I believe in The Bell Tower because my mother believed in me. And more than that, she believed that through our imperfect and broken learning, we were connecting ourselves to the grand mystery and adventure of the world: a story that demands our attention, captivates our hearts, and cultivates our affections.
I was homeschooled, and every morning, after the groggled chants of amo, amas, amat…, amabo amabis, amabit…, the residents of 6272 Blanca Drive would “circle up the wagons” in the living room. It was there that the soil of my soul was plowed and made fertile. Every morning, my mother would start our day off by saying, “Learning, properly done, attaches us to God.” Although those words did not mean much to me when I was a squirmy little girl, I realize now what a profound and radical idea it is: our learning, no matter how mundane, banal, and seemingly pointless, has intrinsic worth.
Learning, properly done, attaches us to the truth that is only found in the God of the universe, the Author of truth and the Giver of life. Learning, properly done, is an act of worship; it reminds us just how small we are. It reminds us of our finitude. Learning, properly done, fosters a community of life and flourishing. We have lost this idea entirely, and it has caused tremendous problems.
Today, education – especially higher education – is seen as something purely transactional. We equate our worth with GPAs, spending thousands of dollars in hopes of one day getting a job that will get us out of debt. We view college as a place of limbo, as we wait for our real lives to begin after graduation. However, if my mother is right – and I believe she is – then we have a vocation as students, and that is a serious thing.
I do not mean to romanticize learning as something that is always an amazing, emotional experience. There are times when classes are dull, the semester drags on, life gets busy, and it is hard to be diligent. However, instead of viewing those days as times to slack off, go through the motions, and become apathetic towards our studies, what if we viewed those experiences differently? The time we spend in our studies is an opportunity to say, “God, I love you. I want to know you better. Help me to do so at this specific time.” Even in a required first year seminar, a general education class that goes over our heads, or an ancient philosophy course that seems so dense, we have an opportunity to learn, and not only to learn, but to serve.
To all my fellow students: study on. I pray that The Bell Tower may be an encouragement to you and that it will help you to see that learning, properly done, truly does attach us to God.