Among my most vivid teaching memories are scenes from my first day of classes. Just a few months distant from the libraries and lecture-halls of college, I stepped into the classroom, my scribbled lesson plans ready at hand.
Often, when a conversation leads me to explain why I love teaching, I find myself saying something about the ways that my education shaped me, about the shaping power I believe education possesses, about the wondrous opportunity the classroom provides for shaping the lives of students. Only recently did a wry comment from my husband prompt me to probe the metaphor I’ve hitherto used so glibly: “Doesn’t say much about what shape they end up in,” he said.
This darkest day of the church year is fraught with harsh paradoxes: the crowds that hailed Christ as king mere days ago now cry for his crucifixion; the only perfect Man is condemned as a criminal; the sins of the all the world’s time and space are expiated at the point of a cross in the hours of a death; the eternal God perishes; and this Friday of deepest tragedy is yet called “good.” But T.S. Eliot contemplates another paradox in his poetic meditation on Good Friday from The Four Quartets: the mystery of our healing at the hands of a wounded Savior.
Along with the treasuries of church liturgies, sacred music, special meals, and supremely, Scripture’s Passion narratives, poetry can aid the remembrance and contemplation we seek during the high days of Holy Week. This will be the first of several poem postings offered as Holy Week meditations, each including a brief guide to the poem before presenting the poem in full.
For those who have given themselves to creating homes of beauty, there sounds a complementary call to hospitality.
Were we to give ourselves solely to the creation of homes, without also giving ourselves and our homes to hospitality, then there might be some weight behind the charge we may hear from those who do not value the home, or even from our own restless hearts—the charge that to pour so much into a home is isolationist, reactionary, selfish, and that it over-values what is earthly and transient.
In a little-known novel that I love, a British grandmother, after the devastation of World War One, is left with the care of an orphaned grandson and the ache of a war-scarred family. Seeking a way to care for them all, Lucilla (literally, through a broken window) stumbles upon a worn but beautiful old house and has a vision of what it could mean for them all:
It has been said that greatness in art is marked by the impossibility of imagining alteration. The story that could only have come right that way, the sculpture of which every contour begs contemplation, the music whose melody would fall flat were any one of its notes missing or moved—it is a quality that we recognize in such works as Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, or Michelangelo’s Pieta, or the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Do you care if you’re remembered after death?
A few weekends ago, on a bitter forty-degree night (oh you who laugh, you too might shiver if you lived in the South where no buildings hold heat and no people own coats!), a hundred or so people braced against the chill to take in the wonder being enacted on the outdoor stage: a one-man performance of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, delivered with subtlety and zest by a skilled local actor, who seemed to have memorized every page of the novella, word-perfect.
When the Grading Session begins:
Remember that writing is not like mathematics or grammar, but like music and sports. It is learned not by problem-solving and checking, but by practice and coaching.
Remember that, as in coaching, not all errors or weakness should be addressed at one time. I must limit my critique so my students can focus their practice.