Growing up, I was the kid who was at church “every time the doors were opened.” Since my Christian school was a ministry of our church, my school and church schedules never conflicted, and I never had to choose between two masters. Wednesdays were “no homework nights” because everyone was expected to be at the mid-week services. The family schedule deferred to the church calendar, meaning that Sunday worship, mid-week services, and volunteer service in ministries were non-negotiables.
Imagine that you are entering a classroom for the first time. The first images you take in are speaking to your soul in a subconscious way. Immediately your senses are sending messages about the learning that will take place in that classroom. The learning atmosphere is being set before any actual content is taught. For most people it is a natural process to adjust to our daily surroundings and in turn become numb to the messages that the atmosphere of a classroom is sending.
Like pallbearers they each took a corner of the mat upon which I lay. Into the nave of the chapel the liturgists of the church triumphant bore me, beckoning me: “Say these words . . . See this symbol . . . Receive these blessings . . . Eat this bread . . . Drink this wine.” Another typical Sunday in which I am escorted into the presence of the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. There at His bidding, by His grace, and in His Spirit He grants me to rise and walk.
I love George Herbert’s The Temple—the major hits, the b-sides, everything. The more I read Herbert’s work, the more I realize just how inventive it really is. Take even a minor poem like “Paradise” for example. Like so many works by Herbert, this one is a little Matryoshka doll of meaning—a highly intricate artifact containing successive, hidden surprises.
As the school year gets underway, I would like to offer a suggestion for the end of the school year. Maybe, with enough time to look ahead, teachers and homeschooling parents will have a chance to add this suggestion to the curriculum of one class or another if they don’t use it already. I want to make a case for arguably the greatest speech in American political history. One that, while it is already recognized, is still massively underrated in terms of structure and import.
I bought a wooden sign at Hobby Lobby the other day. I was actually there to purchase a single picture frame to showcase some of my daughter’s school art work when I noticed a fifty percent off sale sign for all of the wall hangings. Needless to say, I got lost in the aisle. Actually, I got lost in the beautiful words. Each of the signs beckoned to me with their varied sappy and sacred phrases.
“You are very young and inexperienced in life, education, and business and to leave so abruptly . . .”
These were the words an irate colleague penned to me upon receipt of the letter I sent out in early July to inform my fellow faculty members and parents as to why I was resigning my teaching position midsummer.
Permit me to offer some context:
Now that we’ve been back at school for several weeks, there is a certain type of Facebook post that has become commonplace amongst my friends whose children go to school: the drop-off and pick-up line angst post.
This should really be a Facebook post genre in its own right, up there with posts about politics, extreme weather, and arguments about obeying the gods.
Over the summer my eleven-year-old daughter read a contemporary piece of young adult “literature.” This is not a genre I enjoy, but I read the work with her so that we could discuss it together.
“Was it a good book?” I asked.
“Yes!” she answered.
“Why?” I followed up.
“Because I liked it.”
As I continued to press her, she continued to locate the book’s objective goodness in her subjective enjoyment of it. I was unsurprised by this. It is a natural human tendency to conflate our subjective preferences with objective qualities.
The Pietà is my favorite work of art. I’ve always thought it was beautiful, but since I listened to a lecture by Jordan Peterson,1 Michelangelo’s Mary reminds me that she brought her son into this world not understanding his divine destiny and fully understanding that he would suffer and die. All the same, her face is peace.