I write, speak, invest, network, and question to stimulate fruitful conversation. Let's talk about human flourishing! It begins with freedom. Holy leisure is the key to human being, freedom and generativity. Please join me in the adventure of realizing Christ!
: appreciative of, responsive to, or zealous about the beautiful; also : responsive to or appreciative of what is pleasurable to the senses
Just in case you wondered whether mothers have a role in the aesthetic education of their children, I give you these definitions. Maybe it seems obvious to you, but to many moms at home it’s news that they have a key role in the development of this essential aspect of their child’s being. Feeling frumpy, house not as clean as it should be, no adult conversations all day, no time for extras like art and music…does this sound like any young mom you know? It sounds like lots of young moms to me. That’s why I enjoy encouraging them that even with all those realities, they still make a priceless contribution to more than the mere physical care of the little ones.
To make a case against two opposing ways of un-making beauty, I invented two characters, Dishrag Dora and Pushy Polly, who grow more like Beautiful Beatrice the more they respond to Christ’s call to the narrow way, the via media. The beauty that is becoming YOU, becoming realized in and finding expression through you, is not something you must generate, but something you must accept, grow into, possess, allow to develop, learn to dwell in, cultivate. Because the Beauty is Christ, is already real, is working to be made fully manifest. Dora and Polly lose capacity for that Beauty when they fail to cultivate heart freedom, responsiveness, the affective dimension.
‘My’ moms learn to suffer well, to be affected and so to develop their children’s capacity to be affected and to make judgements with a reason informed by the heart’s sense of what is good, pleasing and perfect. There’s so much more to this one, yet it is all another way of saying that true freedom, true beauty, true education, true relationship with Christ all go together on that narrow way.
I love Dorothy Sayers’ book The Mind of the Maker, and enjoy taking people through it to share her insights into the creative mind of God. She and I are both struck by the strange truth that, though God is (above all things?) a Creator, and we are made in His image, there is not much attention paid to developing an understanding of what ‘being a creator’ means.
It seems extra-spiritual, perhaps, but isn’t this right to the point? If we care what it means to be a good father, a wise ruler, a truthful judge (because these metaphors help us understand God and our own roles in life), but we care nothing about learning to be a creator, a storyteller, a dramatist, a musician, a poet, an artist of any kind, what does that say about our ‘spirituality’??
Yet rarely do I see Christians taking a drawing class, for instance, because they assume there is something huge to learn there about God and His ways; about themselves and their ways. But there is! When you realize it is the whole person who sees and not just the eyes or brain, you begin to realize how much more there is to see than you have understood.
When you try to act, but cannot release yourself to allow the giving of the character to a waiting audience, you find out something about your self-consciousness, and understand more deeply what the Incarnation cost Christ. When you think you have sound (even great) ideas, but never put them to the test of struggling to articulate them, opening them to scrutiny and judgment and comparison, you are missing something about who you are and what virtue is.
Well, I could go on and on, and wouldn’t have to if everyone would just get on board and read books like this! Being a creator, an artist, a maker of form, is a path of spiritual growth, if you understand the potential and the limits of this metaphor.
The Problem – We must get kids from where they are, to where they need to be; from ‘uneducated’ to ‘educated’. Given the poverty of our own education, we feel asked to do the impossible: build a bridge as we cross it. No way!
But there’s a problem with the problem – Kids aren’t all ‘here,’ and you don’t know exactly where ‘there’ is, so you must bridge from everywhere to nowhere. No wonder you’re exhausted!
We’ve got to rediscover particularity, because the individual has been lost in generalities, norms, averages. St. Pope John Paul suggested that what is necessary in our world today is the “recapitulation of the inviolable mystery of the human person.”
What is the role of ‘recapitulation’ in the education of our children? How do we educate for ‘betweenness’? Why is wonder the foundation for philosophy, and how does poetry play a pivotal role in the development of our interior life?
In this talk, I address these and many other questions you may not have realized you should be asking!
A mom is the caretaker of a huge, wonderful, potentially beautiful, critically important place! She, herself, this actual, unique person, is the single most important ‘environment’ in the lives of her children. Like Mary, like the Church, she is an atmosphere.
She is an atmosphere of affection. This is not just warm, fuzzy feelings, but her capacity to be affected, to be moved. Home is Mom’s joy infused into persons, like grace.
She is an acoustic atmosphere. Think of all the sounds she makes besides yelling, “Off with their heads!” now and then! Home is Mom’s voice lifting persons toward God.
She is an aesthetic atmosphere. All the order and beauty, color, line, pattern, radiance, and integrity of the environment she is, and the environment she creates, is the child’s first taste of love-in-formed. Home is Mom wrapped around persons like love.
With thanks for the poem, The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, I designed this talk for the 2014 Kansas Catholic Homeschooling Conference, and will gladly present it again for you!
Here’s a collection of my talks that feature poetry, poems, or poetic formation.