Discipline & Screentime Recap

For the past few week the group has been discussing discipline and screen time. In our transition between these topics we had a very interesting conversation about the role of the “moral imagination” in discipline and how screentime can be used to develop or detract of the virtue training of our children.

The Discipline chapter is truly fantastic. However, one thing that the book didn’t talk about that we discussed was the importance of inspiring ideas. 

Does anyone know or remember the story of the Odyssey?

Odysseus didn’t want to fight in the Trojan war because he had a wife and new baby at home that he was reluctant to leave. He tried to get out of it but could not. So he goes and fights in the Trojan war, the Odyssey is the story of his long trip home from the war to get to his family. So, at one point Circe is telling him that needs to watch out for the Sirens:

  If any one unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song.

There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your men’s ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must lash the rope’s ends to the mast itself, that you may have the pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you, then they must bind you faster.

When he hears the words and the music, the song enchants Odysseus’ heart. He longs to plunge into the waves and to swim to the island. He wants to embrace the Sirens.

He strains against the bonds which hold him to the ship’s mast. He strains so hard that the bonds cut deeply into the flesh of his back and arms.

Nodding and scowling at his ear-plugged men, he urges them to free him. Expecting this reaction, the men row harder and harder with their oars.

To Odysseus, who is bewitched by the song, the Sirens look as beautiful as Helen of Troy. To his crew, made deaf with beeswax, the Sirens seem like hungry monsters with vicious, crooked claws.

The ship speeds forward and soon the song of the Sirens is an echo of an echo. Only then do the crew members stop rowing and unplug their ears.

Eurylochus unbinds his grateful captain, Odysseus, who has now come to his senses.

We could spend a long time just talking about the issues this excerpt brings up: 

 How we and our children both are susceptible to the siren song of modern culture and primitive vice. 

How important it is to have someone or some group of people who remain deaf to th call to which we have succumbed and remain able guide us safely away from temptation..

All of this is true, good, and beautiful. This is why we still read stories like this and tell them to our kids but I think there is an even more interesting lesson if you contrast how Odysseus dealt with the sirens with how Jason dealt with the sirens.

Jason is captain of the Argo, and he and the other Argonauts encounter the Sirens during the quest to bring the Golden Fleece to Iolcus. The Argonauts knew about the dangers posed by the Song of the Sirens, but amongst the Argonauts was Orpheus. The legendary musician was instructed to play as the Argo passed by the Sirens, and effectively this music drowned out the Song of the Sirens.

In this story the weary travelers are not deafened or restrained against the call of the siren. They are given a truer and more beautiful melody to hear.

I think these stories are such an interesting and illuminating contrast in approaches to how we deal with discipline and temptation. We need both approaches. There needs to be limitations for ourselves and our children but we also need to be inspired and captivated by what is true, good and beautiful. If we  think back to what Earley says about discipline being discipleship and teaching, this is what we are trying to do: teach our children how to recognize and combat temptations. 

This alone is a tall order. If you want your kids to know and understand temptation, they have to first understand what they are being tempted away from. Another way of thinking about it is: if you want your kids (and yourself) to recognize something as a lie, we must also be able to recognize the truth.

Remember in the chapter on Waking when Earley talks about how we wake from sleep disoriented? He argues that need to tell ourselves and our children the true story of who we are and the true story the world we live in to orient ourselves rightly in our day.

I think that idea is also tied up in discipline. When we are discipling our children we are calling them to better (better behavior, better choices, better loves). I think part of calling our children to better needs to be recalling them to who they are as children of God and part of his Kingdom.  

So, much like the ancient stories referenced in this post, we are using to stories to shine the light on the truth for our kids. Here are some books that we are using in our home to give our kids some inspiring ideas and recall them to who they are. 

Also, here is a clip of Louis C. K. on Conan talking about why he isn’t giving his kids a cell phone. Please don’t take this a full endorsement of everything this comedian says! However, there is deep truth about the role of technology, the development of empathy, and the importance of solitude in his rant that is really powerful. This clip is funny, poignant and offers a true reflection of this culutural moment in America, but it also has a few mumbled bad words. So, view this clip at your discretion.

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