The Way We Live Is the Way We Educate

Is school different from life? Is school real life? The way we live is the way we educate. Do we live our lives conscious of our past? If so we will educate with a view of history. Do we live our lives focused only on present gain. If so we will educate our young to ignore the past and claw their way toward money. Do we view our own learning merely as the pursuit of credentials to let us get on with the job? Our children will view school as a credential to check off as fast as they can.

School is a special time in that it is set aside for study. But school should not reflect different values that our life as a whole, and in the long run it will not. Study is not the whole tapestry of life, thank God, but it amplifies threads that run through our lives and communities. Our schools reflect our epistemology.

Business Knowing

An Epistemology of Love for Businesses and Organizations

[Notes, Quotes, Links for a talk]

Work as Knowing

Work can be a mode of contact with reality. Often, it is a brutal and humbling mode. I have written extensively on the value of skilled physical work as knowing, but am now beginning to articulate how this works in my present line of work within organizational management.

For a brief introduction to my general epistemological reflections, see this essay or my dissertation.

Leading up and down the chain of command

This is a multifaceted topic but I will approach it from two epistemological angles, who knows what and how do we make use of that knowledge at an organizational level.

Make decisions easy for busy people. You will rise fast in your career if busy people like working with you. Here’s a tip: when you have a problem to solve, come prepared with a suggested next step. If you have a question, phrase it in a way they can answer yes/no. If there are multiple options, lay them out and ask them to pick one. Try to avoid expansive, open-ended questions.

David Perell

Of Software, Secretaries, and Doing Things

The Double MVP as described by Sahil Lavingia

MVP as a software term Minimum Viable Product

MVP as Manual Viable Process

Do Things that Don’t Scale by Paul Graham

[You] are your software. When you only have a small number of users, you can sometimes get away with doing by hand things that you plan to automate later. This lets you launch faster, and when you do finally automate yourself out of the loop, you’ll know exactly what to build because you’ll have muscle memory from doing it yourself.

…the way Stripe delivered “instant” merchant accounts to its first users was that the founders manually signed them up for traditional merchant accounts behind the scenes.

… It would be a little frightening to be solving users’ problems in a way that wasn’t yet automatic, but less frightening than the far more common case of having something automatic that doesn’t yet solve anyone’s problems.

Paul Graham, Do Things That Don’t Scale

Loving to Know

About Knowing

What Is An Editor? Three Types

Job descriptions for editors vary greatly. Is this just a proofreader? Is it a coauthor or ghost writer? Is it the business manager for an organization? For the publishing work I am involved in I think of three main roles.

Editor as Proofreader

Proofreaders are people who care about whether to write “proof reader” or “proofreader.” They catch mistakes, lots of them. They notice inconsistent formatting. Writers can proofread their own work and learn to write more carefully, but for published writing where it matters, a separate proofreader is needed.

Beyond the word level, proofreaders may examine phrases or sentences for technical grammar or missing words. Again, an indispensable task. On the other hand the author may need to push back against prescriptive grammar and a conventionalizing, flattening hand.

Editor as Rhetorician and Stylist

These editors delete sentences, maybe paragraphs or chapters. They also tell the author where to add sentences or paragraphs.

This is what I think of as an editor proper. The editor carries the reader and the author in mind. Per context, they may rework a piece or simply give feedback to the writer.

Edit with love. A sympathetic understanding of the author’s heart and mind is the proper basis for editing. Bring out the author’s best voice; don’t get rid of the distinctive voice. Amplify their key ideas. You help the author communicate. So love for those on the receiving end is requisite. You work on flow and terminology, etc. to get and keep the readers attention.

Editor as Reviewer

The reviewer cares about substance. They may or may not be sympathetic to the author’s aim, but in either case they will look for weaknesses of reasoning, evidence, clarity, depth, accuracy etc. as needed for the genre. Reviewers don’t rewrite. They may ask an author to revise and resubmit based on their feedback.

What Kind of Editor Are You?

You might straddle the lines or fill another niche. On the other hand knowing which hat you are wearing when editing is helpful. It is easy for me, for example, to blur between reviewing and editing, which can be hazardous, when I am assigned to be simply an editor. One way to tell your natural editor type, is to observe what changes you would like to see in this piece. Are you correcting my grammar? Catching inconsistencies? Thinking about how to improve the flow and make it more catchy? Evaluating my sloppy thinking and looking for better categories to describe different types of editors?

