Back in July we solicited your questions for Mr. John Hodges, a longtime CiRCE conference speaker and the director of The Center for Western Studies, a gap-year program that offers young people a Christian view of the world, and a study of the ideas that shaped Western civilization (along with some amazing comaraderies and world travel).
In The Abolition of Man, Lewis suggests that virtue is learned that we might control our appetites. We have a desire for food and sex and pleasure, and those desires need limitations or else we find ourselves ever-minded of earthly things and neverminded of heavenly things. Chastity gives shape to a man’s desire for sexual pleasure, courage sets boundaries on a man’s desire for physical safety. Of course, virtue is far more than this, but is it at least this.
When we last sat with my eighth grade algebra students in Part 1 of this post, my pragmatic lesson on radical addition had just been hijacked by the Spiral of Theodorus:
Wisdom is a blindingly good word, but finding it in the Scriptures, we, like Plato’s cave-dwellers, shield our dark-deadened orbs in confusion and consternation. The sound of the word sometimes vexes our sensibilities or even leaves us cold. We do not know the reality behind the word, in the word, so neither are we warmed by it.
I would like to make a confession: as a teacher, there are some days when I am less inspired than others. Okay, let me be more honest: there are some days when I find that I am simply going through the motions. Blame it on weariness. Blame it on the tyranny of the urgent. Blame it on “a difficult group of students.” There are plenty of excuses.
But almost always the only legitimate cause for blame is my own perspective. Thankfully, when I fall into this type of funk, my students are typically quick to snap me out of it.
Beowulf is the sort of work that gives some Christians fits. It’s a poem about a pagan warrior in a pagan culture written by a Christian poet for a Christian audience.
We often hear childhood described as a “time of innocence.” But it would be misleading to compare Adam and Eve’s situation with that of children. The words of Genesis 2:25, “they felt no shame,” don’t express a lack development, but a fullness. They indicate that Adam and Eve had a full understanding of the meaning of the body, bound up with their nakedness. When this fullness is lost, shame appears…Shame—in particular, sexual modesty—plays an important role in the formation of any society by affecting the relationship between the sexes.
When book five begins we find ourselves in the same place where book one began: Olympus, where the gods are in session. And, as in book one, we listen as Athena pleads Odysseus' case. “Father Zeus . . . “ she says, “be one whose thought is schooled in justice.” And justice, she claims, demands that both Odysseus and Telemachus be free to return home.
Most school buildings are small enough, and most student populations are large enough, that at some point you will hear even your best students complaining about your incompetence. Or else your students will hear you complain to your colleagues of their lousy test work. When we secretly overhear those under us or over us complain about us, the temptation to use that discreetly gained information for our own advantage (or an opportunity for self-justification, or a finger-wagging lesson) is often quite strong.
When last we rode with “thoughtful” Telemachus, he and Peisistratos, Nestor's son, were on their way to the home of “glorious” Menelaus and Helen (she for whom his father was fighting when he went missing). As book four begins - and we come to the end of the portion of the Odyssey typically known as the Telemachy - Telemachus and Pesistratos are finally arrving at the King's palace. They are greeted with, of course, a grand feast.