Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Beauty in the Word -- Poesis and Education

"All human beings desire to know the truth, to know reality. There are many who wish to deceive others, but few who want to be deceived (and therefore enslaved)" (8-9).

"Attention is desire; it is the desire for light, for truth, for understanding, for possession" (30).

"we learn because we love" (31).

"In Greek mythology, the goddess 'Memory' (Mnemosyne) is the offspring of the primordial Mother and Father; that is, Earth (Gaia) and Sky (Uranus). She is responsible for the naming of things, and is the mother by Zeus of the nine Muses, who inspire literature and all the arts, from poetry to astronomy. Memory, then, is the mother both of language and of civilization. This is what gives us our link between Remembering and language" (36).

"the earliest stage of education is not simply the learning of words, of names, of vocabulary, but the learning of how to name. This is the art that the poet re-learns, and so it can best be taught by teaching the power of poetry, and of poesis in general---both by learning and by doing" (43).

"The power of naming is related to the power of seeing; of seeing into the realities, the essences of things, and invoking those essences by an act of will---and therefore of interpretation" (43).

"The formal study of the history of words and their meanings is called etymology (from etymon or etymos, 'true sense' and logos, 'word' or 'speech'). The student of language is called a 'philologist,' a lover of the logos. Etymology is important, if we want to find the springs and furnaces where words are forged, and understand why they are so important to our humanity. We must travel this path as lovers ('amateurs') of the Word and of words, because all things reveal themselves more truly to the eyes of love" (44-45)

"Whenever we return home we are remembering. There is no home without memory to make it so; there is only a place like any other. Even an orphan raised on the streets remembers a face, a shelter, which represents whee he comes from. My 'home' may have been brutal, the memories of it may make me cringe with fear, but it cannot ever be fully left behind, unless I can replace it with something other and better. All through life we are seeking a place where we can be at home, where we can truly belong. If we cannot remember that experience of belonging, then we are forced to remember something that defines it by contrast. Either way, it is memory that defines our journey.

"It is not just as individuals that we need a home. 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 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. It is the process that makes each new generation into a source of wisdom for the one that follows---and it takes place generally within the family. What is handed over is a 'gift.' It is not simply a bundle of property whose title deed is being transferred to the next generation. Rather, it carries within it something of the giver. Its transmission is an act of love. Thus the gift of tradition involves and transforms the interiority of both the giver and the recipient" (45).

"The 'spirit of tradition' is an essential element of education. It is the spirit in which the transmission of culture takes place" (46).

""by speaking of Memory or Remembering we are really speaking of the foundations of attention, of the integration of the personality, and of the road to contemplation. We are also speaking of 'conscience.' Remembering is the gathering together of the self in the light of consciousness" (51)

 "As we move from individual words to the construction of sentences we have begun the making of narrative, of stories; and stories, like names, reveal the meaning and relationship of things to ourselves. The anamnesis of culture and tradition is largely dependent on our ability to remember and build upon stories that come down to us. These stories are the vehicles of meaning" (52).

"To be enchanted by story is to be granted a deeper insight into reality" (53)

"Our experience of the world is full of meaning from the moment we begin to connect our experiences with each other by remembering and comparing and imagining. Words are the tokens of images, and it is as such that they mediate human interpretation and thought. 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 ting as 'like' or 'unlike' another, and so by learning to dwell in the mysterious space that is formed between them. The human soul, we might say, is this intermediate reality, this 'interworld' of meanings and connections" (57).

It is in the Imagination that language and the Muses are born from Memory in the house of tradition. The first lesson of our revised 'Trivium' is therefore the vital importance of crafts, drama and dance, poetry and storytelling, as a foundation for independent and critical thought.Though doing and making, through poesis, the house of the soul is built. The grammar of language, however, rests on a deeper foundation still. It rests on music. Music is the wordless language on which poetry---the purest and most concentrated form of speech----is built. Poetry is made of images, similes, metaphors, analogies; but what holds these elements together and makes them live is fundamentally musical in nature" (57-8).

Music...is a play of mathematics, coherent patterns of number and shape in time and space, expressed in rhythm and timbre, tone and pitch. It is the closest most of us get to seeing and feeling the beauty of mathematics" (58).

"the restoration of Grammar as one of the three elements of a restored Trivium must include not only the revival of memory and the discipline of learning by heart (enlarging the heart in the process), but the cultivation of imagination and a poetic or musical vision of the interconnectedness of all things. It is a harmony that cries out to be discovered and appreciated, repaying with joy the effort to reveal and understand it, and making us 'beautiful within'" (59).

one of the tasks of the teacher "is to ground Thinking in Remembering, or Logic in Grammar, and to overcome the false Nominalism of our age with the spirit of contemplation" (80).

