Among the tales of The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin is one of a few that feature mankind as the central characters. Like the epics of old, it begins with a great battle, one full of both hope and despair. The sons of men and kingdoms of elves suffer great loss of life and land as the battle slowly works against them. Before Húrin is captured by Morgoth, the fallen Valar or Tolkien’s Satan, Húrin’s faith is ever strong:
“Easter lasts for fifty days?”
“Yes. We fast for forty days and feast for fifty.”
“That means we can have soda and pop music for fifty days, right?”
“Um, no. Not at all.”
“It’s not much of a feast if everything just goes back to normal.”
We often misuse words. Over time, the pictures and meanings of a word are slowly 'petrified,' and turn into just a sort of impression of the original. Instead of calling to mind a picture, they simply dwell in the realm of abstraction and a vague, contextual-based understanding of its meaning. The life-blood of the image is gone.
One example of this is the word “fascinating."
It is Passover, and Jesus of Nazareth is dead. His body is naked and mangled, and quiet in death after the throes and moans of Friday’s tortured hours. Those gathered around the cross weep. How can we endure a dead God? How can it be that he is good, yet he is dead; that he rescued sufferers, yet suffered more than any; that he performed miracles; yet not on his own behalf? His followers are desolate, but I weep for another reason, for I know I would have been in the mob that called for his crucifixion because he was not the Messiah for whom I had asked.
Consider the following passages from the Agamemnon, which might be read in a classroom.
While reading Jean Lee Latham’s 1955 classic, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, my students became entranced. They fell in love with math, Latin, and the sea as they traveled with Nathaniel Bowditch on his adventures. I don’t blame them – I fell in love with the story, too.
You know that thing when you can’t get a song out of your head? A friend sent me this lyric from a band called Dumpster Divers and though I still have not listened to the song, the words themselves echo as I mull them over.
Come now and join the feast,
Right here in the belly of the beast
I too was a bad student. I was not the sort of bad student that would have gotten along with Josh Gibbs in high school, though. I was the sort of student who would have inwardly groaned if we had been placed together in a group for a project. I would have been shocked and disdained by his lack of concern over his schoolwork. I would have been so concerned with our grade that I would have done all of the work to prevent his slacking from affecting me.
Over the many years of my education, I have found that the most exciting, interesting, and helpful things that I have learned is simply what words mean. We intuit the meaning of many words through context and common usage and avid readers will have a whole storehouse of words in their imagination from a young age whose meaning they can sort of explain based on the context of the book or sentence it came from, but when asked to actually explain the word they will be hard pressed to give a solid, satisfactory definition.
Last week, we ended with the Greek world and the pride of this ancient people. As always I demand you take notes, as the whole premise of sprite school is to learn from the triumphs of our Father, improve your tactics against the Enemy, and win more patients for our cause, coffers, and confines. Our lesson tonight focuses on the willingness of patients to help us, as demonstrated in the most cherished of Greek institutions, the Delphic Oracle.