Volume. XXXV, No. 20
Sunday, 15 November 2020

From the Pastor’s Heart: Educate Your Mind (5)

I have been talking about the importance of reading books to educate our minds.  I believe that there is no disagreement among us about the potential benefits of reading books.  Through reading good books (yes, I intentionally use the adjective, “good,” because of the dangers of bad or useless books), we can develop our thoughts and educate our minds.  By reading good books, we keep our brain active to acquire more and more knowledge and to improve our thinking skills.  Reading books helps us to understand things better and clearer.  All these benefits of reading also imply that there are consequences if we do not read. 


Listen to the following famous people’s sayings about reading.  Descartes said, “reading good books is like a conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.”  Abraham Lincoln said, “Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”  George R. R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” 


I could make a list of consequences for not reading good books.  However, that is not my intention in this article.  I just want to reinforce the great benefit of reading or the worst consequence of not reading good books.  They appear to be two opposites, but in fact they show us the same truth.  Reading good books will deliver us from perverted and distorted thoughts and teach true knowledge. 


We are basically opinionated beings.  There is no one who does not have an opinion about something.  These opinions have been influenced by our experiences; events in life, circumstances, culture and customs of families and communities, education, emotions, personalities, characters, health, temperament, intuition, habits, religion, other people, or anything one can think of.  The problem is that our opinions can be wrong, and all our opinions could be potentially wrong, though they may be very strong and powerful to our minds.  People say that Hitler’s autobiography (published in 1925), Mein Kampf, is a political philosophy more than autobiography.  Betty Friedan’s (American feminist) Feminine Mystique has lots of flaws in the way that it handles historical data.  However, Hitler’s book was a starter of subsequent wars, and Friedan’s started a revolution, if we can call it that, for modern day feminism.  We can gather and formulate any opinion from any source, and either our opinion or the source of opinion, or both could be distorted and wrong.  Such distorted opinions are hard to be corrected, because they become a part of our convictions that we will not change for anything. 


There are two things we need to consider in order to educate our mind.  First, we must be conscious of the danger of educating our mind with our own thoughts.  In this case, we listen to our own thoughts and believe in them.  As a result, we are the source of our thoughts, opinions, and even moral judgment.  However, there are dangers of circular reasoning in this case, which is inevitably influenced by all the factors mentioned in the above paragraph.  Besides, our mind is imperfect, and it could process even all the right knowledge and information to produce wrong conclusions.  Especially, ideology blinds our eyes not to see what we ought to see.  Even the best intentions and clear conscience under the influence of ideologies could bring forth atrocities and destruction.  One such example is easily found from a tragic event as demonstrated in Anne Applebaum’s book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine” (Doubleday, 2017). 


“Holodomor,” is not a familiar word to most of us.  I had not known of it until I read part of the tragic history of Ukraine.  It is a term referring to the Ukraine famine.  It is a combination of two Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death.”  It is generally estimated that the lives of 3.9 million people, about 13% of the population, were lost during the famine.  The number of the victims is truly staggering.  However, what made me even more surprised was that this historic starvation was not an outcome of blight or drought.  In fact, Ukraine has been known as the “food basket.”  Today, around 70% of Ukraine’s land area of 603,000 square kilometres is devoted to agriculture, with more than 55% of land used for arable production.  It is not just any old arable land, but some of the finest in the world.  Nearly 60% of its arable land is the much-prized “black soil” or Chernozem, that contains a high percentage of humus or broken-down plant-material (up to 15% in some cases) and essential plant nutrients such as phosphoric acid, phosphorous and ammonia.  Ukraine is home to 30% of the world’s black soils, making it the ideal location to grow a large range of crops, including wheat, barley, corn, sugar beet, sunflower, soya beans and rapeseed.  Ukraine is the sixth largest producer of corn, growing 39 million tonnes a year.  It is also the seventh largest producer of wheat in the world, growing around 27 million tonnes a year.  It is the world’s largest grower of sunflowers, regularly producing more than 10 million tonnes a year and it is a top ten producer of sugar beet, barley, soya and rapeseed.  There are 45 million Ukrainians and the country produces much more food than it needs to feed itself and is a major exporter of a wide range of crops.  From such a country as this, a high number of people were starved to death. 


Their starvation was an outcome of ideology under Stalin.  That is why Alex de Waal says that it was a clear case of a man-made famine in his book, Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine.  Under the pretext of “collectivization” to distribute food equally to all and to save the poor from poverty and to remove the wealthy from their unjust riches, the ideology of Stalin’s communism, or collectivization robbed mostly subsistence farmers of their land and livelihoods.  Any resistant (called Kulak) was considered as an enemy of the state.  Farmers were no longer paid for their produce but worked according to a ration system based on their productivity.  In reality it made them depend on the party, which, controlling their finances, was able to control all aspects of their lives.  And they were no longer able to buy food.  Listen to Applebaum recounting in visceral and stomach-churning detail as follows: “The starvation of a human body once it begins always follows the same course. In the first phase the body consumes its stores of glucose.  Feelings of extreme hunger set in….  In the second phase, which can last several weeks, the body begins to consume its own fats and the organism weakens drastically. In the third phase, the body devours its own proteins, cannibalising tissues and muscles.  Eventually the skin becomes thin, the eyes distended, the legs and belly swollen as extreme imbalances lead the body to retain water.  Small amounts of effort lead to exhaustion.  Along the way, different kinds of diseases can hasten death: scurvy, kwashiorkor (severe protein malnutrition), marasmus (severe malnutrition), pneumonia, typhus, diphtheria, and a wide range of infections and skin diseases caused, directly or indirectly, by lack of food.” 


An ideology that is supposed to help the poor has caused suffering to tens of millions of people around the world.  False religions can be a part of destructive ideology, too.  Wrongly constructed minds can bring destruction to multitudes of people.  Wrongly constructed beliefs destroy mankind.  Good intentions cannot remove the consequences of wrong thoughts and minds.  We can be evil with good intentions. We need to educate our mind aright.



Your Pastor



Editor’s note: The Lively Hope Team apologizes for skipping the publication of “From the Pastor’s Heart: Educate Your Mind (5)” last week.

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