Saturday, April 10, 2010

98 in psychology

The boys came home with their quarterly report cards yesterday and my older son got a 98 in psychology. He did well in other subjects too, but the 98 in psychology caught my eye.

How the hell does anyone get a 98 in psychology? Yes, I know -- if you read the books and can echo the information, then you are a good student and deserve a 98. That's the way of schooling and learning in school.

And it's useful stuff -- studying up, filling your own personal file box with information and assessments and conclusions and ... well, what passes for intelligence. Lord knows there is enough stupidity afoot in the world so that this kind of education is, as my father used to say, "better than the blow of a stick." Good stuff. Good suggestions. Good directions. (Like spiritual endeavor, I think)

I just looked up the word "psychology" on an Internet dictionary. I was expecting a fairly lengthy and faceted definition, but all it said was, "The science of mental life." Not "the study of mental life," but "the science of mental life." Science, as I understand it, is governed in part by results that can be exactly replicated.

Can psychology be exactly replicated? Wouldn't it be immodest and perhaps cruisin'-for-a-bruisin' to assert that? I'm not trying to attack anything. I am just curious.

A 98 in psychology. That's quite a batting average and I was proud of my son for doing what was expected of him in school ... whatever that was. Discipline precedes understanding. You've got to shape the goal before you attain the goal. So 98 is pretty good stuff.

Pretty good stuff and yet carrying with it the potential for danger. It is one thing to plan to climb the mountain and quite another to actually climb it. It is one thing to shape a spiritual quest and quite another to go questing. It is one thing to know the "science of mental life" and quite another to apply it.

The devil's always in the details. And this is where the danger lies ... that the naming and studying of the adventure at hand will be allowed to bully that adventure into a lifeless submission. In spiritual life, for example, you will find hundreds or perhaps thousands or millions of people who can and do utter the words, "I understand." Well, duck and cover! This is the stuff of literal or metaphorical bloodshed.

But criticizing or critiquing others is a dime-store pastime. The important part is not to get swept up or limited by our own sciences. The changing, shape-shifting nature of this life is so much more interesting and so much more joyful than the formats we may use as a means of actualizing that joy.

It's good to get a 98 in psychology, but the important part is to get a 100 when we open our eyes in the morning, when we sing a song, when we are neurotic or sad, when we are among friends, or when the cat settles in our laps.

98 is really very good.

But 100 is better.

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