“Study to show thyself approved…” ~2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”
Beatrice Prior, and her brother Caleb, who was less than a year older, both found themselves at the end of a school year – both 16, and finishing the same grade in school. In the dystopian world of Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” series, this was the end of their formal education in society as they knew it. It was time for them to take the aptitude tests that all 16 year olds take at this time of year, which would determine which of the 5 factions they were best suited for. They were not to talk to anyone about the aptitude tests, or their results, after taking them. And the following day (not much time to consider the results) they would gather in the Choosing Ceremony and publically (and ceremoniously) announce their choice. They would leave the ceremony for training with the faction they chose without the opportunity to say goodbye, or offer an explanation to their family for their choosing. The rest of their education would come from their faction leaders. And, as good obedient Abnegation children, neither Beatrice not Caleb spoke to the other about their results, or impending choice, after their tests.
On the day of the ceremony, the Prior family (Beatrice and Caleb were the only children to 2 Abnegation leaders.) arrived together and took their places in the room where the Choosing Ceremony would soon take place. Beatrice was already a bundle of nerves as she contemplated the possibility of switching factions (though she hadn’t entirely made up her mind). She knew that her brother Caleb was Abnegation through and through. She, on the other hand, felt herself to be too selfish to be content to stay in the faction in which she had grown up. Although she was unsure, even as she stood waiting for her name to be called. As they called each “chooser” in reverse alphabetical order, Caleb would choose first. His choice, it would turn out, would make hers all the more difficult.
“Caleb Prior,” the announcer called. Caleb walked to the center and grabbed the ceremonial knife. He ran the blade across his palm, and walked to the bowls laid out before him. Each faction had a bowl containing something that symbolically represented them. He passed his hand over the bowl with gray stones that represented Abnegation, and held his hand over a bowl of water, letting the blood that had pooled in his palm drip into the bowl. Caleb had chosen Erudite.
By now, at the age of 50, I have taken several aptitude assessments over the course of my life (some legit, and many just for fun). But there was only one that I recall taking in high school. And, if my memory serves me well enough, I didn’t find it encouraging. I don’t know what test it was (That was over 30 years ago.) but I do remember not being encouraged to go to college. This didn’t surprise me, as neither of my parents finished college, and they didn’t encourage me or my siblings to go. I never planned on college. I didn’t see the value. I had world-changing stuff to do, and didn’t want to waste another 4 years of my life just so I could have a degree to validate me.
Sidenote: I’ve always been a bit idealistic and stubborn (My friends will not be shocked at this revelation.)
To this day, I have no idea what my IQ is. I do know that I am a Melancholy-Phlegmatic, and a C/S (in the DISC model), and an INFJ. I have taken all 3 of these type assessments multiple times over the course of the last 20-something years. And, though I grow and change, I always get the same results. Only the percentages may vary slightly. And according to the test on the “Divergent” movie’s website, I am Divergent. And after reading the books, who wouldn’t want that result?
I was not an A student, or even a solid A-B student. School to me was just something I had to get through before I set out to change the world. My last 2 years of high school I got out at noon to go to work. I only excelled in classes that intrigued me. I did NOT consider myself to be very intelligent. But I was curious about many things.
I am grateful for a few people in my life that did encourage me to go to college. Even though I never really considered going until a year out of high school when I realized that I wasn’t exactly turning the world upside down, and wanted to go to school for what they could teach me, and not for the piece of paper. And it was another 2 and a half years before I actually went. It was more difficult going to college as a young, broke, and married, student who had to work while attending school in order to pay for it.
The Erudite faction believed that conflict was caused by a lack of knowledge. Therefore, conflict could be resolved by finding truth through study.
I am very grateful that my mother was always (and still is) a reader, and that she read to me as a child. I learned very young the joys of reading. That, combined with an insatiable desire to understand the world, eventually drove me to higher education. After Caleb declared his move to Erudite in the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice recalled seeing a stack of books in his room the night after the aptitude tests.
So…what leads a person who lives a simple life of service to others, to choose to complicate their life through study?
It’s one thing to embrace the simplicity of life in the sense of not accumulating stuff, or debt; or not stretching yourself too thin with duties and responsibilities; or not making mountains out of mole hills. It’s quite another thing to accept something as true just because someone has said it is. I’m convinced that we all have doubts. The difference is that some people will believe that the cure for doubt is faith. Just believe it even if it doesn’t make sense. Some things are just beyond our ability to understand. I have no trouble believing that my cognitive abilities are limited, but I refuse to impose those limits on myself or others. I believe that many people leave the faith of their childhood because they are not allowed the room to wrestle with their own doubts.
What makes some people continue believing in the “Great and Powerful OZ” even after the curtain has been pulled back. Why would someone take the blue pill and consciously choose to live a lie after they’ve seen the world that has been “pulled over our eyes”?
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” ~Morpheous (from “The Matrix”)
Many people will refuse to read books by people they disagree with, or listen to contrary information to what they already believe, because it upsets their ordered world. Ignorance is often chosen in preference to the illusion of order, over chaos. Many people find comfort when everything can be placed into a black or white category. And they are willing to accept the variety of colors in the spectrum as illusory to maintain that comfort.
But I can’t unsee, unhear, unfeel. I cannot ignore. For some, doubt is like a barely perceptible sliver of something that can be swept under the rug. For me, it is the sliver that get’s lodged under my skin while walking barefoot. If I try to ignore it, it becomes infected and causes a great deal of discomfort and dis-ease. It simply must be dealt with.
Caleb had somehow been exposed to information that challenged him. As much as he loved the life of Abnegation, he simply couldn’t ignore that voice within him that told him there must be more. Black and white categories wouldn’t suffice. There are very few questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. He just could not accept something on faith without a diligent search for understanding. He was not turning his back on the life of service and self-sacrifice, or the people he loved. He just had to surround himself with the people that could help him find the answers he sought.
True Erudite should never be elitist. They should be known by humility and hunger. Never forget your prior ignorance (because you still have much) and get puffed up because of your new understanding. You believe what you believe because it makes sense to you now. But don’t get too comfortable. Chances are…you won’t stay there either.