Swimming in the Sea of Ideas: a metaphor for my thought life

A quote read in the book on my nightstand, a line of a song sung at church, a phrase heard on a podcast, a passage of Scripture copied in my journal. . .each little exposure to thoughts of others on this voyage through life adds to the sea of ideas in which I find myself. I may be reading books whose overall theme is totally unrelated, but a sentence will strike me in such a way as to remind me of something I read somewhere else. Lately this has been happening more and more. It seems that related ideas keep coming to mind whatever I am doing: sitting in church, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, writing the Scripture of the day. This is, I believe, what Charlotte Mason called "the science of relations."

On what does Fulness of Living depend? –– Education is the Science of Relations . . . . What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 185-186

All these ideas that keep swirling about and interconnecting with each other…they are GOOD ideas, beneficial for "that fulness of living", indeed. However, sometimes it gets to feel a little overwhelming, like I have waded out too deep and am about to get in over my head! Maybe I forget to give myself time to sit with an idea or concept long enough to catch my breath before taking another deep dive. Sometimes I try to immediately find a way to make use of an idea, wanting to be pragmatic and productive, rather than restful and contemplative in my approach. But when I do this, I find myself frustrated and foggy, unable to move forward. I wonder what would happen if I would slow my frantic flailing about, stop trying to grab every idea and possess it. I wonder if I learned to just relax and let these thoughts wash over me and carry me along, perhaps the Master of the Seas would steer me to a destination I could never have dreamed of!

An idea is more than an image or picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force – with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its kind. It is the very nature of an idea to grow.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1., Home Education, p. 173

Not to say that there is no work involved if I am to understand and apply new ideas to my life. On the contrary, it takes an immense amount of gumption to stop distracting ourselves with some new shiny object just over there out of reach. It takes great power of the will to quit trying to keep paddling about here and there wasting our energy on the seemingly urgent, but actually unimportant, tasks we add to daily life. If you have ever watched (or been!) a young child taking those first swimming lessons, you know how hard it is to trust that if you will just lie still on your back and breathe, you can float. It takes work to be still. It takes work to trust the process.

A blessed thing in our mental constitution is, that once we receive an idea, it will work itself out, in thought and act, without much after-effort on our part…But we must get clearly into our heads what we mean by masterly inactivity…Perhaps the idea is nearly that conveyed in Wordsworth's even more happy phrase, 'wise passiveness'. It indicates the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action.

–Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, School Education, p. 28

You may ask, "What is the point of all this meandering and metaphorical talk?" I am actually not sure myself. It may just be that I needed to process some things by writing about them like this. I do wonder if anyone else out there every feels this way, overwhelmed by the connections and ideas that are coming to mind as they seek a better education for themselves as an adult. I do think we could all use more quiet and stillness in our lives to contemplate, meditate and listen to that still, small Voice…that Voice who can still the waves and bring us to shore with a better understanding of Who He Is.

So, from one seafaring voyager to another, let's trust the Master of the Sea and lie on our backs, gazing up at the deep blue sky and let ourselves be borne along on this vast sea of ideas together. And, to borrow a line from an old gospel song, someday "we shall meet on that beautiful shore!"

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