Thursday, February 24, 2011

Imagination & Art:Neun Gute Helden

Nine statues grace the old city hall building (south side-link see last paragraph) in Cologne, Germany and stand tall in their contribution to the development of the ideal hero.  Sculpted in the 13th century these valiants are the earliest known representations of a group of champions who best personified the ideals of chivalry as described by Jacques de Longuyon in the French epic poem, Vows of the Peacock.

Worthies (link to poem) is the label assigned to these select historical, scriptural, mythological or semi-legendary characters  who were identified in the Middle Ages to represent all facets of the perfectly chivalrous warrior.

The study of the life of each would thus form a good education for the aspiring young man because as a team they exemplified all the moral virtues and courage necessary for soldiership.

This artwork ties directly into my current book club selection, How to Destroy The Imagination of Your Child, where the author Anthony Esolen supplies the reader with a host of books, novels, epics, tales, and narratives which, if read, will inform (NOT destroy)  the imagination and prepare it for a life of service.

Allow me to introduce the Worthies who compose a triad of triads true to medieval symmetry ~

Alexander the Great
Julius Caesar

Judas Maccabeus

King Arthur
Godfrey of Bouillon

The first triad is pagan;  the second represents Old Testament Jews, and the third Christian princes.

May the literature inspired by these personages act as refreshing gargoyles spilling stimulating springs of ideas into the hearts and minds of our up-and-coming generation of heroes.

And thanks to Cindy for hostessing this fun online book club and for having the insight to choose such a worthy volume.

Bonus Link ~

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Club: Imagination Method #6


Am I reviewing Method 6 in Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (book club link)


Am I promoting the new movie which demonstrates heroism in action?

Does the titular adjective refer to an overactive imagination which capitalizes on flippancy, sarcasm, and derision?

Or the paradoxical resolution of the movie's name?

There is certainly enough dynamite in the film to blow mountains of heaped-up conformity and dullness sky-high.

Yet in Esolen's essay Pottering the Puny he eschews modern media and points us to the victories found in an host of ancient and historical literary superheroes, all of whom capture the imagination but not all of whom spring from Biblical standards.

The professor's methodologies provide significant insight into the proper application of these stories into our daily lives and the lives of our students,  making them more suitable than modern day versions.

And that is good, but not all.

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), American educator, author, orator, and political leader provides an alternate definition of hero.
On the battlefield, when surrounded and cheered by pomp, excitement, and admiration of devoted comrades, and inspired by strains of martial music and the hope of future reward, it is comparatively easy to be a hero, to do heroic deeds.

But to uphold honor in ordinary circumstances, to be a hero in common life, that is a genuine achievement meriting our highest admiration.

Now those words epitomize heroism and capture faith-in-action for me.

Doing everything as unto the Lord (Col 3:23) and being a part of that gathering of the saints (Matt 23:31)  leave every other notion in the dust.  For is hero a Biblical term?

Does my favor for Booker T's summary mean I've fallen prey to the post-modernists who putate heroic equality?

Does upholding honor in ordinary circumstances trump a one-time, fortuitous rescue?

Frank and Will (main characters in the movie) were real, the situation plausible.

So, what is the difference?

It is admirable to have heroes and read about them, but your life is not doomed if you do not.  It is more necessary to know how to size men up and wield a proper weapon.  Thankfully, Esolen uses one example who is all about presenting the gospel (pg 144) and another which points to The Type, Our Savior, Jesus Christ. (pg 147)

The apostle John shares the secret to being heroic in I John 2: 14 (emphasis mine)
I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

Esolen understands this and calls us to arms (link to 2008 merecomments).

The holy catholic church, as the Body of Christ, is as always the first defender and last bastion of truth, goodness, and beauty in the God's world. Having preserved the Gospel of Christ in its fullness through the vagaries and degradations of countless heresies, the Church is now facing, quite possibly, the most significant and far-reaching heresy since the Arian controversies - the widespread rejection of revealed Truth and apostolic authority by the majority of the world's population as well as millions of the so-called "faithful."

