliance is best for our nation is certainly relevant. Amidst the current political climate and upcoming election, an understanding of economics is especially vital. With a unique optimism, Harrigan shared that he expects our generation to have an awareness of the importance of liberty and value of trade that many millenials do not always recognize.
Our school promotes the economic and political education of students, as this insight is necessary for navigating the world of politics and life as an American citizen. Providence High School students attained a worthwhile understanding of coercion and cooperation from Tuesdayâ€™s discussion and greatly appreciated the two talks. Students were particularly drawn to the comprehensibility of the presentation. Senior Chloe Norton shared, â€œThey make economics a more tangible subject. I think that a lot of the times I am intimidated by the concepts, but both Antony Davies and James Harrigan make it simple without losing its vast complexity.â€ Others were motivated to further their understanding in this area. Junior Nolan Lundgaard said, â€œI thought it was so great to hear from these economists today, and everything they had to say about the benefits of working together and the drawbacks (and the good) that result from coercion. It just underlines the importance of cooperation in society and that things will be better off once humans begin working with others. The whole presentation was super inspiring.â€ Junior Josh Frankenfield added, â€œPersonally, I really enjoyed the presentations… It was quite intriguing to see the contrasting ways on solving problems (coercion vs. cooperation) and which option yields better results. Discussions and topics like those that were presented are the reason why I am fascinated by economics.â€
James Harrigan and Antony Davies spurred on a venture for learning political and economic truth and a cultivation of knowledge through considering that coercion may be poisoning liberties, but cooperation is fruitful to all.
By Chloe Olson
An apple is not an orange. Even if I desire that apple to be an orange and call my desire true, it is not. You might disagree and tell me that apple can be whatever I wish it to be. These questions concern philosophy: when one dwells on existence, and forms ideas and beliefs around it. The unique thing about humankind is that we are capable of thinking for ourselves. Our minds have the capacity to understand, then apply, to question, and to make and choose beliefs. Humans love wisdom and strive to know. We create our own philosophies because of our quest for knowledge, for philosophy does mean the love of wisdom. The human brain is so complex that it allows us to dig deeper than understanding how. We can seek to understand why. Discovering oneâ€™s philosophy is integral part of being. One cannot navigate through life purposefully or make a meaningful impact on the world without knowing their mind, what goodness is, and what is true. Knowing our philosophy aids in discerning between truth and falsehood in all we see, and causes us to debate with ideas we hear. For example, on the branch of philosophy that is metaphysics, one can decide that an apple is an apple and not an orange. Anthem, by Ayn Rand, holds a clear message of her philosophy that is objectivism, and reading this pushes one to debate and compare their philosophy with Randâ€™s. Anthem illustrates a world where no one says â€œIâ€. Rand describes a place in which there is no freedom to choose oneâ€™s path in life, where to live, how to live, or who to be. Everyone has a name that refers to group identity; individualism is outlawed. Equality 7-2521 was another piece of this societyâ€™s plain white puzzle, but unlike all others, he did what was forbidden. He learned by himself. He discovered, he grew, and began to doubt the collectivist ideology that was ingrained in the minds of everyone around him. He escaped this world and taught himself to have a new mindset about self. Most importantly, he learned what was stolen from every human. Equality discovered ego and traded equality for ego. This story line not only screams Randâ€™s beliefs about truth, morals, and politics, but it causes one to question her philosophy of what is true, what is moral, and what the role of the government should be. Anthem is filled with messages from Ayn Rand that I agree and disagree with: truth exists independent of manâ€™s consciousness, truth is known through sensory experience and reason, self-interest is morally right and altruism is morally wrong, and socialism must be rejected.
Ayn Randâ€™s thoughts on reality are that truth exists independent of manâ€™s consciousness. Her idea of reality is that reality is what is real and nothing else. Imagine two men looking at a dog. One man sees the dog as what it truly is: a dog. The other man says that the dog is a cow. Randâ€™s philosophy would suggest that both men cannot be correct, but only the man who claims the creature is a dog would be correct. Randâ€™s idea is that truth is truth: A is A, and A cannot be B. Manâ€™s consciousness may cause one to believe that A is B, but Rand suggests that manâ€™s consciousness cannot decide what truth is. Men may see the truth but cannot manipulate it or choose it. In Anthem, Equality and all other people are not taught reality. As Equality 7-2521 described the way of life in his society, he spoke about education and said,
â€œWe think that there are mysteries in the sky and under the water and in the plants which grow. But the Council of Scholars has said that there are no mysteries, and the Council of Scholars knows all things. And we learned that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it, which causes day and nightâ€ (5).
