Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Some initial thoughts on the 2012 CiRCE conference

because I can’t go back to reading Ideas Have Consequences as long as I’m full of this conference – I’m afraid it’ll make my head explode

“The world that God made is best known through harmony.” ~John Hodges

In the first session, “A Contemplation of Creation, Part I,” Andrew Kern talked about creation, metaphor, and analogy. He said that the Law of God, the Torah, should not be thought of as a legal code, but as the wisdom of God. Notice that it begins with the story of his creation, and of his care for his people. Torah teaches us of his creation, his craftsmanship, his artistry. The core principle is harmony, unity in diversity.

All of the creation myths in the world embody the Myth of Violence. Think about the Greek story of Chaos and the Titans and the gods. Think of the modern myth of the Big Bang. Only the Biblical account does not begin in violence – a Triune God, at unity within the Godhead, creating out of his love and peace. The world we live in today is very angry at us because only we have the Myth of Peace. Referencing Elizabeth’s Theokritoff’s book Living in God's Creation he said that we are the bond of unity in creation – we are to unite the disparate aspects of the created order and bring them into unity with God.

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John Hodges gave his lecture, “Music and Metaphor: Towards a Sacramental View of Creation,” right after Andrew Kern, and he swore that they hadn’t been comparing notes. The quote at the top is from his lecture, which was all about harmony.

He said that Christ used metaphors to teach about himself – “I am the vine,” “I am the door” – but the metaphor works the other way too. Since Christ was there first, and since creation reflects the creator, the reason we even have vines in the first place is because they are like God in some way.

Other insights from John Hodges:

Metaphor is taking two disparate things and bringing them into harmony

Art is embodying something that is not able to be perceived except through that medium

Our Triune God is invisible; Trinity cannot be imaged logically

Perception of beauty = the ability to see harmony

Our ability to perceive beauty (and beauty itself) is fallen – we have broken perception; therefore we must help our students hone their ability to see harmony, we must teach them what to listen for in music, what to look for in the arts, show them what it is about a great work that makes it worth loving

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I was impressed (again) with the importance of having a harmonious household – that our relations with each other should be harmonious is the obvious application, but our relationship with our things and the things’ relationship with each other also should be in harmony. Making the home a harmonious environment is foundational to teaching our children what harmony is, and teaching them to love it.

And of course, the reason I keep harping on this is because I need to hear it myself. OFTEN.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ideas Have Consequences: Chapter 1, The Unsentimental Sentiment

[I have out of town guests arriving at any moment, so I'm just copying and paste my post for this chapter from last time -- the original can be found here.]

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Forgot to add this:

Join the discussion at Mystie's blog

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Blogging through this book with Cindy and others is not going to be easy. The concepts are so huge that they are hard to summarize and it’s difficult even to pick out quotes since Richard Weaver did not write in sound bites. For this reason, please be patient with me when I quote long passages.

Chapter I: The Unsentimental Sentiment

The man of self-control is he who can consistently perform the feat of abstraction. He is therefore trained to see things under the aspect of eternity, because form is the enduring part. Thus we invariably find in the man of true culture a deep respect for forms. He approaches even those he does not understand with awareness that a deep thought lies in an old observance. Such respect distinguishes him from the barbarian, on the one hand, and the degenerate, on the other. The truth can be expressed in another way by saying that the man of culture has a sense of style. Style requires measure, whether in space or time, for measure imparts structure, and it is structure which is essential to intellectual apprenhension. (p. 23)

When I first started this blog, my header said something like “…taking dominion by beautifying one tiny little corner of the world.” By saying that, I was trying to express the idea that everything we do as Christian women to beautify the sphere the Lord has put us into is a very real and a very valuable way of fulfilling mankind’s creation mandate, of rejoicing in being created in his image, and of glorifying the Lord. But after reading the book mentioned in the previous post, I changed it to the much superior words of fellow Arkansan John Gould Fletcher: “…to make our lives an art…”

This, I think, is at least partly what Mr. Weaver is pointing to in this chapter, and this is something I need to remind myself of on a regular basis. I tend to have lofty ideals but then translating those ideals into practice is very hard for me, and for other women I know. Here are some ideas that might inspire those who need foundational help in this area.

• Be sure that your day has a reasonably predictable rhythm to it. If you have no idea where to begin, start with meals and bedtimes - decide when you should have supper, and that will let you know when you need to start preparing it, when the little ones need naps, when to serve lunch and whether the little ones need a snack between lunch and supper, and so forth. From there you can decide when to schedule regular chores, like laundry, when to have storytime…

Do have nap time every afternoon, even if all your children have outgrown the need for a nap. Everyone in the family still needs a space of quiet, alone time when they’re free to daydream or play with their favorite things without having to share. Moms who are homeschooling (unless they are extremely extroverted and get charged up by being around small people all day long - of which, I am most decidedly not one) especially need this regular time every day, if they are going to make it for the long haul.

• Set the table, with real dishes, for every meal, using paper plates only on rare occasion. Unless you’re in absolute survival mode and can’t possibly face having plates to wash after meals, I’d recommend this for all meals. Having a pretty table to sit down to makes the meal so much more pleasant - and you don’t have to have all matching stuff. I have four different sets of flatware, half of it picked up at thrift stores, that we use at each meal. For a long time I had two different sets of stoneware, but they were both white, so it looked fine on the table.

