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.
Instability reigns; unlawful authorities seek selfish gain; violence is advertised as entertainment; brothers turn betrayers. But just when the world seems unbearable, a place of escape is found—a green world, full of music, to which, it turns out, the rest of the good people have already fled, and in which they have made a haven. Here, labor is rewarded with feasting, courage with honor, and longing with love.
Probably, when your little child catches the flu and lies in bed, shivering and miserable, and asks you why she hurts so, you tell her that she caught a playmate’s germs, and they made her sick. Probably, this answer does not do much to console or to satisfy either of you, though you both accept it as truth.
Probably, it does not cross your mind to tell your little child that bad, mean fairies made her sick. Probably, if that answer did escape your lips, she would be intrigued. You, on the other hand, would feel the discomfort of telling an untruth. But would you be?
Leopards break into a temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.
Who are the leopards? What is the temple? Is it a true tale? Does it represent the taming of chance, or the domestication of danger, or the nature of ritual?
Ponder-worthy wisdom from Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking:
You cannot expect to have a close relationship with a teenager who, after all, is still the same person as the two-year-old you stuck crying into bed, the three-year-old you spanked and shoved aside, the four-year-old you wouldn't listen to, the five-year-old you never shared beauty with, the six-year-old you found boring, or you 'trained' never to butt in, but never gave time to make a cosy and beautiful background out of which you could talk to him or her.
A thought experiment: What if, amongst your school’s 2018 graduating class, not one student cares about pop culture? None of them disdain it; none of them wage a culture war against it; they are, simply, uninterested in it. Would you consider their classical education a complete success, or would you count it a partial failure?
Further thoughts for cultivating a culture of memory, this time in the classroom:
To practice memorization without cultivating a culture of memory is like planting a rosebush in sand. All the water in the world will not bring it to flourishing, for the soil in which it’s planted simply cannot sustain it.
“Memory is the cabinet of imagination, the treasury of reason, the registry of conscience, the counsel-chamber of thought”: these words, quoted at last month’s CiRCE conference, have continued to percolate in my reflections on what I heard there, helping to rehabilitate the very word “memory” from its eroded modern definition—the mere storing of information, accomplished as efficiently by an external hard drive as by a human mind. Running straight through the conference was the insistence that human memory is so much more.