Good morning on this the thirtieth day in December, in the year of our Lord’s incarnation 2016.
I’ve been reading the latest Deus Vult post from TOF. It’s a fascinating thing, but the thing which caught my attention at the moment is the dating. Apparently “in the year of our lord” was originally “in the year of our lord’s incarnation”, which I rather like, so I’m adopting it. Also the habit of naming particular people and how far they were into what they were known for, to locate an event, was also an interesting practice.
On a different note, I’ve been talking with a fellow to whom I’ve had to explain that pride is a universal temptation because having a self immediately brings with it the possibility of placing the wrong value on one’s self. I called it a “universal temptation” and he asked, “how could something internal be a universal temptation?” Clearly, I’m not dealing with the brightest knife in the picnic basket.
Which brings up an interesting problem. If you are far smarter than the person you’re trying to explain something to, you don’t only have to be careful not to skip too many steps in your explanation, but to go through every step patiently. That’s important, but not enough. More important is that you have to be careful of what you are explaining. There are things which are simply too complex for people of limited intellects to grasp, at least in this fallen world, because the amount of mental energy required is more than can be exerted. Even where one is willing to patiently find out every stumbling block or missing piece of education and explain them, the person trying to follow will tire and get confused. He will lose track of why you were talking about this in the first place. And the end result will not be a man whose education has been greatly improved, but a man who has been greatly confused.
To give a concrete example, I was talking with a friend about the problem of evil, and explained all sorts of possible interpretations of natural disasters and other hard cases, and this didn’t get anywhere because every explanation requires three sub-explanations, and they in turn each required several sub-sub-explanations, and so on. Finally I said, “Let’s start again. It is possible that permitting some evil allows greater good to be achieved, and I trust God.” He replied, “I don’t.” I replied, “I know.” And the subject hasn’t come up since.
Presumably I could have done a better job explaining the complex particulars of how this or that evil is compatible with particular greater goods, but for whatever reason my friend was not able to follow me there, and no matter how willing I was to explain the path to him, he would always get too tired before he had gotten far along it, and we had to drop the conversation.
So, in conclusion, if you’re having trouble explaining something to someone who seems to be having great difficulty with it, don’t just try to come up with a simpler explanation. Try to come up with a simpler conclusion. Yes, you will leave things out. But you can’t teach a man more than he’s capable of learning anyway, so the trick is to find out what the most accurate version of the truth which he is capable of learning.
God bless you.