What Equality is describing is the teaching of falsehood; we know the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Rand includes this to convey her message: not everything said is true, and even if the world said A was B, A is still A. The Council of Scholars tells others that they know everything, and they do not. They explain the earth to function in a way that it does not. They have freedom to speak and believe this, but that does not make it qualify as truth. Ayn Rand said, â€œReality, the external world, exists independent of manâ€™s consciousness, independent of any observerâ€™s knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires, or fears. This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they areâ€”and that the task of manâ€™s consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it.â€ Though his society may make falsehood part of his curriculum, it is Equalityâ€™s job to understand the true facts through a discerning mind. Equality described the Unmentionable Times which were before his society was reformed. He described how the world used to function and how it was considered evil. He said, â€œBut those times were evil. And those times passed away, when men saw the Great Truth which is this: that all men are one and that there is no will save the will of all men togetherâ€ (3).
Humans in this time are taught that the past and individuality are evil. This is wrong in Randâ€™s eyes as the desire of B does not make A false. Just because people hate the idea of an individual does not mean the concept of an individual is bad. The Council claims this is the Great Truth, but it is not truth. It is not grasped through experience and logic, but it is thought about through teaching and stories. A thought of man cannot always be considered fact because truth is truth, and if manâ€™s thoughts contradict what is true they are not facts. Will does exist regardless of whether or not people want it to exist. There is no editing the truth. I agree with Rand on all but her thought of truth only in the physical. My philosophy is that there is an absolute and uncompromising truth, pertaining to the physical and spiritual, which is authenticated by sensory experience, logic, and revelation. Like Rand, I believe that there is one truth and one reality in the world around us. Contrary to her ideas, I believe there is absolute spiritual truth. I agree with Randâ€™s philosophy that A is A, and the world in Anthem is saying that A is B physically and spiritually. What, however, deems truth to be the truth and the teachings of the Council to be false? The answer lies in our ability to distinguish between A and B.
Once one knows that truth is unwavering and definite, they must learn to distinguish between what exists and what does not. Epistemology is a question of how. If the truth is objective as Rand states, what is the difference between real and fake? Her philosophy states that we know reality to be reality through reason. She also rejects mysticism and faith, and does not believe they contribute to our knowledge. Ayn Rand stated, â€œManâ€™s reason is fully competent to know the facts of reality. Reason, the conceptual faculty, is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by manâ€™s senses. Reason is manâ€™s only means of acquiring knowledge.â€ When Equality discovered his friendship he said,
â€œInternational 4-8818 and we are friends. This is an evil thing to say, for it is a transgression, the great Transgression of Preference, to love any among men better than the others, since we must love all men and all men are our friends. So International 4-8818 and we have never spoken of it. But we know. We know when we look into each otherâ€™s eyes. And when we look thus without words, we both know other things also, strange things for which there are no words, and these things frighted usâ€ (9).
Equality and International never established their fondness of each other. They never conversed about their friendship. They simply did their jobs in the presence of one another. They knew they were friends without saying that fact but simply by looking each other in the eyes. This is similar to our knowing truth because we use logic through senses. We may not be able to see wind, but we know it exists because of the effect it leaves on earth. We can reason to discover truth using what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
Once Equality flees, he reflects on his new understanding: â€œThe forest rose among cliffs, and whenever we walked out upon a barren stretch of rock we saw great peaks before us in the west, and to the north of us, and to the south, as far as our eyes could see. The peaks were red and brown, with the green streaks of forests as veins upon them, with blue mists as veils over their heads. We had never heard of these mountains, nor seen them marked on any map. The Uncharted Forest has protected them from the Cities and from the men of the Cities… And there before us, on a broad summit, with the mountains rising behind it, stood a house such as we had never seen….We turned to the Golden One and we asked: â€˜Are you afraid?â€™ But they shook their headâ€ (48).