"thinking is dialogical before it is logical" (80)

"because thinking is dialogical, the best way to encourage it is by dialogue, debate, conversation. This is where the dialectical method, beginning with the Socratic elenchus in the early Platonic writings---a conversation designed to expose error---comes into its own. Plato's dialogues may seem at times to be rather artificial and unconvincing; nevertheless, it can be a wonderful exercise to adapt them for performance with children as a way of stimulating them imaginatively to search for truth. Truth is not a quarry that can easily be pursued without the help of others, because our own thoughts have a tendency to run in circles" (81).

"learning, which is the expansion of the self, takes place in community. I am not referring only to the refinement of logical thought, which despite its importance is only a special case of thought in general, rendered more precise and coherent by the Principle of Contradiction, the Principle of Identity and Difference, and the Principle of the Excluded Middle, the details of which can be pursued elsewhere. The development of thinking also involves the refinement of imagination and feeling" (81).

"The expansion of the self, we might say, requires the development of empathy and courtesy---empathy in order to be able to see another's point of view, and courtesy to act as though one were not the center of the world" (81).

"To know the truth we must first attend to reality. We must interpret reality. We must have names for things. We must 'remember Being.' And in fact Being itself is the first 'community' to which we belong: 'being' is itself a form of communion. That community comprises past, present, and future, to which  we have access through memory, consciousness, and imagination. Initiation into a cultural and social tradition through education is the way in which we participate to the fullest in this community of being" (83-4).

"education is about the communication of values, or meaningful information, and of wisdom and of tradition, between persons and across generations" (84)

"real human communication is only possible in the context of love, without which the self can neither be given in an act of speech (we describe someone as 'not meaning a word of it'), nor received in an act of sympathetic hearing (we accuse someone of 'not listening to what I was saying'). In fact every person has an interior life that cannot be divulged except by deliberately 'opening up' the heart, and allowing the life that is within it to flow through words and gestures into the other person" (85).

"Human speech flows from within, but if it is to serve the truth it cannot simply express what is within, and nothing else. Thought is an attempt to know; that is, a marriage of the self with reality; while speech is an attempt to bring about a meeting of selves, a communion in that marriage. Human speech and thought need to correspond with the order of the cosmos, the order of love" (85).

"You cannot communicate a truth that has not changed you" (86).

"Ethics concerns what we should do or not do, and how we should behave" (86).

"What I am is decided by my actions. What I do with my body not only reveals but determines who I am; it creates my destiny" (87)

"the best way to communicate morality is not through endless dry lists of what should and should not be done, but . . . through the imagination---through stories, drama, and living examples capable of engaging the will and the emotions and thus inspiring us to be better people. A morality, an ethos, must be embodied; it must be lived by a human being, before it can be understood or communicated. It is expressed in the virtues that are the powers by which we build character, and with the fruits of those virtues" (87)

"an ethics of virtue--of acting not just in order to bring about certain results, but of acting in order to correspond to the Good, which is not at all the same thing. In fact we can go further, and say, I am what I do to others. This connects us with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (89).

Rhetoric "is not a set of techniques to impress (oratory, eloquence), nor a means of manipulating the will and emotions of others (sophistry, advertising), but rather a way of liberating the freedom of others by showing them the truth in a form they can understand" (92).

"the most intense experience of language" involves "music, imagery, and connotation" (93)

"Rhythm or meter is a mathematical structure, a structure of repetition and variation. It creates a shape in time, a dynamic flowing movement that carries the mind along with it. If prose lacks rhythm, it leaves us behind. Our attention is too easily diverted from the direction in which the author intends us to move. Something similar is true of all art, from music through to architecture and even painting, which, though seemingly static, requires us to move our attention through time in order to absorb it. (A painting that can be appreciated entirely at a single glance, without leaving something further to explore, is probably not a very good painting.)" (94)

Rhetoric is "related to poetry, dance, and song. We might even conclude that the best way to teach it is in close connection with these. In other words, an ability to communicate in words will grow with a sense of rhythm, timing, melody, and physical grace. But why should we ever have thought otherwise? Communication in the fullest sense must involve the whole person, that is body, soul, and spirit, with imagination and intellect in harmony. Rhetoric cannot be kept entirely separate from any other subject, least of all those which cultivate our sense of beaut. The interconnectedness of things---their mutual indwelling and transparency--is the condition of communication" (95).

Education should involve storytelling, music, exploration, painting and drawing, and dance, drama, and sport (113).

"The education of the imagination is the education of the heart" (114).

"Through the choice of stories the children can be introduced to history as well as traditional fairy tales, myths, and classic tales, as well as being encouraged to develop narrative skills of their own and to develop the confidence to speak in a group. Stories can be illustrated or acted out, creating links with the other areas of the curriculum. This is also the best way to draw children into the learning of language, and indeed languages" (114).

"the theme of Music can be connected to Story or Exploration or Dance, and it can be taught historically or with reference to religion. Sounds and patterns of sounds can be analyzed into simple numbers and shapes, thus introducing the children to mathematics by the back door. By exploring the relationship between music and lyrics in popular songs, a range of literary skills can be developed" (114)

"explore the local neighborhood or the geography of the wider world, outer space using actual telescopes or the images available from Hubble and NASA, different cultures using story and music, the world of the very small through microscopes and magnifying glasses, abstract patterns through the construction of simple geometric figures, or the worlds of the past" (114) -- that is, all of these can be framed as exploring.