Editors for Video and Visual Media

A coworker who edits video said he sees his work as a sort of visual proofreading, watching transitions, cutting out stumbles in a section of speech etc. To get a macro sense of a video for the purpose of rearranging it or cutting clips would require a different watching and a different mode of thought.

I’m curious too how these categories apply to static visual design. Designers tell me that they can’t do design and proofread text at the same time. I wonder if there might be a proofreader, rhetorician divide even in design review with some editors looking for basic consistency of design elements and others reviewing for style, and overall visual messaging. I would love comments from designers!

Whatever your line of work, I would love your feedback on these categories in the comments below!

About Knowing

Epistemology Across My Life

This article originally appeared at Anabaptist Perspectives. Audio narration available there or in the Essays for King Jesus Podcast

“The chicken showed me where the chickens are getting out,” said my son.  We soon fixed that hole in the fence. (Unfortunately, there were more.) What stuck with me were the words “the chicken showed me”. Those words indicate observation and attentiveness. And, perhaps I push the point too far, openness to learning from the chicken.  

Philosophizing about knowing (i.e. epistemology) may seem arcane or excessively technical. However, what increasingly strikes me is that our mindset toward knowing and the way we think about knowledge ties into our overall stance toward life. Whether or not we study formal epistemology, we all have a functional epistemology: our conception of what knowing is, our ideas about what (and who!) it is worthwhile to know, and ideas about how we can gain knowledge. The first part of this essay highlights epistemological thinkers and themes that I find helpful. The second part notes thinkers and themes I have encountered in various parts of my life that exemplify the approach to knowing outlined in part one. 

What Is Knowing and What’s Worth Knowing? 

Steven Brubaker’s delightful essay, “A Mennonite Thinks about Knowing,” introduces key themes.1 What is worth knowing? God, first and foremost. God’s creation is also important and worth knowing. Humans are a key part of creation we should know and love. As humans, we also exercise creativity through our work, which results in what Brubaker calls “creation’s creation.” If we study history, or writings, or architecture, or carpentry, or any host of other things we are dealing largely with creation’s creation.  

In order to discuss the nature of knowing, Brubaker starts with the nature of truth. Usually, we think of truth as true statements that someone makes. However, Jesus said that He is the truth. Obviously, Jesus is a person and not a statement. There are lots of true statements we could make about Jesus such as that He is kind or divine. But Brubaker makes the point that truth is, first of all, Jesus Himself and secondly, true statements that describe Him. For Brubaker, this is a general point that applies not only to Jesus, but also to other people and even to plants or inanimate objects. Truth is first substance and second description. Lots of true statements may describe an oak tree, that it is tall, leafy, strong, etc. But first of all, the truth of the oak tree is the tree itself.  

This means that knowledge is not limited to knowing true descriptions. One can know lots of truths about God without truly knowing God. One can know lots of truths about a fellow human without really knowing them personally. Knowing God or people takes relationship and love, and sometimes commitment and obedience. Brubaker sees this as the pattern for all knowing. 

For me, it comes relatively naturally to think about knowing God or humans as first relationship and second description. But when we talk about knowing the rest of creation, or of knowing creation’s creation, it seems less natural. What is it, after all, to have a relationship with an oak tree or a bar of steel? We talk easily of knowing that an oak tree is tall, or that a bar of steel is heavy. On the other hand, to speak of knowing the oak tree itself, or the bar of steel itself, sounds strange. But if Brubaker and other writers I have come to respect are correct, knowing persons is the model that shows us what it is like to know any reality. 

One way that I make sense of relational knowledge of trees or steel is by thinking about what it is like to work with them. Moving something, cutting something, or trying to shape it to fit our purposes are all modes of interaction. In physical work, I am trying to accomplish something, but to do so, I have to participate with those physical entities. That hard board or heavy bar becomes painfully well known when I break a drill bit or smash my toe. My dissertation explores how we know various realities through participating with them in skilled physical work.2 

Does how we think about knowing matter.? Esther Meek is convinced that it matters for how we comport ourselves toward reality and ultimately toward God. In fact, she says most of us need epistemological therapy and proposes an epistemological etiquette for how we should conduct ourselves, if we want to know the world aright. Her very long book, Loving to Know, has helped me see that knowing creation has personal and relational dimensions, which is grounded in the fact that it is created by God.  

