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In A Brown Study, 1

April 29, 2016

I can lose myself in “a brown study”, and I often do. The phrase leaped at me from a mystery novel by Mary Higgins Clark. I had the impression a brown study was a profound insight into a mental state. The character had been falsely accused of murder, and new evidence made his guilt seem apparent. I was appalled that one could be so unjustly accused, and I knew immediately the guilty party was his own step-brother. It took him a few more chapters to figure it out, but truth prevailed.

When our situations become difficult, we may need to retreat to a brown study where we can reflect on potential solutions to our problems. It seems selfish to rely on a just and caring God to solve all our difficulties, when, with His advice and counsel, He has made us capable to solve them ourselves. We need occasionally to submit to a brown study, when we reflect on our situations.

The expression was used in European countries near the end of the Middle Ages. It was first seen in a book called Dice Play in 1532. ‘A lack of company will soon lead a man into a brown study,” wrote the unknown author. Today we know that people need to have a life in which society plays an encouraging part. “No man is an island,” wrote Donne, but many of our problems arise because of the part we play in society.

Living well in this 21st century requires a healthy relationship with people as well as a time in a brown study to get to know oneself. Those thoughts we have about ourselves can make us more aware of the feelings of others.

-to be continued

 

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