The gross libertinism of the elite; the vague gnosticism and casual self-indulgence of the many, the willful indifference to the carnage of the innocent. It is the same old story.

So let us gird up our loins, welcome any allies who will join us in the rejection of evil, and armed with the assurance of ultimate victory, meet the enemy with the weapons of truth, courage, fidelity and love.

Thanks be to God for the joy of battle and the endurance of the church militant.

Onward, Christian Soldier!

That's why I'm keep writing about this book and relating it to my ordinary life.

But I do wonder if Unstoppable would make it into Esolen's Netflix queue?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fashion on Fridays

Temperatures have been gradually climbing this week, now boasting 70 degrees on this Winter Day.

Hence my thoughts turn to the Pantone color palette which I will use to help organize the closet/wardrobe for this coming Spring and Summer.

Today I know better than to dress like it's going to be warm outside.  The fact that the temperature may reach 70 degrees this weekend really only means that the mercury hits that number for one second at three o'clock in the afternoon and then starts dropping again.

So, dont be fooled.

Bring along the coat and scarf as you plan to get outside for that long overdue walk.

Where are you going?

Here I am on Tobler Creek Trail at Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, GA.  More trails pictures at this link.

What are you wearing?

Still enjoying my favorite color, Turquoise (aka Peapod), which won the 2010 Pantone Color of the Year.

The turtleneck is lavender.

The plaid scarf (barely seen) is purple, pink, and lavender.

Tomorrow I hope to make it down to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for their orchid exhibition.  Lots of walking there, especially the Canopy Path!

Warning ~  Before you act on my Fashion Advice....

Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) - Saddle Oxfords have been some of my favorite shoes, like Flannery O'Connor's whose artwork I'm highlighting this week in my Fine Art Friday post here.

Doggone this Golden Slipper Contest!  Now we have to wear saddle oxfords.

Published (2010) in The Cartoons of Flannery O'Connor at Georgia College.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One by One

Book Club Moderator and Virtue-Ordering Mother-Extraordinaire, Cindy asserted yesterday that poetic knowledge trumps the educational trick and better prepares the student for life.

While I dont believe Cindy thinks that math/science should be ignored in the curriculum, I do want to challenge all of us to remember that the poetic exists in those realms as well.

As we read through Anthony Esolen's methodologies (link to Mirus review) for reviving our own imaginations (the only way to keep from destroying those of our children) allow me set before you the advice of one who wielding his weapon did do battle with the times and can help us sharpen our own swords.

Meet the Sage of Mecosta ~ Russell Amos Kirk.

In his autobiography, The Sword of the Imagination, Dr Kirk explains that there is not one sword of imagination, but five!  The historical, political, moral, poetic, and prophetic.

If I may borrow from Gleaves Whitney's ISI book review,

  • Leaders need the historical imagination to understand what humankind has been.
  • They need the political imagination to know what humankind can do in community.
  • They need the moral imagination to discern what the human person ought to be.
  • They need the poetic imagination to perceive how human beings can best use their creative energies.
  • They need the prophetic imagination to divine what human beings will be, given the choices they make.

Cindy's blog name Ordo Amoris (ordering of affections) is a throwback to Augustine's definition of virtue, whick Kirk addresses as well.

This ordering or prioritizing (my word) shows itself in different civilizations which Kirk traced in his book, Roots of American Order.  We Americans have been privileged to inherit the ordering of the soul from the Hebrews, the ordering of the minds from the ancient Greeks, the ordering of polity from the Romans, the ordering of law from the English, and last but most important, the ordering of LOVE from Christ (Christians).

Now with that background, let's be on our mission of redeeming the time with our young (potential) leaders.

What are yours reading today?

