Here is what I got out of our class about Comenius’ philosophy about engaging with children as vessels for God’s joy(as influenced by Saint Augustine) (labelled for no meaningful reason):
- We exist on earth in corporal bodies that we experience the world through.
- The world is a place filled with all sorts of sensations and feelings that we can experience through our bodies, many of which are wonderful and very pleasant.
- We have been placed in this world with the intent of God that we experience it. It is right and proper that we explore and enjoy the world around us so that we can appreciate God’s blessing in our lives.
- However, we are not to lust after or be impassioned about the world around us such that we lose sight of God within our scope of understanding. If we love something or someone such that we forget the Lord, then we are making an idol out of this something or someone. This is a profound danger such that even the practices of worship and religion (acts initiated with the intent to focus upon God) can become idols themselves if they are taken too much for themselves.
- Thus, we are to experience the world around us, appreciate and love it, but love it for the majesty and blessing of God’s intention that we enjoy it.
So, to the burning question: what has a science fiction novel about grown adults playing with Barbie on distant planets while doing drugs have to do with Comenius’ philosophy?
When I read Comenius, and his emphasis upon our need to engage with and appreciate the world he has created for us, I have this sense that God derives pleasure and value from our engagement with the world in meaningful ways. But how does God derive this pleasure?
I once made a piece of art with a man who was profoundly disabled. The man was totally non-verbal and barely functioned at basic tasks. He picked up a few lessons during his 55+ years in the world and could vaguely emulate a few tasks like wiping down hand-railings and carrying newspapers to doors if you gave him specific instructions at each house. He did have this intense engagement with drawing. It was really just a lot of scribbling with crayons, but he liked doing it and people liked seeing what he’d made. We’ll I got inspired and build a collage out of pieces of black and white photos and illustrations from books such as to make a dark sort of colouring-book type display for him to contribute his craft to. One of the images featured a drawing of a boy depicted as being blind, dark glasses, cane and all. I was compelled to add a caption and it was something like this:
“Perhaps God is deaf and blind,
knowing only our thoughts,
we must listen as God’s ears;
we see as God’s eyes.”
I was certainly inspired and the piece was really cool. It sold for $200 making it almost the most money anyone has paid for a thing I made out of a garbage bag. More importantly though, this thought that I found inspired by this man I made a picture with stuck with me: what part of God is this man I worked with on this project? How does he see the world differently than me, and how is that view important to God?
Truth told, I have not stumbled upon a much clearer understanding of those questions, but I do still feel that they tap into the truth of our world, at least by a degree. When I read and engage with Comenius I see this truth again: God experiences the world through us.
I tried explaining this thought to my wife, but she didn’t really see eye-to-eye with me, so I changed the metaphor for her to one of television, or better yet, video games! Maybe the sense of looking at the world through the eyes of Master Chef or a Poké-Trainer will help build the image for you, but I have to say, this still isn’t quite what’s captured for me in Philip K. Dick’s construction of a world with his dolls.
If God experiences the world with us, we each have a profound value to God as we each present a profoundly unique lived experience. No two human beings are the same (and if they world, that would be remarkable profound and unique unto ourselves). We replicate, but differentiate with each iteration. We are a massively divergent collection of people, and God aspire to catch us all with his love and promise of forgiveness and acceptance. This is a weird vernacular, even to me, but it I truly what is conjured for me by Comenius’ rhetoric. I feel its reductionist, but, somehow comforting as a means of understanding my unique and profound value to God. If I lead a Godly life by living a right life in the Nathan™ Fun Set that I live in, God gets to have a good time. Maybe he’s satisfied with the experience you can only have by taking a one-of-a-kind Nathan™ the Choice-Stroyer(!) out of it’s packaging, (casting aside all cares for preserving the astronomical collectors value) so that he might enjoy playing with it as it was meant to be played with. You cannot get that sense of risk from a video game and you sure cannot get that level of unique experience and expression!
Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Maybe it is because he is willing to take few risks with some delicate and valuable lives that might have a great time along the way to the rough spots.
- About Comenius (comeniusincorvo.wordpress.com)