Take a lesson from Pliny the Elder today!

Today, on August 24 in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroying the cities of Pompeii, Hurculaneum and Stabiae. In a letter to Tacitus, Pliny the Younger described the events which led to his uncle’s death the following day.

But before we begin our story, who was Pliny the Elder? I’m guessing his friends all called him that because his real name was Gaius Plinius Secundus which you’ll have to admit was quite a mouthful. So Gaius Plinius Secundus became known as just plain “Pliny” to his friends; understandably.

Further- Pliny became known as “Pliny the Elder” to differentiate him from his young nephew Gaius Plinius Caecillus Secundus who of course became known as “Pliny the Younger” among family and friends. If there’s any moral in this paragraph it would appear to be not to name your children with 3 or 4 names which all end in “us” because eventually their friends will get tired of saying such long names and nickname them something like “Billy the balder” or “Sherry the shorter”

But I digress! So Pliny the Younger recounts the story of his namesake old uncle Pliny, who was variously an author, poet, lawyer, prosecutor, historian, a navy man and a naturalist. It was in this latter role that Pliny’s problems overtook him. On the day when Vesuvius (there’s that “us” ending again!) blew it’s top, Pliny was watching from across the bay when the scientist/naturalist in him decided to sail over for a closer look.

Arriving during mid-eruption, Pliny ran into an old friend and shared high fives all around, only to discover he couldn’t leave the area since the prevailing winds made it impossible to sail out of the harbor. Unable to set sail, Pliny decided tonight would be a great time for a party! After an evening of feasting and drinking, the group dragged themselves from their ash-covered beds the next morning and prepared to set sail. They were heading toward Pliny’s yacht amidst blowing smoke and falling ash when old Pliny suddenly fell over. Initially his friends thought he was just a bit hungover from a night of revelry but they quickly discovered old Pliny was in fact dead. Leaving him there to be covered by ash, his buddies set sail. Perhaps they weren’t thinking too clearly themselves after last night’s “Volcano Party”- or maybe they just left him lying there because old Pliny was described as “corpulent”- fat in other words. Maybe his pals decided old Pliny was just too darned heavy to drag to the boat so they just left him lying right where he fell.

So what does all this have to do with your homeschooling adventure? I’m so glad you asked!

There are perhaps several lessons. First, watch your weight, so in the event you have to run amidst smoke and ash you won’t have a heart attack and drop dead at age 56 as old Pliny did. Or at the very least in the event you do fall over dead, your friends will be able to drag you back to the yacht and take you home for a decent burial.

But it’s perhaps even more important NOT to rush toward an erupting volcano in order to get a closer look. There are lots of “disasters” that surround us every day and we would do well to remain focused on our own “ministry”- homeschooling. Right now, that’s the most important thing on our plate. The latest church split, or your current extended-family uproar or today’s national political firestorm must not distract us from the “call” the Lord has on our lives during this season. None of these distractions will benefit us- and instead will likely sap our emotional and physical strength so we cannot give our best to our children and spouse each day.

It’s so easy to allow ourselves to become distracted- embroiled in something of no eternal value. In Exodus 15:26 we learn “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” In other words- STAY FOCUSED on what the Lord has told YOU TO BE DOING!

In the awe-inspiring 33rd chapter of Job, the Lord begins in verse 1- “But now, Job, listen to my words; pay attention to everything I say.” Did you catch that? Give your attention to what the Lord is telling YOU to focus on- not the latest disaster going on across the bay.

In baseball parlance- keep your eye on the ball. Or as someone said recently, “The main thing is the main thing!”

Old Pliny became distracted by a disaster going on clear across the bay and he just had to go take a closer look and get involved. It cost him his life.

Study the ways of Pliny the Elder, oh little grasshopper- and learn from him today!

Talk with your children about the importance of staying focused and paying attention to the things the Lord has spoken to us. Tell them to avoid getting distracted by the chaos that so often surrounds us. Now go OUTSIDE (note- this is VERY MESSY!) and let your children build their own volcano today… http://www.spartechsoftware.com/reeko/experiments/volcano.htm


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