“For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Rom. 11:13-15, NKJV
One of classical education’s biggest draws in our current age of distraction is its unabashed focus on beauty. James Ranieri’s recent articles for Circe highlight a nuance in classical thinking. Yes, we teach kids how to think, but we also “teach kids what and how to love.” Philosophically, I find this call to molding my students’ affections among the most honorable vocations. Pedagogically, I struggle.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” With these words thrice spoken just days after Simon Peter had spoken words of betrayal and denial, Jesus asks the question that would become the guiding line throughout the rest of Peter’s life and ministry.
“Lord, you know that I love you,” Peter replies.
“If you love me, feed my lambs,” Jesus tells him.
“Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Enjoyment certainly makes the job easier. This is why many trades have work songs that can be sung by laborers as they work in the shop or field. Work invites levity and joy, and difficult labor does not prohibit cheerfulness. So, while education is difficult work, we should also encourage delight in studies. But what is important about this proverb is that the joy comes from the work itself, not from outside.
That broken fence in yonder row has needed mending for so long. But I am loath to close what has become a gate to does and fawns and other wild things who don’t know that the fence was built to keep them out and who take its brokenness as an invitation to invade this human world of manicured grass and strategic planting. They wonder, not overmuch, at these contrivances and are able to use only what has become useless—that broken fence, their access to a world that is theirs still, though they have no need of ownership.
If we read tribally, we short circuit the path to wisdom.
If we read obsequiously, we enervate ourselves on that path.
What I mean is this: if my first question when I read the quoted paragraph above is, "Who wrote it?", I am asking a perfectly natural question, one that is rooted in my desire to be secure with my tribe. I am not, please note, using the word tribe negatively. I am using it as a matter of unavoidable fact. Perhaps I should have used the words "as a member" or "communally," but I wanted to indicate different emphases.
There is in human beings a charming and naive desire to create new things ex nihilo, to go back to the garden as it were, to start again as though we have not already done anything good or bad.
In part, this drive arises from the presence of the image of God in us. He creates ex nihilo. We are His image. So we want to be able to create ex nihilo. And who knows, maybe there will come a time when we can. Maybe there is even some relative sense in which we can now.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a dead squirrel on the one street in our neighborhood. If one dismisses the possibility of a squirrel suicide as extremely unlikely, how the squirrel came to be dead in the street is quite a mystery. The short street ends in a cul de sac,eliminating any through traffic. Children fill the street, so all the neighbors cruise through slowly and carefully and all wave and honk at each other. So I cannot figure how a squirrel could possibly be struck by a car, which it evidently had been.
Ever have one of those days when your scholar is dragging his feet, and simply not doing what he is supposed to? Or have you had a mama mini-meltdown when you have asked your child yet again to make his bed or put away the dishes, and returned later to discover the same disarray as before? I confess moments like these have driven me to consume many a pound of chocolate and cheesecake over the years as I bewail the vicious cycle in which my oldest son’s resistance to discipline in the homeschool derails my own discipline in the kitchen.