"everything is connected to everything else, and so we should not be afraid of the particular interests or obsessions of the children---follow one interest, however narrow it appears, and it will open up one subject after another, making each in turn appear 'interesting' for the first time" (115).

"Arts and crafts provide an obvious opportunity to explore, express, and interiorize what is being  learnt each day, to develop particular skills based on the coordination of hand and eye, and to refine the ability to observe the world around" (115).

"symbols, metaphors, and analogies help to connect everything together" (115).

education should not neglect movement--dance, drama, sports, the martial arts--"Here music and storytelling, as well as the arts and crafts, and social skills such as a capacity for teamwork, all have an important part to play" (116)

"The links between music, dance, sport, and acting are obvious."

"Dramatic productions developed in class are an opportunity to bring together the whole range of educational elements in a single activity involving teamwork" (116).

"The keys to meaning are form, gestalt, beauty, interiority, relationship, radiance, and purpose. An education for meaning begins with the perception of form. Education should open our eyes to the meaning and beauty of the cosmos. In the search for beauty as well as truth, the arts and sciences can be reunited in the common enterprise of civilization" (117).

"A metaphorical word or phrase carried us from something to something else by suggesting a likeness or analogy. All of poetry and most of language is based upon this power of suggestion. It is the key to the discovery of meaning" and to the interconnectedness of things (121).

"It is the imagination that interprets, that gives meaning to the world, by 'joining the dots,' discovering the otherwise invisible connections between things, events, and qualities. Its ancient Greek patron is Hermes, or Mercury, the messenger of the gods and inventor of fire. Thus to discover meaning is to connect, to travel from one thing to another, or to go on a journey. But to go on a hike without landmarks or direction, or on a sea voyage without said, sextant, compass, or map, is the same as being lost, or wandering aimlessly, a victim to every wind that blows" (122).

Great stories each reveal "an aspect of what it is to be truly human, not in a moralistic way by spelling out the rules and regulations of right behavior, but in a way that educates the imagination of the reader to see patterns linking characters, decisions, and events in the real world. It is a way not just of communicating the rules, but showing how the rules work and perhaps even why they work. However fantastic and unreal the landscapes in which these stories unfold, however untrue to life they may be in a factual sense, they are true in the deeper meaning of the word, in that they reflect the way things really are. They open our eyes to look not merely at the surface of things, but at their form" (123).

"it make sense to regard reading stories aloud to one's children the archetypal act of the Trivium. One is simultaneously remembering a tradition, revealing the Logos, and (by voice, inflection, and gesture) dramatizing a story to communicate that meaning 'heart to heart'" (123).

"We desire the truth because it is beautiful, it draws us towards it. In fact, to be drawn towards something, to desire it, is part of what we mean by calling it 'beautiful.'
"Here is the paradox. We may be drawn to truth by beauty, but truth is beautiful to us because it's true. The beauty of anything lies in its truth. I don't mean, of course, that every truth we discover must be beautiful in the superficial sense of being pretty. There are plenty of ugly truths" (133). But those truths have to be taken in the wider, more complex, contexts.

"Arithmetic requires us to pursue order through time, since numbers accumulate successively when we perform the operation of counting. Music involves appreciation of these temporal patterns and the relationships between them.It depends on our ability to perceive a mathematical form that is spread out through time (the time it takes for a symphony or a song to unfold). Geometry involves the perception of forms that are spread through space as well as time, hence its foundational relationship to Astronomy, which concerns the geometrical relationships of the heavenly bodies---the world of 'light.' Music is the study of ratios and proportions, and Astronomy of shapes in motion" (141).

"The good is that which is, at any given moment, appropriate, sitting, and right in relation to the objective situation. Consciousness is the ability to recognize what is good and translate it into action. But conscience is the ability to recognize what is fixed and ready-made; it has to grow and develop as we open ourselves to life and allow ourselves to be taught" (142).

"Dialectic needs Grammar, and Logic needs Analogy, which is at the foundation of poetry, theology, and science. Things are never unrelated or completely unlike other things---the world is analogous through and through" (151).

"Our experience of beauty liberates or expands us beyond the boundaries of the self. The encounter with it arouses the desire to unite ourselves with it in order to become 'more' than we are. At the same time, it may strike us as 'more than we deserve' or more than we have a right to expect" (156).

"The memory of being, the pursuit of truth, the eloquence of the heart, and the musical mathematics of the cosmos and the soul, are the essence of the seven liberal arts" (159).

"It is beauty that moves us to love the one, the true, and the good, not for her sake but for theirs" (159-160).


*from Caldecott, Stratford. 2012. Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education. Tacoma, WA: Angelico Press
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