Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wisdom Begins in Wonder

In lieu of a real post I thought I would put up John Senior's words on the value of the Good Books -- taken from this site called Great Books Academy, the quote is originally from a very thought-provoking book called Restoration of Christian Culture. Here is a review of the book from Alicia, who was the first to mention the book to me years and years ago:

"The Great Books movement of the last generation has not failed as much as fizzled, not because of any defect in the books - 'the best that has been thought and said,' in Matthew Arnold's phrase - but like good champagne in plastic bottles, they went flat.

To change the figure, the seeds are good but the cultural soil has been depleted; the seminal ideas of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine and St. Thomas thrive only in an imaginative ground saturated with fables, fairy tales, stories, rhymes, and adventures: the thousand books of Grimm, Anderson, Stevenson, Dickens, Scott, Dumas and the rest.

Taking all that was best of the Greco-Roman world into itself, Western tradition has given us the thousand good books as a preparation for the great ones - and for all studies in the arts and sciences. Without them all studies are inhumane. The brutal athlete and the foppish aesthete suffer vices opposed to the virtue of Newman's gentleman. Anyone working at college, whether in the pure arts and sciences or the practical ones, will discover he has made a quantum leap when he gets even a small amount of cultural ground under him: he will grow up like an undernourished plant suddenly fertilized and watered.
Now just notice how that copia of metaphors -- champagne, soil and seedlings, quantam leaps -- still manage to evoke a unity. I think it's interesting how he brings in "quantam" when he discusses how even the scientific mind can benefit from the "cultural ground".

Albert Einstein said:

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking."
Other quotes on the value of imagination and fairy tales at Sur La Lune.

I went and hunted for the quote because of a discussion going on at Real Learning about the role of Great Books and Good Books in the high school years in the home school.

Oh, that's about all I have time or mental focus for right now. Aidan and Paddy are trying to play SET; Liam, who came home this weekend, is sitting opposite me in front of the fireplace with his laptop; Kieron is constructing with pattern beads; and everyone else seems to be asleep. Aidan's IEP is today. More little details of life in the homeschool over at Every Waking Hour.


lissla lissar said...

Oh, dear. That forum looks wonderful. Another messageboard to read every day!

And thank you for the book advice! I've ordered Real Learning and Poetic Knowledge. I actually have absolutely no idea about how homeschooling works. I'm trying to begin constructing a philosophy from the ground up- which will probably change drastically when I'm faced with my children's real needs.

Laura A said...

I linked to your post yesterday because I also happened to post on the cultural background for books a couple of days ago. You quoted John Senior and I quoted James S. Taylor, so no wonder they were similar, but I think it's interesting that when each of us are busy (as I gather you are, too), our minds turn to the downtime which is necessary to enjoy books.

I'm going to follow all the links in this post as time permits. Thanks!

Susan L said...

I love this post. Your title alone says a lot and can keep one thinking for a long time.

The quotes are wonderful. I'm going to send my son the Einstein one. He has said that about fairy tales again and again. He thinks fairy stories are the most profoundly influential (in every way) stories that exist. George MacDonald's fairy stories have helped to firmly establish my son's faith in God by satisfying some of his intellectual spiritual questions in a way that he says no other writing could have done.

Susan :-)

Willa said...

I'm trying to begin constructing a philosophy from the ground up- which will probably change drastically when I'm faced with my children's real needs.

That's probably the fundamental insight ;-). Really. Then you have an ideal plus flexibility, the most important things, it seems to me. Then you can branch out from there. Ask the Holy Spirit for counsel. Then even if you make a mistake it usually is productive in the long run.