Monday, April 21, 2014

Beauty in the Word - Chap. 2, Part 2

I am so glad that I am re-reading Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.  We are in chapter 2 talking about remembering and I constantly need to be reminded what I am doing and why.  I get easily distracted! This chapter is essential to understanding what it means to be in on track with a young child's education.

At the beginning of the chapter he discusses our origin and naming.  This section is dense, as one should expect, so I will just pick up the few threads that I need to remember.


The collective memory of the society to which we belong has the name 'tradition'.  We cannot be truly 'at home' without one.  The word derives from Latin - trans - 'over' and dare 'to give'.  In every society or civilization, a process takes place that can be called a handing over of the stories, the knowledge, the accumulated wisdom of one generation to the next. 

He further discusses why this giving over is a gift and how it impacts the giver and the recipient. One thing that I have enjoyed about Desiring the Kingdom is that it has helped me better understand the richness of what I do have to give over to my children.  Often I have felt that I have a fairly small story to tell to them because I don't know much of our personal history and it isn't too exciting anyway.  But to help my sons grasp the big story - the Christian tradition - that's a story worth being a part of.  Caldecott does address our current dislike of tradition and feels it is a sign of what ails us - not something that shows we have risen above.  What traditions are you handing over?

Caldecott recommends
If the spirit of tradition is to be preserved and revived, liturgy is going to be the key, for this is the school of memory, the place where we recollect ourselves, where we learn how to relate to each other in God. 
I think this is why we all enjoyed chapter 5 of Desiring the Kingdom - it points to how liturgy reveals who we are as God's people.  We all sort of knew it - but this gave us a clearer picture of it.

Against Writing

The next section is a defense of memory and it first addresses the fact that
Also, it is true that a reliance on the technology of writing eventually empties the human soul of much of its content.  
He discusses Plato's dialog about the topic.  He also addresses how the Internet compounds this problem. When we just write it down or can look it up - we don't remember it and it doesn't become a part of us. (Here is a great resource for memory work).  But Caldecott is not interested in just 'rote' memorization (although that plays a role) instead he calls for "an organic assimilation and appropriation".  He is talking about knowing things by heart.  Memory is so key that he claims
Thus by speaking of Memory or Remembering, we are really speaking of the foundations of attention, of integration of the personality and of the road to contemplation.  We are also speaking of 'conscience'.
Without a received tradition, remembering who we are, we get lost.  Often when we think of the verse "Train up a child in the way he should go . . . " we think of discipline or maybe nurturing talents, which both make sense.  But what if part of it is just making sure our children know the story - the story that reminds them they are a child of the most high God who is dearly beloved.   If he knows that this is his true story then he always has a way to return home - whether he's the prodigal son or the older brother.  Tell them the story, find others to tell them the story; bring them up in it so that they will not depart from it.  If they know the story they will know the way to go.

Song and Memory

Caldecott begins to talk about the story and poetry of Tolkein and the richness of poetic knowledge.  He asserts
Here prose is subordinate to poetry, and poetry to song.  
In my education I didn't get much song (did I tell you I wrote essays instead of competing in the 6th grade choir competition) or poetry.  I am an essayist - I still remember my first in class essay in fourth grade.  Although our culture touts the essay, all of my recent readings are showing the limitations of this education. It's not the pinnacle, it is the base of thought.  I was duped.  Here, Caldecott makes me think of Kern as he explains
We unveil the meaning of the world to ourselves by comparing one thing with another,  by getting the 'measure' (logos) of it, by seeing one thing as 'like' or 'unlike' another and so by learning to dwell in the mysterious space that is formed between them.   
I think that is a pretty good definition of what Kern is discussing when he talks about "analogic" versus "analytic' thinking.  The analogic thinker is telling the story, seeing things as wholes and comparing.  The analytic thinker is tearing things apart and seeing the pieces.  Which is more inviting?  Which do your kids do naturally?

I like Caldecott's reflection on music
Music is the wordless language on which poetry - the purest and most concentrated form of speech - is built. 
I have A LOT to learn and I am so glad that I get to do it with the most important people in the world to me. I am glad that I am finding my tradition and the stories, poetry and music that go with it.  I pray that by repeating things, creating a liturgy of life, that my kids will know that these stories and God's ways are their true home and grow up in it.  I need to know that too.

Last week we took a break and my oldest built with legos and listened to Edith Nesbit stories from librivox. After listening to Caldecott - that may not be a break - that may be the best way to nurture his soul.
The first lesson of the 'Trivium' is therefore the vital importance of crafts, drama and dance, poetry and storytelling, as a foundation for independent critical thought.  Through doing and making, through poesis, the house of the soul is built.  

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