The Call to Wonder

For human beings originally began philosophy, as they do now, because of wonder, at first because they wondered at the strange things in front of them, and later because, advancing little by little, they found greater things puzzling – what happens to the moon, the sun and the stars, how the universe comes to be… Just as we describe a free person as one who exists for his own sake and not for someone else’s, so we also describe this as the only free science, since it is the only one that exists for its own sake.

From Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Bk. I: II

I declared a philosophy major today. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal – college students have majors, it’s just part of the being-a-college-student thing – but I’m so excited anyways. It’s what I’m going to study. I now have a department. I now have an adviser that I chose, not one that was assigned to me. I’m dedicating to knowing things, and knowing how to know about things, and knowing what I can’t know.

I guess today I set out on the path of wonder, and I’m overjoyed by the prospect of my journey.

 

 

Advertisements

Learning to Read.

It’s what I’m writing a paper on right now, for my psychology class. I’m not sure if it’s really writing though – it’s a weird experience for a Humanities girl to work within an empirically based discipline, where everything -or close to everything- I want to say has to be based on research. (In comparison, the paper prompts I usually encounter say something along the lines of “You may cite other sources, but the ideas should be yours.”) Thus, I feel as though I’m just stringing together article summary after article summary.

Anyways, my topic is a really fascinating one. I’m writing about the role of the home environment in early literacy development.

I wish I could remember more about learning to read. I do remember going regularly to the library, and just as regularly coming home with bags stuffed with children’s books. Once one of our dogs chewed a library book up. I was horrified.

Anyways, all this learning to read talk has reminded me of one of my favorite photographs from one of my favorite movies, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scout and Atticus reading before bed

It’s such a beautiful scene. Sniff. And Atticus, what a man. ; )

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Click on the photo for other great shots from the filming of the movie. And watch it if you haven’t.

Discovery

This is a lovely website, well worth bookmarking and returning to:

It’s a collection put together by Billy Collins, prompted by the Library of Congress (at least that’s my understanding). Collins writes, “A 180-degree turn implies a turning back — in this case, to poetry. The idea behind Poetry 180 is simple: to have a poem read each day to the students of American high schools across the country.”

I find it to be a neat project. After browsing through many of the poems yesterday, here are three (very different) favorites (click on the title for the source).

First, a funny one.

Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Cinder Elephant,
Sleeping Tubby,
Snow Weight,
where the princess is not
anorexic, wasp-waisted,
flinging herself down the stairs.

I am thinking of a fairy tale,
Hansel and Great,
Repoundsel,
Bounty and the Beast,
where the beauty
has a pillowed breast,
and fingers plump as sausage.

I am thinking of a fairy tale
that is not yet written,
for a teller not yet born,
for a listener not yet conceived,
for a world not yet won,
where everything round is good:
the sun, wheels, cookies, and the princess.

Now a more reflective one.

Love Poem With Toast by Miller Williams

Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.

The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something,
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.

With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward,
wanting to be wanted,
wanting not to lose the rain forest,
wanting the water to boil,
wanting not to have cancer,
wanting to be home by dark,
wanting not to run out of gas,

as each of us wants the other
watching at the end,
as both want not to leave the other alone,
as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,
we gaze across breakfast and pretend.

And finally, one fitting for this blog, and related to something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Gratitude to Old Teachers by Robert Bly

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight-
We were students then-holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

home-I’m-coming

Break is here.

I am sitting in an airport, ready to catch my flight home.

I had wanted to share a home-related poem that I found the other day in a Wendell Berry collection, but when I went back to find it, someone had checked the book out already. It’ll wait for another journey home, I guess.

Considering the number of things that could have gone wrong, this was one of my smoothest traveling days ever. (Knock on wood, I guess, since I haven’t taken off or landed yet.)

I even managed to pick up a dozen bagels from Wegmans. (My siblings really like fresh bagels.) I wonder if the security officer was amused when my backpack went through the scanner – “folders, books, a few sets of clothes… 12 bagels?!”

Hrm. This is not exactly reflective, as far as my intentions for blog posts go.

I guess I’m saving up those reflection skills for my Hinduism and Buddhism paper, which I turn to next. Ciao!

Airport Dinner

 

“Sorrow’s springs are the same”

What could be more fitting than Hopkins, for a time in which griefs are recurring and the  fall colors are ripening?

Spring and Fall

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

   Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Autumn sunrise over Lake Habeeb

beauty, character, and the kitchen

I’d like to share a passage from the Republic with you. We read it today in Ancient Philosophy, and I enjoyed the passion with which my professor commented on it. For instance, my notes read, “For Plato, there is a connection to moral and aesthetic judgment. Being able to distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly is akin to the ability to distinguish between good and evil.”

From a Christian perspective, I would affirm this with gusto. I took an aesthetics class last spring, and discovered myself to be primarily an aestheticist. In vernacular, this means that the primary value I assign to art is beautiful. We discussed the shortcomings of this view in class, and there certainly are many, the primary problem being the definition of the word beautiful. To keep things simple, I’ll describe beauty as an appeal to the eternal. Something that reflects a transcendent form of beauty, God.