What was once nonexistent to Equality and the Golden One became reality when they learned to discern truth. They then used their physical senses to see the real world as it truly was: with mountains and cliffs they never thought existed. Not only did they never know that this truth was the truth, but they were taught that the forest and what was beyond was dangerous. Equalityâ€™s first thought when they saw a house was to ask the Golden One if she was scared, as they were told to be scared of knowledge. This is a lie that the two distinguished from the truth as they were not scared. They had no fear because they discovered it was not dangerous through seeing the house as it was. They used their sensory experience and reason to know there is nothing to fear about a house and some trees just as we use this to decipher between what is real and what is not. I agree with Rand in that I think that the senses and reasons are key parts of knowing what exists, but I believe there are more factors. My philosophy on distinguishing reality from the false is this: the truth is not subjective, but our â€œtruthâ€ is. Our â€œtruthâ€ is not the truth, but it is a lack of sensory experience, logic, revelation, and submission to God. Rand is clearly not a believer in any faith, so she would debate me on revelation as a means of knowing. Ayn Rand brings up a truth that people called fake when describing those who broke laws and did what was dangerous and evil in the Councilâ€™s eyes. Equality said,
â€œWe do not wish to look upon the Uncharted Forest. We do not wish to think of it. But ever do our eyes return to that black patch upon the sky… It is whispered once or twice in a hundred years, one among the men of the city escape alone and run to the Uncharted Forest, without call or reason. These men do not return. They perish from hunger and from the claws of the wild beasts which roam the forest. But our Councils say that this is only a legendâ€ (20-21).
Again, a desire of the Council to place opinion over fact and create truth is displayed. Rand is using this passage to show once more that what one may say is truth is not always truth. When referring to the men who ran away, she may be saying that their urge to run came from knowing the physical truth about the world that was hidden for them, but how did they know it was truth without reason? Without sensory experience and reason, truth can only be known through revelation. Perhaps unintentionally, Rand may have included an argument that is contradictory to her beliefs. Regardless of this, there was a discovery of the truth through discerning lies. We can distinguish between real and fake as truth is objective, and this means we can also distinguish between right and wrong.
Good is Good, but what is Good? There must be an absolute morally right and morally wrong. Rand thinks this morally right is self-interest, and the morally wrong is altruism. She thinks sacrificing oneself for the sake of other is evil and rejects putting others first. Rand says that reason can be the only judge of values, and what a man needs for survival is reason, purpose, and self-esteem. She believes that selflessness is evil and that â€œman is an end in himself.â€ Rand conveys this mindset when Equality discovered the Unspeakable word, and he said,
â€œAnd my happiness needs no greater aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. Neither am I the means to end others may wish to accomplish. I am not a tool for their use. I am not a servant if their needs. I am not a bandage for their wounds. I am not a sacrifice on their altarsâ€ (52).
Rand is arguing that one cannot let others use them as a stepping stone on the path to reaching their goal. It is completely wrong to dedicate any part of oneself in helping another man reach his need in her mind, because if man doesnâ€™t think for himself, he will remain in ignorance. Rand believes that happiness should not be offered either and no one should give up their happiness to serve another as that would be immoral. She then described the importance of solitude. As Equality was walking with the Golden One in the Uncharted Forest after his escape, he said,
â€œâ€˜There is no danger in solitude. We have no need of our brothers. Let us forget their good and our evil, let us forget all things save that we are together and that there is joy as a bond between us. Give us your hand. Look ahead. It is our own world, Golden One, a strange, unknown world, but our own.â€™… If that which we have found is the corruption of solitude, then what can men wish for save corruption? If this is the great evil of being alone, then what is good and what is evil?â€ (44-45).
Equality is saying that life is much better now that he is alone. He doubts that isolation is truly evil, and he begins to rewrite what good is and what evil is. Rand is using this to express the importance of individuality. To stress this, when Equality finds a house from the Unmentionable times and learns to say â€œIâ€, Rand writes,
â€œFor the word â€œWeâ€ must never be spoken, save by oneâ€™s choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within manâ€™s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of manâ€™s torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie. The word â€œWeâ€ is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the week steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sagesâ€ (52-53).
Not only does Rand think self-interest is a virtue, but she thinks that group identity can be the greatest evil. In her mind, anything collaborative results in stolen wisdom, strength, and goodness. The only right in life is in oneself. Rand further demonstrates her love of self when Equality changes after learning the Unspeakable Word and says,
â€œAnd now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: â€˜Iâ€™” (53).
