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    Book Club: Poetic Knowledge {Chapter 3, Part 2}

    May 7, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    This post is better late than never, right? {Right?} In my defense, I was getting ready to go to the mountains with my beloved and had better things to do than reading difficult books and then writing about them.

    But now I’m back, refreshed, and ready to {try to} play catch up in this book club thing.

    I really think the key paragraph in this section is on page 77. The first time I read it, I underlined it and starred it. Surely that means it is significant!

    Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of EducationBut, since modern philosophies have emerged that no longer regard knowing the truth as natural, or even possible, where what was recognized as self-evident is replaced with a system of doubt, under such conditions, Pieper says, learning is now perceived exclusively as work, rather than an act of leisure.

    There is more to the paragraph, but I think I’ll stop here.

    This was revolutionary for me the first time through because it was the first time I realized that I live in a totally different world from the ancients, and I don’t mean technologically. What I mean is, there was a time when it was considered totally normal to be able to know something–to know the truth. Do we realize how different this is from our world, where we argue about whether or not there even is truth?

    In our world, since some doubt the very existence of truth, the idea is that, well, if truth does exist, then it must be really nebulous and difficult to find out. Maybe only experts know it, right? These are the sorts of thoughts that flow naturally from that idea.

    So then, when we read Taylor and Pieper, and they’re telling us that truth can just up and reveal itself to a little child {and that we teachers need to get. out. of. the. way.}, well, that sounds crazy!

    This is why the paragraph goes on and talks about our world:

    There are no “givens” nor can “inspiration” be taken seriously as valid knowledge–all is mental work and the student, more and more, becomes the intellectual laborer.

    What I am thinking about this weekend is fairly simple. What would it be like to remove the bias of student-as-intellectual-worker? What if I cleared my mind in such a way that I knew that to be created in God’s image meant that knowing things–knowing the truth–was natural. That to know takes less work than I tend to think, because to know is to be human.

    Would this take some of the clamor out of the day? Out of my heart? Can I teach with faith in God’s design? What does that look like? Where does my home not conform to that?

    It’s a lot to think about…

    -More book club posts are linked at Mystie’s blog.

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  • Reply Mystie May 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    A continuum. That’s a good point. Yes, I agree entertainment would be with sloth.

    After all, those ideas like Little House and — for my boys — airplanes and WWI trenches — have to be introduced before they can inform outside playtime or Lego building plans.

    Rule of St. Benedict has made it to my reading table….

  • Reply Silvia May 9, 2011 at 3:57 am

    Me too… I’m type A for a good couple of weeks in the month, most of the time, but I usually have a week or a few days of swinging to the opposite. I need to look more at the days where I believe we are at that middle.
    However, could you Brandy work on the formula? It may be the job of an alchemist!
    I know… there is no magic formula or potion, or pill, or post. :))

    And if you haven’t read Berman, where do you get the monkish idea from? Piper? Or does Berman get it from him too?

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 9, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Okay, I’ve been thinking through the sloth angle for the past day. I was wondering if it would help if we kept “poetic knowledge” in the middle of a continuum. On the one side, we have angst, anxiety, fear, clutter/busyness. On the other side we have…entertainment, acedia, and sloth. Would that work? I am thinking entertainment ties into sloth because both tend to be extreme forms of inactivity. So if we take Willa’s assertion that the *habit* of poetic knowledge would be living life in such a way that there is always opportunity for poetic knowledge, then there are things to *do* on both sides that get us to that place. On the one side, we have reducing clutter in our lives, casting our cares/anxieties upon the Lord, etc. On the other hand, we have a monkish building of rythm into the days that leads into that necessary level of alertness–of listening for the Muses, so to speak.

    I feel like I swing like a pendulum from one of those extremes to the other. Some of that is tied to my health–when I am feeling poorly, I am more prone to sloth or at least to feel slothful/guilty about the amount of rest I might need. But if I’m not careful, I can swing into an unhealthy Type-A mode. Perhaps this is what must be done in order to hit the center eventually? I don’t know…

  • Reply Silvia May 8, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I agree, better late than not at all.
    I’m seeing this more and more now that I read it in the book and in your post. It used to be that people knew there was a truth, and that it was quite natural to find it.

    I started a novel called Life is Good, and to me the main person, and it’s biographic, is a man born in the 1900, who was 103 years old in 2000. He couldn’t read until he was 98. He was a black man born in Texas, and at one point he asks the teacher who is writing the book based on his life, why does he want to write his story? The professor doesn’t have an answer. He says then, I guess I’ll have to answer myself, I know why, I need to speak the TRUTH. This is because what the teacher shows him in the paper of his natal town it is not what he LIVED.

    This men was very intelligent too, because he is a human, as you say, Brandy, and he worked all his life but all he speaks about shows me how poetic his life and mind were.

    I also have much to decipher and learn. I’m just getting acquainted with new concepts, questioning our homeschool and much more… All this learning to me is worth the effort of reading the book, your posts, and organizing this overflow of ideas.

  • Reply Mystie May 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Good post, as always, Brandy. It *is* better late than not at all, especially since you have the marvelous excuse of an anniversary trip. 🙂

    Yes, I am slowly shaking off those parts of me that want to hold fast to seeing learning as work. I began clinging to it when I realized that my own weakness is sloth, not anxiety. It is one thing to tell the anxious to rest, but doesn’t the lazy-bones need to be reminded to get off her derrière?

    So, figuring out how rest and effort mix (and the very related topic of post-justification faith and works) for someone whose temptation is to “rest” too much is still eluding me, though I feel much closer than I did a year or two ago. Most discussions of this seem to be aimed at calming the temptations of the worried and anxious and fearful.

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