Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Inferiority Complex?

Apologies to anyone else who is going through new-post-on-Susan's-blog withdrawal like Ashley. Sheesh. I can't go three days of no posting without being badgered. *rolls eyes dramatically*

Monday and Tuesday was the Westminster Confession of Faith conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed :). More to come on that later. Between the conference and our epileptic computer, I haven't been doing much blog drafting recently. It is highly annoying to be typing on a computer and have it seize up and black out on you periodically, with no reason!

Today I was looking at a wad of papers that I found tucked in one of my grandfather's books - presumably some old sermon notes. It was fun to read through his sermon and I found the following anecdote on the "inferiority complex" to be interesting:

Have you read the late Dorothy Thompson's answer to Frank Lloyd Wright when he said that public rooms should be only about 12 feet high so that people in them would not have to feel inferior or insignificant?

Miss Thompson replied, "The GI Joes Whom I saw standing awestruck in the Salisbury Cathedral, or watching the robed procession climb the vast stairs of Canterbury, or kneeling under the lofty arches of Notre Dame, or staring upward in St. Peter's at Michelangelo's immense dome were not feeling insignificant. On the contrary they were realizing that life has a grandeur and a beauty and a significance above and beyond themselves that wakened in them high aspiration. The terrible heresy of our time is that everything must be keyed down to our understanding. . . lest we get an inferiority complex. Books must be written in the language of the gutter. The height of inspiration must be put not over twelve feet; one must not expect him to life his eyes beyond his own stature."

She goes on to say, "This is scientific dribble. Every boy or girl, wants to be something better than he is and other than the mass. They do not want a ceiling put over their life. Emerson did not advocate a twelve-foot ceiling when he said, "Hitch your wagon to a star." He knew the wagon would never reach the star, but it would stay out of the gutter.

The height to which we grow is communsurate with our vision. Set our ceiling at only 12 feet and we will eventually be living underground.

Now, I would like to clarify that (a) I don't know who Dorothy Thompson is, (b) I'm not guaranteeing that I accurately quoted her (since I'm merely pulling from an old sermon manuscript), and (c) her comment seems to have a humanistic flavor. But it is still something to consider.

We often, in the Christian life as well as the secular world, dumb things down out of fear for the "inferiority complex." We don't want to to challenge a kid too much in school, or his self-esteem may suffer. We don't want to attempt to read a difficult piece of literature like The Count of Monte Cristo, because it is "above us." We remove our children from the preaching of the Word, not wanting to bore or confuse them with all that "dry and difficult theology." Yet scripture is full of commands to strive for higher things, even unreachable things. We are to strive for perfection; how's that for a comforting goal? As C.S. Lewis said, Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither.

If all we ever search for is that which we know is attainable, what a miserable existence we will live. I am most comforted in my Christian walk, not by seeing other forgiven sinners tripping along the road of sanctification, but by seeing the perfect holiness of God. Like Dorothy Thompson's account of the GI Joes, when I get even a small glimpse of the true character of God, I suddenly realize that life has a grandeur and a beauty and a significance above and beyond myself. There is a higher purpose, a bigger plan. It's not all about me. And it's comforting, not frightening or stifling. How's that for an inferiority complex?

6 comments:

Jessica said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent! I completely agree!

Ashley said...

Well said! (and my Susan-post-need is satisfied, thank you ;-))

It reminded me of school when I was growing up. I did 4 years of elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse (not to be confused with homeschool). What is the result of having multiple grades in one classroom? Not that the younger ones feel stupid or inferior, but that they strove to be at our level and therefore were more advanced than the average student at their age! We as a society are very me-focused. I am learning this as I am trying to plan a company volunteering project, and realize the self-centeredness of my coworkers. It's very frustrating.

Besides, who needs to read a difficult novel like The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my favorites, by the way) when one can watch the movie and not have to think?

Sherrin said...

Oh Susan, how can you cope with the pressure of being so popular :)!! I think there should be some rule to make all bloggers equally popular so I don't feel so bad ;).

I especially like this part of your post:

"I am most comforted in my Christian walk, not by seeing other forgiven sinners tripping along the road of sanctification, but by seeing the perfect holiness of God. Like Dorothy Thompson's account of the GI Joes, when I get even a small glimpse of the true character of God, I suddenly realize that life has a grandeur and a beauty and a significance above and beyond myself."

Lydia said...

Very good, thought-provoking post. I agree that we should strive for those things that are higher and nobler. Look at Phil. 4:8 and 3:12-16.
So we think on the things that are mediocre, lowly or compromised? No, of course not. That's not the standard God has for us. We are to strive for excellence. We may not hit it but... "he who aims at nothing usually achieves it (nothing)."

Susan said...

Good mention of Philippians 4, Lydia!

Ashley, at the classical school where I teach, all the high school students take their core classes together (history, literature, grammar, rhetoric - NOT math and science) and the headmaster said much what you just did. The younger ones strive to excel on the same level as the older students, rather than feeling stupid and inferior.

Don't get me started on that sad attempt to adapt The Count to film! (assuming we are speaking of the Jim Caviezel (sp?) version. . .) How dare they make Edmund and Mercedes' relationship unchaste. Grrr. Though I must admit that barring that, it was a good film if you haven't read the book. After reading the book, though, watching that adaptation is much like looking at scribbles in the sand after viewing Rembrandt or Monet. Or eating Palmer's chocolate after sampling Godiva chocolates. Hmm, now I'm hungry. Must-have-dark-chocolate. . .

Ashley said...

With the exception of the tarnish to Dantes' character, it was a good film. It would be slightly impossible to make a film that had all the complexities of the book and still be a reasonable time limit. I only saw the movie once, but I spent the whole time trying to compare what was happening to the book, and I kept getting confused! Hmm, I should pick up that book again... Excellent, excellent...