Equality now calls himself â€œgodâ€ instead of calling the group â€œgod.â€ Now the brothers are not most important to him, and the council is not most important to him. The only being that should rule his life is him. He has learned the basic human instinct of selfishness and a rejection of all altruism. As Rand believes in living for only oneâ€™s self, to me, morally right can only be dying to self. My philosophy is that what is morally good can only be one thing: God. God invented good and is all that is good on earth. What is a better way to judge oneâ€™s morals than compare oneself to the person God wishes them to be? Rand is clearly not a follower of God and would debate this theory, but I believe that we do not live for ourselves. I agree with her that self-interest is constructive and healthful. However, an interest in only oneâ€™s self in very destructive. Ayn Randâ€™s rejection of altruism is not only morally wrong, but acts of pure selfishness lead to no reward but oneâ€™s demise. Rand believes that an idea not formed by oneself will not lead to progression or growth. It is true that a society without individualism will not produce new ideas or succeed, but the importance of individualism should not mean the absence of community or learning from others. Building as a part of community is essential to growth individually, and if it is argued that altruism is evil, we must properly define the word. Altruism is not giving up everything about oneself. It does not mean hating yourself, doing nothing to promote your well being, or giving no care to your own knowledge. It simply means not placing your own comfort and happiness over serving others and serving your purpose. I also disagree with Rand on the importance of happiness. She stresses the value of being happy and how it should be sacrificed for no one. Acting for another in a way to ensure happiness can be evil to Rand; it is immoral if you yield your happiness. Where Rand seems to place a high value in happiness, I place value in how I carry out my purpose. Life certainly cannot always be joyful. Should we call every difficult and sad time evil or immoral? That would lead to a quite depressing life. Instead morality should be judged by how well we serve our purpose doing what God made us to do, and how close we become to the people God intended us to be. Happiness is different from joy, and joy is what is truly important. Happiness is temporary and can be lost when serving others, but joy is a result of serving others. Joy in Christ doesnâ€™t leave us, but it is in us. It empowers us to do Godâ€™s work and allows us not to feel drained from it. I disagree with Rand that serving others is immoral because I believe that Individuality and altruism can both exist in the same heart. Individuality plays an important role in morals, but it also is a factor in politics.
A government that allows one to be an individual is important and something both Rand and I agree on. Ayn Rand is clearly a firm believer in self-interest. She despises collective thought or identity as she believes it cannot benefit or grow one person in becoming an individual. She supports capitalism and is very much against socialism. Socialism is a theory in which there is shared responsibility, collectivism, and no private property. This type of system leaves little freedom for its people. Ayn Rand is opposed to the lack of freedom in this ideology, and she is a strong advocate for freedom. She says, as Equality is discovering his individuality in the Uncharted Forest and house,
â€œBut what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a manâ€™s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. That and nothing elseâ€ (57).
Rand is a strong believer in a capitalism with almost complete freedom. She believes that freedom is being an individual, thinking alone, and choosing alone. She also believes that socialism is the ultimate cause of loss of freedom due to sharing all you have. She elaborates when she depicts Equality dwelling on his newfound freedom and the problems of the past government. He said,
â€œWhat is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey? But I am done with this creed if corruption. I am done with the monster of â€œWe,â€ the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shameâ€ (53).
Equality learned that his time in this collectivist society caused him harm. There is no goodness if the produce of the garden he cultivated is stolen. His wisdom is not his own if others can claim or control it, and neither is his life, his freedom, and his joy. Rand is saying that collective identity and thought leads only to corruption. There are flaws of socialism additional to the lack of freedom. When the Council was outraged by his discovery of electricity, they said,
â€œHow dared you think that your mind held greater wisdom than the minds of your brothers? And if the Councils had decreed that you should be a Street Sweeper, how dared you think that you could be of greater use to men than in sweeping the streets?â€™ â€˜How dared you, gutter cleaner,â€™ spoke Fraternity 9-3452, â€˜to hold yourself as one alone and with the thoughts of the one and not the many?â€™ â€˜You shall be burned at the stake,â€™ said Democracy 4-6998â€ (37).
Socialism markets itself as a system of equality and fairness. It displays itself as a way for no man to be higher in class than another, yet it is deceptive. The Council reprimands Equality for thinking on his own, and they decide they want to discard him. Ironically, Democracy states that they want to take away Equalityâ€™s freedom. They value the good of the many but care not about the individual. This is similar to socialism as the government says they want you to be equal to those around you and might give you a false sense of care. In actuality, they care not about the well being of one person. They only care about the country as a whole. As Rand is explaining the flaws of socialism, she listed losses that this type of system causes, and she explains flaws like how socialism causes depression in economics and loss of success in society. When Equality discovered a new world, one free from the oppression of group identity, he spoke of the harm of collectivism and said,
â€œThe worship of the word â€œWe.â€ When men accepted that worship, the structure of centuries collapsed about them, the structure whose every beam had come from the thought of some one man, each in his day down the ages, from the depth of some one spirit, such spirit as existed but for its own sake. Those men who survived those eager to obey, eager to live for one another, since they had nothing else to vindicate themâ€”those men could neither carry on, nor preserve what they had received. Thus did all thought, all science, all wisdom perish on earth. Thus did menâ€”men with nothing to offer save their great numberâ€” lost the steel towers, the flying ships, the power wires, all the things they had not created and could never keepâ€ (58).