Now, the passage I’m building up to is about education. How does this relate to beauty? Because Plato understands the power of the arts to shape a character. He understands that beauty is more than the feminine, more than art museums, more than pleasurable sights, and more than sentiment. Of course, the Republic has some notorious comments on censorship along with the stuff I prefer, about beauty’s value. You’ll have to humor that and  disregard the censorship aspect (at least for the time being), but for now, let’s sit back and enjoy what Plato has to offer in way of an argument for raising children among the beautiful.

Is it, then, only poets we have to supervise, compelling them to make an image of a good character in their poems or else not to compose them among us? Or are we also to give orders to other craftsmen, forbidding them to represent – whether in pictures, buildings, or any other works – a character that is vicious, unrestrained, slavish, and graceless? Are we to allow someone who cannot follow instructions to work among us, so that our guardians will be brought up on images of evil, as if in a meadow of bad grass, where they crop and graze in many different places every day until, little by little, they unwittingly accumulate a large evil in their souls? Or must we rather seek out craftsman who are by nature able to pursue what is fine and graceful in their work, so that our young people will live in a healthy place and be benefited on all sides, and so that something of these fine works will strike their eyes and ears like a breeze that brings health from a good place, leading them unwittingly, from childhood on, to resemblance, friendship, and harmony with the beauty of reason? (401b-d)

Beauty has been present in my childhood. In many ways, this passage reveals to me a key aspect of my own development, namely, the presence and recognition of physical beauty around me, and its transformation into the abstract realm as I grew. In fact, a key part of my life right now is the pursuit of beauty in the form of truth.

Back to my childhood, and beauty. The presence of beauty was manifested to me in many ways, but at the moment I’d like to focus on its physical manifestations in the home and lifestyle I grew up in. Those of  you who know me will laugh at this point, but one of the things I find most beautiful is the kitchen. In particular, I love the beauty of servanthood, and the preparation of food for others. I love the beauty of fellowship based from the kitchen, working together or sharing in the fruits of labors. I love the unification that occurs in the kitchen, and how it pervades the life of a family. I love the bounty of the earth, and the satisfaction, nourishment, and pleasure that comes from proper stewardship.

Perhaps surprisingly, my recollections of meeting beauty as a child center around this overlooked place.

For the remainder of this post I’d like to share with you some images of beauty in the kitchen. May they speak of beauty to you – of your childhood, present, and nurture of children to come.

(* please note: none of these images are mine. All link back to the source, so please, click, and enjoy the talented photographers who took them.)

 

view-source:https://i2.wp.com/farm3.static.flickr.com/2136/2321718126_b86abc6bce_b.jpg

 

view-source:https://i2.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1075/5135808346_42be0aa65b.jpg

 

 

 

view-source:https://i2.wp.com/farm4.static.flickr.com/3059/3017927061_aeeabf626e_m.jpg

Fog and Religious Differences


It was cold this morning. The fog was lovely. I snapped this photo on my walk to breakfast.

It’s been a bit of a foggy afternoon too, in the realm of my mind. (No, Intro. to Psych. hasn’t made me a materialist just yet.)

I’m slogging through articles on the ‘Hindu-Christian encounter’ for my Hinduism and Buddhism class. Some are absolutely overwhelming. So many interpretations and reinterpretations and new understandings and fulfillment theories and self-realizations… I start to wonder if I’m just dreaming or if it all sounds the same.

Reading many of the articles was also a cause of personal anxiety for me, in that the first batch I read were highly inclusivist. Most of my evangelical friends would describe me as liberal, but (I think that) I fall well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity, and inclusivism does not.

So why would I worry about this?

I felt as though my professor was going to shred my grade to bits, all because I disagreed with material he’d provided for us to read.

At the moment I’ve stopped worrying about it, at least for the most part, mostly due to the fact that I kept reading through the articles. Sure enough, I reached the ones that I did indeed agree with. Whew. And besides, fretting offered me a chance to give myself a little pep-talk about grades and their ultimate insignificance.

But, all of this reading has forced me to embark on a paper-writing-voyage through the fog that is religious pluralism. It’s hard work. Dangerous work. (I agree, yes, yes, yes – NO! – yes, maybe, yes, yes – NO, NO, maybe…) But rewarding work too.

I’ve been challenged to think about dialogue, and it’s benefits for inter-religious relationships. I’ve also been challenged to think about differences, and my own fears about the different. For example, I would describe myself as an open person. Mid-way through this afternoon’s readings, I realized that I was getting pretty jumpy about re-named Christian doctrines. They may just be labels, but I’m clingy about them. They speak to the realm I’m comfortable with. They’re little buttons that I wear, letting the world know that I identify with an accepting group of friends and family who wear those same buttons. I need to work on letting go of my little ‘Christian-labeling-buttons.’ Truth is not limited by them. I’ve also been challenged to think about definitions, and what makes up a religion.

Perhaps I’ll share more after I finish my paper.

For now, I’ll close with this thought from Anantanand Rambachan, a professor of religion at St. Olaf College.

Communities where differences are real, but where they are minimized or downplayed, are more likely to suffer violent and traumatic upheavals when, in times of tension and conflict, such differences become prominent. Communities, on the other hand, which engage each other in a deep search for mutual understanding and which honestly acknowledge differences and cultivate respect are less likely to explode in times of conflict.

May we not be afraid of differences.