Implications for Action 

Thinkers I have encountered in various dimensions of my life have confirmed the relevance of a philosophy of knowledge. 

First, I have developed an approach for the permaculture approach to agriculture and our physical surroundings. The permaculture movement emphasizes knowing the particularities of our homesteads and environment with the aim of working with nature instead of against nature. The first permaculture principle is “Observe and Interact.” Watch and learn with patience and then try something and participate. Work with nature and cultivate it to produce flourishing. While I am more of a reader than a practitioner, I have begun to find the permaculture mindset helpful, not only in gardening, but across my life.3 

Second, thinking about knowing should affect how we think about learning. Our children’s school classes are based on a model which we sometimes call relational education. The term relational does not refer to relationships between child and teacher, but to relationships between students and what they study. In other words, the teacher’s goal is to facilitate students developing the kind of knowledge that Brubaker and Meek point us to.  A speaker at a recent event explained that we measure the success of education by the number and quality of relations that the child develops with a range of realities, whether nature, art, the beautiful structures of mathematics, or the “living ideas” of worthwhile books.4  

Finally, issues related to our approach to knowing keep coming up in my reading about missions, church life, and alleviating poverty. If we want to help a community or culture, we first have to understand it. The arrogant outsider who comes in with nothing but dreams and an education is likely to do more harm than good. The helper must first be a learner, who uses humility and respect to not only learn what is wrong but also to cultivate an appreciation of what is right and of the potentials for good. These principles apply to our work in our own communities, as well as cross cultural efforts. A recent article by Kyle Stoltzfus brought this home to me with a call to exercise “vigorous love” for the people of our church communities rather than indulging in fantasies of what we wish our church was like.5 If we want to facilitate healing and flourishing, we must come as a humble, appreciative, relational learner. 

So, in summary, epistemology matters because our comportment to reality matters. I find it exciting to see a convergence between philosophers thinking about knowing and thinkers writing about more “practical” subjects. I find it exciting to seek to know, not merely as an intellectual exercise, but with my whole person and life. Most of all I am thankful that God allows us to know Him, and that knowing His creation can be part of that. 


1 Steven Brubaker. “A Mennonite Thinks about Knowing.” 2015 

2 Marlin Sommers. Participating with the Known and the Value of Craft as Knowing. Doctoral Dissertation. The University of Tennessee Knoxville. 2018. See more info at   

3 While some practitioners work without the knowledge of God, Christians can recognize deep insight in much of their work. On the principle, “Observe and Interact” see, for example, 

4 See, for example, the mission statement of the tutorial our children attend. 

5 Kyle Stoltzfus. Faith Builders Newsletter, Fall 2021 “That I May Know Him: In a world of information & opinion, what does it mean to know?”  

About Knowing

My Dissertation

I speak of ‘knowing’ rather than simply “knowledge” to emphasize the active character of knowing. To know is to engage the reality that is known. In my doctoral dissertation, I explore the value of skilled physical work in knowing the world around us.

Participating With the Known and the Value of Craft as Knowing


Craft, here defined as skilled physical work of some scope, forms a rich way of knowing the world around us. Craft’s value as knowledge is, however, obscured by certain tendencies in thinking about knowing and value. These lead to the conclusion that craft’s value as knowledge is minimal. This conclusion is largely based on craft’s physical character (achieving physical results through bodily activity) and on its practical character (aiming at meeting wants or needs, usually in a very specific way). I argue against inadequate views of knowledge which sharply separate knowing from doing and unduly prioritize knowing that. I also argue against inadequate views of the interrelations of values which unduly devalue activities done for the sake of meeting needs. In my positive response, I elaborate an epistemological notion of knowing by “participating-with” the object or aspect of reality which we (would) know. The fullest case of knowing by participating-with comes in the sorts of inter-actions by which we can know other people, but we can also participate-with other realities. Craft involves participating with a wide range of realities in the natural, built, and social worlds in ways that are robustly physical and robustly practical. Physicality and practicality enable distinctive valuable modes of knowing and participating with our world. In craft our bodily agency is engaged with the physical world. Crafts also lets us know aspects of reality through our successes, and our failures, at working with that reality to achieve our aims. The final chapter explores various goods of craft knowing through reflection on specific kinds of craft work. Craft allows participatory knowledge of the natural world, the built world, and the social world in which we live and move and exist. Craft also occasions self-knowledge and the intellectual virtues of attentiveness and creativity.