“Sitting At The Feet Of Socrates”

by Deacon Stephen Bowling

At this time of the year when going back to school is on the mind of so many, I can’t help but wonder how many folks see learning as something that belongs only in the classroom.

One of my fondest memories as a child was of listening to an adult whom I loved – my father, mother, grandparents or whomever – tell me things about the world and life in general.

I learned how to plow a field from my grandfather, how to weed a garden from my mother (although I absolutely hated the task) and a great deal about the history of Western Civilization from my dad.

Through these and many other experiences, I came to learn that one of the very best ways to really learn something was to simply spend some significant time with a wise person, kind of like how Plato described learning from his mentor Socrates . . . he would just literally sit at his feet and listen.

Is this not one of the most beautiful treasures associated with the idea of family? Is not the family the very place where the passing along of wisdom from one generation to another is made a reality?

Just as faith is first taught in the home and through the family, cannot the same be said with regard to all forms of virtue and wisdom?

The family is the best of teachers, as it says in the blessing at the end of the Church’s Rite of Baptism, and as such it must always be a place where learning is a key component in its everyday life. While school may come into and out of session with the seasons, the family’s duty to “impart wisdom” is a responsibility which must always be kept both alive and active at all times and in all weathers.

As children grow, parents often look backwards and see how far and how fast they have come. Should not this all-too-common moment of reflection perhaps serve as a powerful motivator for each of us . . . encouraging us to “be present” for our children all that much more while they are still young and at home with us?

Conversation is the art of being uniquely human . . . it is the place where we learn to both listen and contribute to the betterment of both the world in general and, in particular, our places within it.

Perhaps our task this fall, as learning once again comes back into term, might be for us to spend some new time conversing with the young people whom we love and value. I suspect that this true gift from our hearts and minds would be one which would always be treasured . . . by both them and us.

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