Edification Vs Amusement

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Edification is the "building up of the soul." It's the word we've used this year to decide the fate in our home. We ask, "Is it edifying?" And then the answer decides whether or not that action continues. I dove into all of that in my first post about edification.

Then I read this from Classical Academic Press called "What is Classical Education?" and Dr. Perrin uses the analogy of a museum to describe the classical education. And he talked about how a museum is the opposite of amusement. And a lightbulb went off!

Amusement and museum both derive from the Greek word for the Muses. The Muses were the embodiment of the inspiration for the Arts. All Good, Beautiful, and True things. History, art, music, literature, poetry, science, and astronomy were the arts.

Amusement, which we think of as harmless enough fun, is the exact opposite of the Arts. "A" is a negative prefix in Greek. Amusement means not the arts, not the Good, True, or Beautiful. (You can see the use of the prefix "a," in words like atheist, amoral, asexual. All of these mean the opposite of the root word. The opposite of a God believer, etc.)

That TV show I was just talking about in the first post? It was an amusement. Amusements are not edifying. They do not point us toward God. They merely distract us from our boredom. This is not edification. That is amusement. We need less amusements, and more museums in our lives.

I'm not saying amusements in and of themselves are bad or sinful, but we need to be cautious about our amusements. And in order to avoid amusements, we need something to do. We are not created to sit around twiddling our thumbs. Our minds are huge things that like to work, do, play, think. When we are bored, we can get into trouble.

Now, before I go off on another tangent, let me just point out that play is different from amusement. Amusement is distraction without merit. Play is, well, fun. We can play and be edified at the same time. The Scriptures don't tell us what Jesus did with the little children who came to Him, but I can't imagine that He preached to them. It may have been a story, but I like to think it was a funny one.

Now the question naturally arises, what should we do? We are a very bored people who watch hours of TV every day. We can start small, we are not marathon runners straight from the couch, after all. Maybe some of the TV we watch can be less amusing and more edifying. Maybe we can avoid amusing outings, and instead find something to play at or work at. I know, we're almost in an impossible bind. Or at least, it feels that way. We don't have to work til our hands are raw, and plus, we're all a little lazy. (Ok, maybe you aren't, but I am.) We have time, I mean. Empty time that we need to fill with something.

We need to begin curating our homes and bus-i-ness as a museum. We can collect the Good, True, and Beautiful to fill our homes and our lives. We can treat our homes like museums, but we must be careful to only curate the truly worthy. I am not one to usually advocate collecting, I do not like "things" in my house. "Things" make messes, cause chaos, and are not edifying. So let's think less about collecting things, and more about collecting habits. Habits of reading, writing, praying, singing, working, playing, learning, and more can fill our homes and edify ourselves and our children.

I'm in the process of learning more about liturgy, and one of the great attractions of liturgy for me is that liturgy gives us something to do. Liturgy doesn't just tell us what NOT to do, it gives us things to do that will fill up our hours and keep us from trouble. Living a liturgical life is living an intentional life, rather than just accepting whatever comes your way. I'm excited to see how we can be edified through liturgy as we learn more about it.

So here's some ideas for filling our homes with edifying liturgy:

  • Audio books; they take practice, but after some training everyone loves listening to good stories. Check Youtube, Librivox, Audible, or your library for collections to try listening.
  • Documentaries; we love shows like Tudor Farm on Youtube from BBC, or the Life series on Netflix, or Mankind on the Amazon. (Just don't trust any of them for complete Truth.)
  • Books; choose your books well, and with care, but fill your home with them. One day the children will quit tripping over them and pick them up to fill up some time.
  • Prayer; I just finished reading a little treasure about Orthodox liturgy in personal lives called The Illumined Heart. She introduced to me the Jesus Prayer and how to pray it. It's lovely and simple. Even kids can start praying it.
  • Games; kids love card games, checkers, and chess. When I need them to entertain themselves quietly, I'll give them the tablet to play cards or chess on. (I found a chess app that teaches them how to play!) They really love playing with me or Jeremy, so we do that at least once a week before bed. They also love logic games like Sudoku or Bananagram.
  • Chores; teach your kids how to clean. How to separate laundry, fold laundry, empty the dishwasher, fill the dishwasher, clear and wipe the table, clean the bathroom. All of these are important for them to learn, and it gives them something else to do. While you are at it, teach them how to cook too!
  • Useful crafts; I say useful for a good reason here. Crafting just for crafting is fun, but crafting with purpose makes our work worthwhile. Find things the kids can do that add to their lives. Or better yet, add to another's life. Make beautiful scarves to keep the wearer warm, draw lovely pictures to decorate their rooms, sew buttons on shirts that won't fall off.
  • Play; let the kids go outside. Let them get dirty, and find the biggest bugs. And then wash them off. (Another something to fill our time that we can consider edifying.)

Maybe these will just help us get started. What do you think?


  1. Thank you for this post! It's really thought provoking, and inspiring.

    There have been a few times that my husband and I have really gotten into a rut of TV watching (especially during winter evenings!) and I have wondered, what else could we be doing right now that we could enjoy together -- but not just be more work or tiring?

    I'm really good at keeping the kids engaged in such activities (mostly just by not allowing them to watch TV!), but not so great at finding them for the adults :)

    1. Winter is so perfect for snuggling up to watch things, and you are right, it's hard to come up with other relaxing things to do. I'm still trying to find the answers, but asking if it's edifying helps to weed out the twaddle stuff.