Equality is saying that those who think in groups, and not as individuals, fail to succeed. In fact, this tears apart society. It caused all advancement due to individual thought, which is most advancement, to cease. It destroyed the structure on which the world was made: with the freedom to think for yourself. This reflects socialism in our world as socialist countries fail to advance. Socialism doesnâ€™t work because there is no self. There is no private property or ownership. All is shared, including thought. When thought is shared there is no challenge or growth. I agree with Randâ€™s political stance on the importance of liberty. Freedom is integral to a progressing society. A country cannot flourish without it. I agree with her that freedom is letting man be man on his own. My stance is this: man should have freedom to be an individual with the exception of harming others, and one may not have the freedom to take another person’s freedom. I agree that socialism always fails and produces no fruit.
Rand has a thought-provoking philosophy and one that I both agree and disagree with. As she is not a Christian, it is interesting to challenge her ideas against Godâ€™s word and to see how her philosophy contradicts it. Rand believes that no God exists or is truth, but John 14:6 says â€œJesus answered, â€˜I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.â€ God says that there is a spiritual truth: Him. Rand would disagree as her philosophy on metaphysics is contrary to this. When it comes to distinguishing between truth and falsehood, Rand says that only reason and sensory experience contribute to this. God says that revelation is a key part in knowing the truth. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, â€œThe secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.â€ When it comes to morality, Ayn Rand believes that self-interest is moral, but God says love is not self-seeking. 1 Corinthians 10:4 says, â€œNo one should seek their own good, but the good of others.â€ God commands us to put other people above ourselves: an idea which Rand despises. Finally, Randâ€™s view of freedom is that it is necessary. God says that freedom is a right of ours. Galatians 5:13-14 says, â€œYou, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: â€˜Love your neighbor as yourself.â€™â€ God explains that freedom is good when used according to His word and will and as long we we do not harm others or dishonor Him. We know how God would view Randâ€™s philosophy, and we have seen how her philosophy is displayed in Anthem. There is an absolute truth, it is discovered through senses, logic, and revelation, that self-interest and individuality are important; but altruism is morally good, and that freedom is essential to thriving society.
Any thinking person should be able to predict what Hobbes would call the â€œsolitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and shortâ€ outcome of this romantic (in the literary sense) lunchtime endeavor. Competing high school personalities and self-interests should be the death of unsupervised lunchtime games. And yet, they are not.
Systems and Spontaneity
Celebrate Providence! A Seaside SoireeÂ took place March 15 at the Rosewood Miramar Beach. It was a specialÂ evening that brought together the Providence School community to celebrate Christian education, honor God and his faithfulness to the school, and raise necessary support for the students and mission.Â
From start to finish, the evening was spectacular. Memorable moments included the beautiful reception on the Great Lawn where guests perused silent auction items and enjoyed delicious food and drink while listening toÂ Goodtime Tim and the Faculty Band.
The exquisiteÂ Chandelier Ballroom welcomed guests as Dr. Matthew Roy, performing arts director, and the Providence singers opened the evening with a rousing Swahili version of The Doxology. Dr. Brett Wilson, board member, guided the dinner program as our emcee and guests were inspired by Cameron Bleecker, Class of 2020, and his testimony. A new Providence film made its debut and Rob Crawford, current parent, helped us further the mission with his expert auctioneering.Â
We are proud to share that more than $200,000 was raised for the students and mission of Providence!
Celebrate Providence! would not have been possible without the support of our our sponsors and the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, led by event co-chairs Colette Nottage Crafton and Melissa Kuykendall. Â See the Celebrate Providence web page for a list of volunteers and sponsors.
There are still some opportunities to participate in the success of the event through Providence Socials. Beginning Monday, April 1, there will be a binder in the front office on each campus with sign-up opportunities for the remaining Social spaces. Please consider signing up and supporting the school through your participation in one or more of these fun events.