Medieval authors consistently amaze with their apparent ability to remember everything. How did Boethius compose The Consolation of Philosophy from a prison cell? He fills his work with classical allusions and direct quotations all without his library, Wikipedia, or the internet. Boethius, while brilliant, is by no means an exception. Dante could reportedly recite the entire Aeneid. Yet medievals also had various helps for their memory; one of their greatest was the commonplace book.
This morning an article was posted on the website, Axios, pointing out that CEO's from across the nation are meeting with the White House and "in private conversations and pleas to President Trump, are warning of economic catastrophe if American doesn't begin planning for a phased return to work as soon as May."
One line in particular drove home the dilemma of the article to me:
"Several are debating going public with this concern, but fear the optics and timing look discordant."
Like it or not, a kind of Lent has greeted everyone this season, albeit in the forms of forced social-distancing and the compulsory self-denial of certain goods or activities. (Blessed are they who have trampolines?) For Christians who don’t observe the historic church practice, consider it a forced Lent. For those who do observe Lent, the recent weeks of sheltering at home serve only to extend or intensify the great fast.
These days most education is moving online amidst the frenzy of doomsday alarmism and a dogged trust in fiscal stimulus bills and N95 masks; unusual practical concerns—will Safeway have beans and toilet paper today?—beset many households; the specter of economic recession haunts our minds, employment, and portfolios. These days it’s hard to maintain focus on teaching and studies, when the familiar securities of the saeculum are shattering around us, when hopeless cries for human intervention cram the airwaves.
Understandably teachers around the country right now are balking at the prospect of accomplishing their classroom objectives online in what is looking like a prolonged season of quarantine. Many are doing this under the assumption that this is a fool’s errand, that we cannot possibly accomplish the same goals online as we can in the three-dimensional classroom.
Dear parents who suddenly have their schooled children at home,
A Quiet Place has become one of my family’s favorite movies over the past few years. Anytime we have a house guest, my children’s first question to them is, “Have you seen A Quiet Place?” If the answer is no, that guest had better be prepared to get their pants scared off because my children will force them to watch it.
What can I say? My children are homeschooled and therefore unsocialized—not much I can do.
A couple of months ago, one of my logic students told me that she didn’t need to take my class to be successful. It’s a tough class with a highly specific vocabulary and skill set, and they have it at the end of the school day, which hurts their brains. She said that her father never took logic in high school, and he is successful, so she doesn’t need to take logic to be successful, either.
I was overjoyed by the statement. Now we could have some real fun. I responded, “Do you think I teach you logic in order for you to be successful?”
The classical renewal places great emphasis on the trivium and on language. In contrast to modern progressive education which only “has a mind of metal and wheels,” classical education restores the primacy of the word over the gadget. Rather than the know-how of mechanical manipulation, a language-based education ascends to the transcendentals of truth, goodness, and beauty. And the crowning achievement of language is poetry for it moves us from the mundane to the spiritual through the symbolic layers of its words.
Mozart died at 35 having composed over 600 compositions. I circle that age, 35, over and over again until I fear the pen will rip through the page. Why that number means more to me than the number of compositions underscores a simple reality about learning: we can’t stop ourselves from connecting.
The rhetorician is not safe if he imagines that anything he says can have value when it is separated from or other than the fruit of prayer.
He is a fool if he thinks he can do more than proclaim the crucified Christ as a Herald proclaims a simple message. If his words are for his advantage instead of the blessing of the listener, he is not standing beneath the cross as he speaks.
If his words are not emanations of the light of Christ he has not brought his message from the throne of the heavenly Majesty.