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A 50-year Reflection on a “Life of The Mind”

June 25, 2017

Here is a reflection on the development of my mental life after high school, shared with my classmates at our 50-year reunion from our June, 1967 graduation.

There are a couple insider references which I’m purposely leaving in.

Memory is a wonderful thing.  Isn’t it why we do class reunions? Now, it can distort as well as re-call our experiences, or those of our families and communities.  With this in mind, I offer some recollections of how my life has unfolded… in one particular aspect we all have shared in attending school together, being friends, discussing things.  Not thinking of a better term, I’ll call it “the life of the mind”.

To set the life of my mind in broader context, I’ve always sought balance and been blessed in many regards… the gift of family and friends, good health, travel, and much more.  Just that much said, for brevity, I’ll go on to the development of my thinking since leaving ROCHS.  (You all remember the OC for overcrowded, right?)

It may not surprise you that I get real joy from intellectual activity, from the ever-expanding spiral of curiosity, to exploration, to new insights… and back to curiosity, and so on.  But it wasn’t really so up to and through high school.  Sure, I did what was required so I’d get good grades, but I certainly wasn’t very “into it”.  I much preferred hunting, hiking, fishing or even “running the circus” (as my baseball-playing friends called track) over doing homework! And classes? Mostly a necessary evil back then.

I still wasn’t much into formal studies my first year or 2 into college.  I certainly didn’t let studies get in the way of my education! No way you could call me a serious student.  But I clearly recall, in those years, how a light bulb seemed to turn on.

I was reading a bit on the side and a particular Christian thinker wrote some books that got me seeing the interconnection of the various subject areas we all study in school, even if we don’t go on to college, but especially if we do.

That greatly piqued my overall interest in education… for myself, and as a process I could use to impact others.  The budding insight which has grown and grown over the years is that everything affects everything else.  Everything is interconnected… In more ways than we can ever see or know.  But the more we do know and see it, the wiser and more adaptable we are.

As I began to look deeper for the many connecting points within human knowledge… history, math, science, religion, psychology, the arts, etc., “book learning” finally grabbed me.  I started paying attention to the work of various great thinkers and lines of thought.  Now history began to seem meaningful.  It didn’t take a Steve Richardson approach to make me pay attention to it.

At this stage, by the latter part of college, I developed a dual love and a dual specialization: psychology and theology.  Or you might say science and religion, in which I see harmony on a deeper level.  I went on to three years of seminary.  After this I was still loving the learning but puzzling on how to apply it in a career.  That took a little longer, and more study of psychology, before I entered a 10-year counseling career.

With counseling came strong interest in the growth process.  That’s the 2nd insight area I’ll leave you with, tied to the first of things being interconnected… from our deepest pain to the awesome mystery and joys of life.  Among the important things I’ve learned is that some attention to our “life of the mind” is vital, whether we are scholarly or not! Of course, we can’t just study our way to rounded growth.

But, on the other hand, growth is limited if we do not grow in our understanding of ourselves, others and the world around us.  Healthy growth involves expanding our circles of compassion as our understanding grows.

We have family.  We have “tribe” in one form or another. Then there are other circles, further out from us, in which compassion may come less easily.

If we are Christian, Jewish, etc., or merely humanitarian, we feel the call to care for the “stranger among us”.  But there may be competition, threatening to undo this! This is an example in which actively engaging the mind, looking beyond our immediate circle and interests, can help solve the inner and outer tensions.  We’re called on to gather information, purposely look at the larger picture as well as the specific people we may touch, whether in compassion or in rejection.

In this process, we may be intellectually as well as emotionally stretched.  It isn’t always easy but I’m here to remind you that some of the discoveries, the shifts most of us make, can bring real satisfaction… a sense of being here for a reason.  At least that’s how it’s been for me in my 50-year process since high school.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. hoju1959 permalink
    June 25, 2017 12:16 pm

    Howard, I can relate to the difficulty of going over memories. I’ve writing my memoir of by 35 years in Christianity. It’s hard to remember a lot of it! Our paths were similar in that we didn’t get serious about academics until we got to college.

    • June 25, 2017 10:31 pm

      Thanks, John. Yes, our memories are quite selective and definitely change over time… Trouble is, it’s often in ways we don’t take notice of. However, the larger events and changes of major positions and such I think we can generally be pretty confident about.

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