A Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind

I am traveling, but have a short note in the spirit of the Food for Thought series on Biblical verses.

In 2 Timothy 1, when Paul is encouraging young Timothy to get out and get busy, he includes this line:

for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind

No matter what one believes as to origins, there is no doubt that this combination — a “spirit of power” combined with love and a sound mind — is a very potent combination. These are the attributes shown by America’s inspired founding fathers, and they have been shown in other groups from time to time throughout history, though not with perhaps so lasting or consequential a result.

But while it is rare for groups to employ this combination together for a joint purpose, we can each strive as individual to develop and maintain these qualities independently. We each face challenges, large and small — and that sense of the size of the challenge is very personal. What might appear small to an observer can be large enough to you when it is right in your way, and in your mind.

Our mustering of the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind is also a very personal thing. I do consciously strive in this direction, with imperfect success. But unless one decides that this is desirable, and conceivable, and worth the effort, no efforts will bring you toward this goal … or any other, for that matter except by inefficient chance.  Your life is worth more than that … as are the lives of loved ones in your care and protection.

Love, it seems to me, comes from a peace within yourself that allows you to reach out to hold another in an exalted sort of state. Perhaps it is not completely logical — but the lack of inner peace creates a roiled sort of love that can be harmful to all parties involved. And the lack of reaching out so that you can elevate and make someone your significant other whose well-being becomes your high priority goal … well, a self-centered love is often dismal, and sometimes pathetic.

A sound mind does not mean brilliance at math, or an excellent ability to spell, or a great memory for facts and figures. And people who exhibit these talents/skills (they’re a combination of both) don’t always have a sound thinking process.

The humblest person of modest IQ can still be of sound mind, if he or she approaches life with curiosity, holds opinions tentatively, and actively seeks to improve understanding so that the opinions can either change or be on firmer ground. Then, to actually use that information to live a better life … such a person is of the soundest sort of mind, and too often the “brilliant” are incapable of it.  One of Robert Heinlein’s characters, “Kettle Belly” Baldwin, despaired of man’s ability to think:

    “We defined thinking as integrating data and arriving at correct answers.  Look around you.  Most people do that stunt just well enough to get to the corner store and back without breaking a leg.

    If the average man thinks at all, he does silly things like generalizing from a single datum.  He uses one-valued logics.  If he is exceptionally bright, he uses two-valued, “either or” logic to arrive at his wrong answer.  If he is hungry, hurt, or personally interested in the answer, he can’t use any sort of logic and will discard an observed fact as blithely as he will stake his life on a piece of wishful thinking.  He uses the technical miracles created by superior men without wonder nor surprise, as a kitten accepts a bowl of milk.  Far from aspiring to higher reasoning, he is not even aware that higher reasoning exists.   He classes his own mental processes as being of the same sort as the genius of an Einstein.
    Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.  For explanations of a universe that confuses him, he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy.  Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life.”

“Kettle Belly” Baldwin, in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel “Gulf”, from the book “Assignment in Eternity”.

These comments may be true, and Mankind in general guilty as charged – but it is the responsibility of each one of us to learn the skills and disciplines of thinking, to think more skillfully, and more of the time. And we can learn.

A notable omission in Baldwin’s rant is attitude: Thinking skills include the ability to control the attitude that you have in your mind, so that you find the world much less troubling. Stress is, after all,  not what happens to you but how you decide to react to it.  Too few of us even try to develop this skill.

A sound mind, in my sort of definition at least, leads naturally to a spirit of power — a sort of deep seated confidence and acceptance that then makes you more capable of love, and more capable at life.

May you find the pursuit worthwhile, and the goal achievable.  Best wishes to you all.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle