“How are you preparing for Christmas?” asks Mrs. Kim expectantly, holding a microphone from the church’s ancient sound equipment. Even before she reaches the question mark, the front of the sanctuary is peppered with eager little hands. Mrs. Kim begins to pick from among the children, who in various states of euphoria cannot wait to share their thoughts. “Making cookies!” squeals Lydia. “Putting up our tree!” smiles Maya. “Elf on the Shelf,” says Jack, sweeping his pre-preteen hair from his eyes and revealing a cool, but not too cool, smirk.
Growing up, I often heard it said, “Evangelicals do everything the world does— they just do it ten years later and ten times worse.” There is some truth to the idea so far as music and graphic design is concerned; however, having paid close attention to Christian culture and secular culture over the last twenty years, I actually think it more often the case that secularists are mugging evangelicals.
Teacher: I have heard that you don’t believe a book should be taught until it is a hundred years old. Is this true?
Gibbs: Not exactly. I don’t believe a book should be taught in a classical Christian high school until the author has been dead for a hundred years.
Teacher: What about World War II, though?
Gibbs: I take it you believe World War II should be taught in classical Christian high schools.
December is a time of year when teachers (and students) are ready for a break. We have taught for several months and, after grading exams, need to recharge. Discouragement fostered by fatigue could easily set in if not for the hope of Christmas and the anticipation of communing with family and friends.
But what about all those other times of the year when you give everything you have to teaching and it seems like little good comes from it? At those points we need someone to come alongside us and offer encouragement. That’s where Augustine of Hippo comes in.
When each of us were young, our mothers and/or caretakers instinctively amplified the musical qualities inherent within our native languages. Infants are surrounded by an entirely foreign, complex system of communication. They exist in a state of wonder and we draw on and interact with that state by engaging them with musically creative speech. We exaggerate the natural melody of our speech, and use rhythmic patterns, repetition, simple forms, and catchy tones of voice to increase their interest, comprehension, and connection.
Three weeks of another year’s Advent are past; the one that’s left is just a few days long—Christmas Day itself peeks ‘round the corner. The three weeks behind me have already been framed and filled and formed by a dozen dear traditions, from sacred to silly; the few days ahead hold the most cherished, even holy, traditions of all.
Father: I want to ask you a tough question. You can be honest with me. Please don’t answer as an employee of this school, but as a teacher. Is it too late for my son to become classical?
Gibbs: What do you mean “become classical”?
“People who cannot bear to be alone are generally the worst company.”
Intellectuals are unanimous in their praise of solitude and loneliness. Apart from regular bouts of loneliness and frequent recourse to solitude, the mind atrophies. But why? In Episode 12, I discuss my own failing ability to “be alone,” and the somewhat drastic steps I have taken of late to regain my love of solitude and become better company to my friends.
Why do we love a ghost story at Christmas? How does the ghost story speak to the eternity in our hearts? Out on the Mira, perhaps, around a bonfire, there we expect the “witches and werewolves and Oak Island gold.” But why now, as we celebrate starlight and the birth of a baby?
“Handel is the greatest composer that ever lived . . . I would uncover my head and kneel down on his tomb.” —Beethoven quoted by Edward Schulz, "A Day with Beethoven,” The Harmonicum (1824).