I would like to talk about feasting. Particularly, I would like to talk about the role feasting plays in being human and how it reminds us of several important truths about reality. These truths are at odds with the prevailing wisdom of our age—the sophistry of the calculators who believe that human beings are simply biological machines whose lives ought to be measured against how closely they compare with an assembly line: What do they get done? How quickly did they do it?
Is Facebook suffocating our ability for public discourse? Is YouTube degrading the morals of our children? These are the sorts of questions that our cultural conservatism inclines us to ask. We read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, or Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows, and become acutely aware of the dangers of the digital tools we use every day. How do we rightly judge between good and bad uses of these machines? Like so many cultural debates, it’s a question of intentions and presuppositions.
It is often said in the teaching profession that the first year is the hardest and the second is far easier: You have a better idea of what you are doing, of what is expected, and of how to deal with students. As I reflect on the school year thus far, however, I realize that I am learning just as much, if not more, than I did last year. Perhaps the fear and unknown of Year One no longer exists, but I am still a brand new teacher. Here are a few musings from this school year.
1. To teach is to name.
A couple of weeks ago, I was angry at a friend. During a conversation, he had said some things that frustrated me, made me feel unwanted, and it resulted in me not wanting to be around anyone else for awhile. Shortly thereafter, a couple of other friends invited me to lunch, and I refused to go with them because I was too irritated to be around anyone else. I drove off to get some lunch, alone. As I was pulling into the drive thru line at a fast food chicken joint, two vehicles in front of me crashed into each other.
“But we who would be born again indeed
Must wake our souls unnumbered times a day…”
—George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
If you do a little exploring into the influences behind C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll soon discover a portal into the world of George MacDonald. Lewis claimed MacDonald as his literary and spiritual father, and the presence of this nineteenth-century Scot can be detected in every volume of Lewis’ fiction—in The Great Divorce he even becomes a primary character.
In an interview published by Christianity Today, Harvard political scientist Harvey Mansfield called Democracy in America “the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.” Surprisingly, its author was neither a democrat nor an American, but a French aristocrat. Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in 1831 to study its prisons, yet his journey through the young democracy inspired a prescient work.
Have you ever played “I Spy”? It’s a game where one person sees something that no one else sees. Through a series of cues given by the “seer,” the others learn to see the item that the first person found.
Real teaching is a lot like this game. The teacher sees something that he wants the students to see. Now, conventional teaching sometimes has as its goal the prospect of “catching them out,” of finding students who don’t see and yelling, “Ah ha! I caught you in a mistake.”
It was an aesthetic education to live within those walls, to wander from room to room, from the Soanesque library to the Chinese drawing-room, adazzle with gilt pagodas and nodding mandarins, painted paper and Chippendale fret-work, from the Pompeian parlour to the great tapestry-hung hall which stood unchanged, as it had been designed two hundred and fifty years before; to sit, hour after hour, in the pillared shade looking out on the terrace.
Miracles, for many, raise a barrier to belief. Even for those of faith miracles can produce an intellectual tension. On the one hand, ample evidence shows the Bible is true and inspired. On the other hand, making sense of some miracles in the context of our understanding of the physical world is not easy. For instance, figuring out what it means in Joshua 10:13 for the sun to have stopped in its course is a bit mind-boggling.