Latin, Greek, Logic or Eastenders?

Have you ever felt intellectually inadequate?  My guess is that all of us have, at one time or another felt just a little bit left out of a conversation, or mystified by something we are hearing on the radio, or simply left scratching our heads as the seemingly vast intellect of another astounds us with its insight and knowledge.  Think of watching University Challenge if nothing else springs to mind.

To be honest I am dreading my daughter Lyra getting to an age when she comes home with questions like this:

Solve X in the following equation:


It is bad enough now when at aged 4 she comes home and tells me that the word she is reading is a split vowel diagraph (eh?) It’s a good job I am married to a primary school teacher.

Thankfully for me and for all of us intellectual inadequates there is a school of philosophical thinking that offers redemption.  Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) in his philosophical thinking around the education of children drew a distinction between learning (in the category of learning he placed among other subjects, logic, grammar, etymology, Latin, mathematics and Greek) and wisdom.  For Montaigne, wisdom was a far broader, more elusive and far more valuable kind of knowledge, everything that could help a person live well.  He wrote:

“If man were wise, he would gauge the true worth of anything but its usefulness and its appropriateness to his life.”

For Montaigne knowledge was only useful if it was directly applicable to one’s own life – this application is what he called wisdom.

This is a huge relief to those of us who wish we knew the classics but do not.  Who can just about add up or subtract but who find long division baffling.  It is great comfort for those of us who sit down to read Keats and then decide to go off and watch Eastenders instead.  It is not that there is no intellectual value to Keats or to long division (or Eastenders for that matter), but that its value is only in how I am able to apply it to my life.

Thankfully there are others who know these things.  There are people who can do long division, who are able to work out the angle to cut a piece of wood to make it fit in that gap.  There are people who know about Keats and who can communicate the wonder and mystery of his poetry to me. Make it relevant for me and enable me to apply it to my life.

‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it… are all apostles, are all prophets?., Are all teachers?’ (1 Corinthians 12.27, 29)

We each have differing gifts and each of us all called to use these gifts for the furtherance of the Kingdom.  I am no longer going to feel inadequate about the things I am no good at.  What’s the point?  As Christ’s body on earth we are here to help each other.  I am no good at accounts, but thankfully Neill our Treasurer most definitely is.  I am bored by paperwork, but thankfully Vera is a mistress of efficiency in our Parish Office… the list could go on.

Ask yourself not what can’t I do but what can I do to make my church, my community that little bit better.  Is there a skill, a wisdom that you have that others could share and from which others could benefit?  If there is, then speak up.  You are needed to serve God’s people in whatever way you can.

P.S. If you are still wondering what a split vowel diagraph is, check this link out:

P.P.S. As for the equation… answers on a postcard…



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