As of late, I haven’t really thought much about the world right outside my door. In the summer months, Louisiana is hot, muggy, buggy, and wet. I recently heard a friend refer to summer in Louisiana with a particularly visceral simile: “like walking around inside the mouth of a golden retriever.” Accurate, yet grotesque. So rather than risk the humid clutches of Fido’s jaws, I generally hide next to my wall A/C and pray for winter (our second season - we only have two).
On July 3, 1941, German General Halder sat down to reflect in his diary on the invasion of Russia, launched on June 22, just two weeks earlier. "It is hardly too much to say," he wrote, "the Feldzug against Russia has been won in fourteen days."
Recently, I stumbled upon some helpful pedagogical advice. I was making my way through a collection of Early Church writings when I came to the Letters of Saint Ignatius, bishop of Antioch. Around the year 110, Ignatius composed several letters to churches and to Saint Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In this epistle, Ignatius offers his fellow overseer the following guidance: “It is no credit to you if you are fond of good pupils. Rather by your gentleness subdue those who are annoying.” I have been contemplating these words for weeks.
After testing positive for COVID last week, I entirely lost my sense of smell and my sense of taste. The symptoms which prompted me to get tested were too mild to even mention, but when I tasted my coffee the following morning and found it as odorless and tasteless as tap water, my first thought was, “Please, God, not that,” although I suspect my guardian angel’s first thought was, “Oh, he’s needed something like this for quite a while.” As usual, my guardian angel was right.
Developed from an actual conversation.
Camilla: What does the word “cosmopolitan” mean?
Gibbs: A cosmopolitan person is a person who has travelled, seen the world, and understands that people in other places do things differently. “Cosmopolitan” is the opposite of “provincial.” Provincial people have not traveled widely and don't have much first-hand experience of the way other people do things.
Camilla: Is it good to be cosmopolitan?
I won’t assume that you’ve ever met someone who thinks education's sole purpose is usefulness, but I have—me. Although I did not have a classical education in high school – it was closer to liberal arts – I grew to love literature, the Western Tradition, and ancient languages. My appetite to read widely became constant, and I began to pursue literary works out of a hunger for knowledge and an appreciation for the delight of the great books. Alongside a love of old literature, another hunger began to grow: knowledge for knowledge's sake.
Paul instructs the fathers in Ephesus not to “provoke [their] children to anger.” Rather, he says, they should “bring them up in the discipline and instruction [paideia] of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). “Paideia” is a Greek concept contingent upon what we might think of as a “culture.” To form one in the true faith, we need a good and beautiful culture.
From one year to the next, the only televised sporting event I watch is the Super Bowl. But every four years, I watch forty hours of the Olympics. While I find myself increasingly skeptical that high school sports can offer athletes one-tenth of what they claim (virtue, martyrdom), the Modern Olympics have both goals and means that are quite different from the garden-variety volleyball program.
Since publishing Something They Will Not Forget, I have heard numerous stories from across the country of teachers instituting curriculum-based catechisms in their classrooms. Most of the teachers I have heard from are humanities teachers; however, from time to time, a math or science teacher asks for help putting together a catechism. While I can suggest a few passages from Scripture and classic literature that I would use if I were a math or science teacher, I simply have not read enough to construct a seven-minute-long biology or geometry recitation.
We travel along old roads. They are pathways purposefully cut out and trodden down for us by those who came before. Just like us, these individuals had places to go, things to do, and people to see. Often, in the heat of our current activities we forget that for millennia our ancestors lived surprisingly similar lives to ours in terms of aspirations and desired destinations. They paved our ways before us.