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The Well Ordered Life

By: Mr. Ben Walter

Does your life feel like a never-ending checklist? Tasks can sometimes fill up every waking moment. At school, this feels like a perpetual round of paper grading and attendance logging. Up to a point, being organized sets one up for success as a teacher, a CEO, or a parent. But if we chase organization for its own sake, have we lost the point?
Let's make an analogy between life and the classroom. Education consists in training the mind to love the right things. If love is central to learning, then efficiency and organization alone will not educate a child. Plutarch wrote, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled." In creating a class culture, a teacher sets rules and procedures not as ends in themselves, but to facilitate learning and inquiry. The more structure is hidden by natural rhythm, the more effective it is.Plato argued that this rhythm that we are looking for could be seen through the analogy of music. Music is both spontaneous and orderly, emotional and mathematical. He writes in Republic Book III that, "Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul."
 
There's another term for this rhythm: well-ordered. We want a well-ordered home, life, and soul.
 
In art, there's a difference between a well-ordered painting, and a well-organized painting. A well-ordered painting will have a compelling composition, a balanced use of color, and an interesting subject. Above all, it will appear natural and beautiful. On the other hand, coloring books fall into the well-organized category.
 
In summary, an exclusive focus on organization in any part of our lives misses the point. If our goal is to become more human, more loving, and more caring for others, our lives should resemble a symphony rather than a metronome.
 
How do we get our lives to be well-ordered? That is the subject of the next series of articles. Expect a series looking at the cardinal and theological virtues, how they fit together, and why, when pursued, they lead to a well-ordered life.
 
Stay tuned for Part 1: Love
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