• A trick I learned from a “More Hours in my Day” seminar with Emilie Barnes is to ring a bell a few minutes before a meal to give everyone time to finish up what they’re doing and wash their hands. At supper I ring ours twenty to thirty minutes before the meal because Mike and a couple of the older kids are usually still out doing barn chores. This gives them plenty of time to finish what they’re doing and time to change clothes if needed. In the meantime, the rest of us come to the living room and sit down and read or play quietly or talk. It’s amazing how civilizing this time is. The family gathers in one place, I make a last-minute check on things and then tell them they can come to the table. (This is, of coure, the ideal - it doesn’t happen every day, especially if Mike had to work late at the office.)

• Model using a pleasant tone of voice and encourage your children to do the same. Shouting is for outside - don’t yell for your kids unless there’s an emergency. Get up and go find them or send a messenger. We have a rule in our family that we aren’t supposed to speak to someone unless we can see their eyes. This reminds us to get close enough to speak in a moderate tone of voice, and it helps us notice whether the person is already speaking to someone else so that we don’t interrupt. Teach your children to say “Yes, Ma’am,” and “Yes, Sir,” or whatever is the appropriately respectful response in your family or region.

• Get dressed first thing in the morning. Fix your hair, and if you wear makeup or jewelry, put it on before you go to the kitchen to start breakfast. Don’t laugh! I know that sounds really basic, but I grew up with the habit of not getting dressed right away unless we were going somewhere (which, of course, was every day but most Saturdays) and I’d actually been a wife and mother for two or three years before I realized that this was my job and I ought to get dressed for my family even though I wasn’t going out that morning. :-p Expect the older kids to dress themselves before breakfast, including having their teeth brushed and hair neat. I am not going to require you to put on shoes every day the way some homemaking advisors do - I’m a Southerner, and like Henny-penny, “I go barefoot, barefoot, barefoot!” :-D

• Make eye contact, smile, and greet one another with a hug first thing each morning. As Laura said in These Happy Golden Years, saying “Good morning” really does make it a good morning!

• Listen to a wide range of good music throughout the week. We’re focusing our attention this term on Antonine Dvořák’s music, so sometimes we’ll listen to his piano solos or Slavonic dances while preparing meals. I prefer listening to his symphonies and string quartets when I have time to sit down and pay attention. His Mass in D major is simply beautiful (ignore the review at Amazon - the guy’s a snob; apparantly he didn’t like it because it’s a live recording of an actual church choir in church, rather than professionals in a studio, but that’s exactly the version I wanted).

• Read some poetry each day to your children. The little ones and I are reading through Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and with the older ones I’m reading through Ambleside Online’s Year 6 poetry list, chosen because I haven’t read poetry with the older ones since they were little.

My biggest challenge is simply keeping the house tidy. Children need to grow up in an orderly and peaceful environment, and we have too much stuff, defined as “more stuff than I can manage without being consumed by it.” I feel like I’ve been ruthlessly dejunking this year, but evidently I’m going to have to be ruthlesser. ;-) If you’re a mom just starting out, take two bits of advice from me: 1) Don’t accumulate stuff, and 2) Teach your children to pick up after themselves from infancy. Trust me. I’ve learned this the hard way.

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The Hidden Art of Homemaking, by Edith Schaeffer

Sidetracked Home Executives, by Pam Young and Peggy Jones

More Hours in My Day, by Emilie Barnes

Ambleside Online has Charlotte Mason’s books online so you can read them for free - many of her ideas are in the vein of what I’ve been trying to say in this post.

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By the way, if you want to read the book is actually about, go over to Dana’s blog, Hidden Art. She has insight and a wonderful way with words.

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate.  If you click through the links to Amazon and buy something I'll be compensated a tiny bit for advertising on my blog.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ideas Have Consequences: Introduction

Mystie is hosting this book club, which I'm planning on participating in. I read the book when Cindy hosted the discussion in 2007, but I wasn't able to comment on each chapter. This time around I'm mainly planning on dusting off my old posts (which aren't on this site yet -- I was blogging elsewhere then and that site died, sadly), but hopefully I'll be able to reread the book and have more to say this time.

That said, I hadn't planned on doing the introductory chapter, but the discussion at Mystie's blog spurred me to write a long enough response that I figured I may as well post it here. The subject of technology came up and whether it's good, bad, or neutral.

(For a summary of this chapter, be sure to visit Mystie's blog.)

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I’ve been thinking all week, trying to figure out how to word this and I haven’t come up with anything satisfactory, but here goes anyway.

It seems to me that “things” (specifically technology, since that’s the topic) by their nature encourage certain uses and choices and discourage others, so that they aren’t exactly completely neutral objects. I’m not going so far as to say that they are actors, but I also can’t say that they are completely... neutral or passive in the way they are used.

We conservatives are fond of saying things like “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” which is true as far as it goes, but the fact is that guns are designed to blow holes in things from a distance, ideally while keeping the user safe from close contact with the target.

