We are pressing on in chapter 1 of Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith. Read others comments over at Simply Convivial.
This section talks about how our love is always aimed at something. It is intentional. Honestly, this section made me think about teaching "critical thinking" skills. I have spent a lot of time in, around and learning about teaching "gifted" children. One of the primary things that they focus on is developing creative and critical thinking skills. They teach kids phrases like S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to help students to be more thoughtful. Now that I look at it again, I see that in some ways it is teaching the tools of invention that Kern draws on in Lost Tools of Learning. Anyhow.
James' point is that "we can never just "think"; I will necessarily be thinking of . . . something". Honestly, this is where modern education comes to a screeching halt. Since we don't really teach kids facts (rote memory is bad), nor do we read them full stories; they don't have much to think about. Sure they can SCAMPER but what are they thinking about if they don't have any information beyond what they can find on their own. This is why critical thinking skills can only take you so far - you need something to think about. If you have something memorized - all the better - you can think about it wherever you are.
The next part talks about the aim of our love - the telos. Here he says
a vision of the good life captures our hearts and imagination not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well. This is why such pictures are communicated most powerfully in stories, legends, myths, plays, novels and films rather than dissertations, messages and monographs.Honestly, I think this is what I enjoyed most about Mr. Kern's talk last week. He has a way of helping you hear the story of God's love for you, through things you have read before, in a new way. He paints a picture of the relationship God desires with you - through his son - in a very concrete and inviting way. His look at Luke 12:37 - where the master (Jesus) serves us is amazing. His focus on God's desire to teach us through analogy - story - parable - is so in keeping with this idea of how we develop a vision of the good life. How do I capture my child's imagination in a world that is constantly showing a totally different story - with pictures and videos and song and dance.
This is also why I can't stand the fact that we teach lots of modern writers to high school students. Why do we need to increase student's vision of alienation and separation? I could go on about this - maybe another day.
Here he asserts that "the virtuous person is someone who has an almost automatic disposition to do the right thing "without thinking about it". He talks about how "it's made, not some kind of 'hard wiring'. And this is where your anthropology makes a huge impact. If you believe that people are basically good and born that way then why would you have to learn habits of goodness? If you believe that men are evil then you would expect a constant need to train in habits of righteousness. Honestly, I still struggle with this because I spent so long in the world of early childhood education where kids are good and we need to follow their impulses.
One of the things that wasn't very "Montessori" about the school that I worked with was that she was old school and believed in training kids to be good. She constantly talked with them about self control and being in charge of themselves. She had VERY HIGH standards and I struggled watching her because this old song of "let kids be kids" played in my head. She was right and I was naive.
His baseball analogy to forming habits was helpful to me. Most of my summer vacations were spent at baseball fields. My brother was VERY disciplined and he practiced those grounders over and over. We had a batting cage in our backyard. My dad was more of a basketball player and he talked about "muscle memory". Often, he focused on throwing free throw shots. You just practice and practice so that when the moment comes your body is in the habit of doing it correctly. At my small high school I was on the basketball team and I was called "swishy" - because I was pretty good at free throws. Mostly, because I practiced a lot in our driveway while studying for tests. That was the ONLY part of basketball I was good at, by the way.
I like the way he is laying out his definitions and look forward to more application.