It’s not often that I pick up a non-fiction book and cannot put it down. But that’s exactly what happened when I started reading The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski.
Which is more important: teaching classically or teaching in accordance with reality?
It is said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who distill people into two kinds of people, and those who do not.
When we are born, once we establish security of life, we immediately turn to an insatiable desire for play, and the insatiable desire to play together. We see it in puppies and kittens, and certainly our own children. And if this repetitive pattern in the nature of our young is not a cunning trick, then I do not know what else it to mean other than that we are fundamentally, at our very core, creatures of play.
I ran into an acquaintance this weekend. As we chatted, she commented, “I’ve seen your articles on Facebook, but I’ve never read them because I know that writing is just what you do. I would rather get to know who you are.” Puzzled, I noticed that she smiled and touched my arm as she said it, which convinced me that she meant this as a compliment. Instead, I felt dismissed, since writing is both what I do and who I am.
It is a pernicious lie that what we do diverges from who we are.
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.