So, a gun, as a weapon is used differently than a sword, for instance, and it requires different skills and different strategies. Same thing as a hunting tool when compared to a hand-made spear. So the kind of person who is trained to use one weapon will turn out to be different than the kind who is trained to use the other.

That’s what I mean by technologies not being neutral.

I find it interesting that in most of these discussions someone eventually gets around to saying, “I’m not saying we should all be Amish,” but that betrays a lack of understanding of how the Amish approach technology. They don’t reject things outright. New technologies are picked up by interested members of the community and used for a while, while everyone else watches what happens. How does the technology actually affect the user? How does it change the way he’s been doing things? How does it affect his family? How does it affect the broader community? After a few years of watching this experimentation, the bishops will meet and begin discussing what they’re learning, and eventually reach a conclusion. This technology has these effects, so in order to protect our relationships with each other it may be used in this way but not in that.

It’s a slow and deliberate method of evaluating change, values the family and the community above individual convenience or profit, and is understood and respected by the community. Seems like a good plan to me.

A few years ago, Rick Saenz mentioned on his blog that prior to the Industrial Revolution, new technology developed really slowly so that the broader culture had time to adapt to the changes brought about by each new thing before the next new thing was developed. I think that was a blessing. The more I read about the Industrial Revolution the more I wonder why it happened. Why was it a revolution and not simply a continuation of the past slow progress? What was different and why had it changed? Even though we’ve benefitted materially in many ways from it, overall I can’t help but think that as human beings, as families, we really are not better off.

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I'm an Amazon Affiliate, which means I'll get a bit of monetary compensation for advertising on my blog if you click through the links and purchase the book.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Right brain or left brain?

Dana posted this quiz and asked her readers to let her know which they are, so I played along -- generally speaking, I love this sort of thing.

I found it a hard test, though. There were a few questions that I could have answered either way, just depending on the circumstances -- the one about whether you prefer to work alone or in a group, for example. For me that depends on the nature of the work. So I answered all the questions and got this result:

Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Your Result: Right Side

The right brain however, processes from whole to parts. You see the big picture first, not the details. You are however not good at spelling, math, and science. Problem solves with hunches, looking for patterns. You are good at sports and writing. You have an imagination which is good because when you have imaginatin you tend to be more smart. You prefer working in a group than by yourself. You also like to read fantasy and mystery stories. You can also listen to music or TV while studying. You perfer having fun than work. You also think better when lying down! I am a right sided person many people are right sided so you are normal.

Left Side
Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Then I answered it again, changing those iffy ones, and got this result:

Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Your Result: Left Side

The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from part to whole. It takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in a logical order; then it draws conclusions. You look at the details not the big picture. You use logic not imagination. The left brained person is a list maker. You would enjoy making master schedules and and daily planning. Learning things in sequence is easy for you. You are probability a good speller. Left-brained people memorize vocabulary words or math formulas better. You also use logic. When you read and listen, you look for the pieces so that you can draw logical conclusions. The left side of the brain deals with things the way they are-with reality. When left brain students are affected by the environment, they usually adjust to it. Left brain people want to know the rules and follow them. So basicly you are smart! Congratulations!

Right Side
Which Side of your Brain Do You Use?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Neither one of them really describes me.

I am a whole-to-parts, big picture person (Right brain), but I'm good at spelling and I love science and was good at it in school (Left brain). I'm sure that the only reason I did so badly at math is because of the way it was taught -- thousands of details and formulae and operations, and no big picture at all, and I love math games and playing with numbers (Right brain).

I love drawing up master schedules and making plans (Left brain) but I loathe working with details (Right brain). I always loved vocabulary word lists and I'm horrible with figures of speech (Left brain), but I love fantasy stories, fairy tales, and mysteries (Right brain).

I absolutely cannot listen to music or watch TV while studying or reading, or doing anything at all for that matter (except maybe fold towels) (Left brain), but now that they mention it, I do think better while lying down and that's my preferred position for reading (Right brain).

Do I prefer fun to work? Hm. I don't think so, but I think some work really is fun, and I do prefer the work when there's some fun involved -- "fun" for me being having an interesting conversation while working -- but it seems like everyone is like that; it just depends on how you define fun. On the other hand, I can have fun (read books with my children, have interesting conversations, listen to beautiful music, watch movies) in the face of lots of neglected work without it bothering me too much (Right brain-ish).

Do I want to "know the rules and follow them"? Lots of times, yes, especially when it's an area where there's received wisdom and I see no reason to waste time re-inventing the wheel. I read the instructions, and I hate instructions that are only pictures (Left-brain).

Problem-solving is a joke. Early on I learned that only Stupid, Irrational, Bleeding-heart Liberals follow their hunches and Smart Sensible People use logic, so that's the method I use, but because I'm so bad at details I always overlook important data and come to wrong conclusions. I see things in terms of patterns and more often than not my hunches are correct, so I'm trying to learn to pay more attention to them. For some reason my head and my heart are not on speaking terms with one another.

My favorite line from Henry V is "I and my bosom must debate awhile."

So, how about you? Are you Left-brain, Right-brain, or somewhere in the middle?