Montessori and Life

Often the books I select to read from the library can be quite random.  One of the latest that I checked out was the book The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori.  It is a collection of Ms. Montessori’s thoughts on teaching methods.  I am finding the book interesting not so much for Montessori’s thoughts on teaching, however, but for her thoughts on humanity, morals, and spiritual needs.  These have in turn led to thoughts of my own.

Here is a quote that I read that I thought particularly interesting:

The goal of human love is not the egotistical end of assuring its own satisfaction..  (Ideal human love) is made incarnate by Frederick Nietzsche, in the woman of Zarathustra…  “Why do you desire me?”  She asks the man.  “Perhaps because of the perils of a solitary life?  In that case go far from me.  I wish the man who has conquered himself, who has made his soul great…”  To better the species consciously, cultivating his own health, his own virtue, this should be the goal of a man’s married life.  It is a sublime concept of which, as yet, few think.

Please note that I do not think that either Nietzsche nor Montessori are to be labeled as spiritual experts (and I most assuredly wouldn’t recommend the literature from which Nietzsche’s quote came).  Also, I don’t think that either author nailed down the meaning of love (you simply can’t extract it from the spiritual context of a relationship with God).  That is not why I included this quote; rather, because of the thoughts such as the following that it brought to mind.

How many young people want to be satisfied in life, whether through marriage or money-making or something else- “assuring their own satisfaction”, yet aren’t concerned enough with spiritual growth?   It is easy to be more concerned with one’s needs or desires than to care about spiritual needs greater than these.  How often do we attempt to avoid loneliness and a feeling of emptiness in replacement for really getting to know God, the source of fulfillment for this emptiness?  We often allow other things to creep in and become substitutes for this supernatural provision, and this can become very clear when they are taken away.  It is important to remember, as a verse on my bulletin board reminds, you can gain the whole world but forfeit your soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36).

One thing I am ever-learning is that it’s important to focus on the act of becoming.  Adulthood isn’t just about living on your own, getting married, owning a car, having a great job, or any other such ‘benchmarks’ of life.  It isn’t about independence or anonymity.  It’s about fully embracing who God designed you to be- and giving Him the glory as you both embrace and share His love with others.  I’ve had times in my life when I’ve wanted to skip all the in-between stuff that seems to stand in the way of causing my dreams to come to immediate fruition. For some, this might look like having a an awesome husband, a great career, a beautiful home, or something similar.  All of these life ‘benchmarks’ are things that can be great, in the right context..  but such things ought not blind us from the incredible purpose that God has for us, that includes such benchmarks, but also includes much more than our human (and sometimes fleeting) ideas of life satisfaction.

Another thing I am learning is that you can be so focused on the future, you can miss seeing all that God has been doing for you in the ‘waiting’ periods.  When you look back it becomes clearer how much of the waiting was a part of God’s plan, not stuff that got in the way of the plan that God created.  In fact, often that ‘stuff in-between’ is what shapes us more than the places we had initially desired to reach.

Sanctification precedes heaven.

Sanctification implies growth.

One step further, growth requires change.

I read a quote once (I forget where, sadly) that said something to the gist of: people don’t truly like to change, because it requires them to do something.  That ‘doing something’ often comes in the form of altering one’s mindset to no longer view life as a series of waiting periods.  It includes no longer being so concerned with the benchmarks of ones desires, but being concerned with embracing the act of becoming.  Returning to the quote I included earlier, I agree with the fictional woman that it is abhorrent, whether in a man or a woman, to place the pursuit of moral excellence at so low a place.  How awful as well to hold the real meaning of love at so low a standard!  We should not subvert the importance of growing in character and pursuits such as academics or otherwise, in order to yield to the desires of immediate gratification.  Neither should we settle prematurely in life, rather than embracing the fullness of the vision that God intends for us.

Elsewhere in her writing, Montessori pointed out that sometimes man figures his life so insignificant as to be almost meaningless- and this can be soul-eroding.  Humility is important, yes- but not to the point of being so self-effacing that man loses the meaning of his life-work and the meaning of love.  What does it matter what we do, day-to-day?  What does it matter where our cares lie?  The truth is that we are nothing without Christ, but with Him, we can be all that He intends us to be.  God designed us to have full souls and hearts enlarged by His grace.  He gifted us with abilities that we can both benefit from and give away through loving others and Himself- no benchmarks or waiting periods needed.  The great thing is, He’s the answer.  The answer to loneliness.  To emptiness, and to every one of our needs that we think we can fill through things and happenings.. how is that for ideal love, Nietzsche?  😉

Art credit: Bright Star

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