Vertrees: Searching for theological truths at Valparaiso University
By Carrol Vertrees February 1, 2014 11:18PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 4:17PM
Plato, Socrates, guys like them who did not waste time watching the Cubs, sat around a lot, just talking about theology. That’s what I heard, anyway. But the absolute answers that folks like me can grasp are still out there waiting to be discovered, and explained.
Leading young folks in the search for theological truths surely is a high calling. Prof. Fred Niedner does that at Valparaiso University. He suggests that this endless quest involves down-to-earth issues that are often overlooked.
Like how mankind, you know, WE, and critters differ — we can dream and sing and play because we have a treasure called leisure time. Our animal friends are too busy procreating, finding food and searching for safe places to rest.
Niedner suggests in a recent column that we may be losing this blessing of time for fun and music and dreaming. Why? Because of the emphasis on stretching the educational experience to train young people for jobs. Maybe we view education too much as a utilitarian process. We even speak, Niedner writes, of teaching pre-schoolers in ways that will enable us to “more successfully market them at some future point.”
I don’t know if his views reflect, as they say back home, “the gospel truth,” but he does raise questions about what is happening to our humanity. Like competent, caring teachers at every level of our educational journey, he causes us to think, to expand our horizons. That works for even an old wandering soul like me, and I thank him.
A main purpose of education through the years has been to help young people prepare for the work world, obviously a sensible goal, but maybe that misses something. I don’t know. But I am thinking.
In my early days in the rural world when PTA meetings were big events and college was rarely considered, we had courses in home economics, agricultural stuff and a thing called “shop.” I was a standout in shop. The stool I made had four legs of differing lengths — it was not utilitarian, but it did become a conversation piece. I am not sure what this prepared me for — maybe to be laughed at.
Farming has always has been an honorable occupation. Many of my school friends spent their lives farming, and they were successes. I would have flunked farming, but I did show some prize winning 4-H Club pigs, steers and sheep. And I could spell.
I did not think much about theology or the condition of mankind, the meaning of life or what education was all about. But even I am not too old to learn if I bother to listen. Not too old for answers, or to think of questions. Surely that separates us from critters.
We may not fully agree with Niedner or fully understand, but we should listen to what he says about pushing our young people into more and more education: “This emphasis pushes us ever closer to losing touch with our humanity, to joining the four-legged and winged creatures who work ceaselessly to stave off the cold, and never sing, laugh or create something just because they can.”
That is not negative thinking or shallow criticism of our educational opportunities. It is a reminder of how high we can climb if we stop being too busy to look up.
I reckon there is much more to theology than many of us have thought as we busily dash through our lives. We should take more time to laugh and look for rainbows.