Models Monday: Fragility


On Friday, I went to Miles’s school for “Muffins with Mom” in advance of Mother’s Day. I expected to go in, have a muffin and orange juice with Miles and then leave. Instead, the school put together a really nice program. We were directed to our children’s classrooms where each teacher had prepared a specific program for us. Mrs. S began by playing this video:

Kid President is such an adorable little boy. I only recently learned that he suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, which basically means that he has brittle bones. Though he’s only eleven-years-old, he has already had over seventy surgeries. In some of his videos, you’ll see him wearing a cast on an arm or a leg. He seeks to encourage kids and adults to have fun, to dance, and to enjoy life. The dancing and laughter from Miles and his classmates suggests that Kid President is an effective leader.

After watching several of his videos, I’ve learned that Kid President likes to ask people what kids and adults can do to change the world or he asks what they think the world needs more of. As should be the case, kindness and compassion rank among the most common responses. In addition to care, concern, empathy, and patience I would also add intelligence as something the world needs more of. One of my favorite passages from Martin Luther King’s sermon/essay, “Love in Action,” discusses the importance of intelligence:

“As the chief moral guardian of the community, the church must implore men to be good and well-intentioned. It must extoll the virtues of kind-heartedness and conscientiousness. But somewhere along the way it must remind men that goodness and conscientiousness without intelligence may be the brutal forces that will lead to shameful crucifixions. The church must never tire of reminding men that they have a moral responsibility to be intelligent.”

Continuing his reflections on the “blindness” that King attributes to those to whom Jesus referred to as he was dying on the cross, those who should be forgiven “for they know not what they do,” King asserts:

“Unlike physical blindness that is usually inflicted upon individuals as a result of natural forces outside their control, intellectual and moral blindness is a dilemma which man inflicts upon himself by tragic misuse of freedom and his failure to use his mind to its fullest capacity. There is plenty of information available if we consider it as serious a moral obligation to be intelligent as to be sincere. One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong. This is not to say that the head can be right if the heart is wrong. Only through the bringing together of head and heart–intelligence and goodness-can man rise to a fulfillment of his true essence.”

King’s understanding of “intelligence” extends beyond grades, test scores, and degrees. He eschews an elitist, narrow understanding of intelligence and gives a more nuanced portrait. King offers this:

“Neither is this to say that one must be a philosopher or a possessor of extensive academic training before he can achieve the good life. I know people of limited formal training who have amazing intelligence and foresight. The call for intelligence is a call for open-mindedness, sound judgement, and love for truth. It is a call for men to rise above the stagnation of close-mindedness and the paralysis of gullibility. No one need be a profound scholar to be open-minded. No one need be a keen academician to engage in an assiduous search for truth.”

Kid President’s body along with his questions put me in mind of King’s call for intelligence. Kid President’s fragile body is one that we’ll all come to inhabit if we’re lucky. Even healthy bodies are headed towards frailty, fragility, and fracture. Intelligence would surely help us build a world in anticipation of impending breaks and fissures. King reminds us that intelligence can help us become better caretakers of one another. If school facilitated such an understanding of intelligence, standardized tests might prefer these questions: “Are you still maintaining your integrity? (Job 2:9) “Do you not yet understand? (Matt 16:8)” “Why do you make trouble for the women? (Matt 26:10)” “Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)” “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? (Jeremiah 8:22)”

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