Photo Credit: Julie Robison
Family Heirloom Sword
situated above the mantel at
Piety Hill, Mecosta, MI
home of Russell and Annette Kirk

Dr John Willson (seated before the fireplace in above photo) is giving a short lecture about this knight errant to Hillsdale College students who made a pilgrimmage Kirk's ancestral home last Spring.

Today, however, here's a link to what you should be reading: Dr Willson's exhortation for recovery, Was There a Founding?,at e-zine, Imaginative Conservative.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Club:  Imagination #5 Discussion Questions

In our family "Our hero" is always followed by "Harold Ramorez." Why?

Who is Harold Ramorez?
Is he related to Epaminondas?

What is your favorite heroic epic?

Eneas Africanus by Harry Stillwell Edwards

Have you memorized this poem yet?


Why not?

Per Plato, my memory has been destroyed and my mind is weak.
Plus I have two copies (one hardback, one paperback) and it's available to you to read online.

In competition with Sir Walter's lofty lines,
I propose Randolph of Roanoke by John Greenleaf Whittier ~

All parties feared him: each in turn
Beheld its schemes disjointed,
As right or left his fatal glance
And spectral finger pointed.
Sworn foe of Cant, he smote it down
With trenchant wit unsparing,
And, mocking, rent with ruthless hand
The robe Pretence was wearing.

Too honest or too proud to feign
A love he never cherished,
Beyond Virginia’s border line
His patriotism perished.
While others hailed in distant skies
Our eagle’s dusky pinion,
He only saw the mountain bird
Stoop o’er his Old Dominion!

What do Yeats, Walter Scott and Flannery O'Connor have in common?

Piety of Place  ~

I'm on a mission to find out why Mary Flannery named her place *Andalusia.*
This link to the farm website states that the O'Connors called it *Sorrel Farms* until they realized the original owners/family had named it *Andalusia.*

In A Good Man is Hard to Find did you feel badly about what happened to the grandmother?

Frankly, I was totally taken aback by the story, having never wanted to read it again.   But after perusing some of O'Connor's non-fiction, now I understand that she was purposefully trying to shock the reader.  I still question her approach (I am still turned off by her characters) and turn to Mark Twain's advice for comfort ~

Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possiblities.  Truth is not.

Even though a lot of people from Florence, Italy are apparently in Hell, why do we still desire to visit that city?

Because Tony Esolen is lead guide for the tour.

How does this chapter relate to what is currently happening in Egypt?

If I stretch my imagination, I'll guess that some Egyptians are acting on feelings of patriotism.   But I'm rather suspicious of the situation and like to read alternative news sources.  One article suggests that a MLK comic inspired some.  Another suggests that the uprising started after a young girl's speech.

Questions inspired by the imagination of book club moderator and writer extraordinaire, Cindy.

Join the discussion!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book Club:  Imagination Method #5

How-to books can be annoying oversimplifications for negotiating life, but not Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.

Chapter after chapter he guides us through a wide variety of literature and shows us how it applies to every day lives.

Continuous critical and damaging remarks on persons, places, and things have altered not only the literal landscapes of our country, but also the literary places of our imaginations.

Esolen is heroic in his efforts to help us remember, recognize, and realize.

With copious examples from literature, Esolen directs the focus of  parents to four areas:  the gathering of communities (holidays), honoring our elders (heroes), loving the land (terra firma), and remembering history (genealogy).

Frankly, when I was reading some of these epics and stories in high school and college, I struggled just to grasp the surface meanings.  It was in French that I read portions of La Chanson de Roland, in Latin that I read the Aeneid.  I thought Flannery O'Connor was weird (kinda still do) and that poets are difficult to understand (some still are).

This past Saturday I took a field trip with DD#3, one of her college friends, and one of my nephews.  We three visited Andalusia Farm (Mary Flannery's homestead) in Milledgeville, GA, walking all over the property, visiting O'Connor's grave, and attending mass at her family church (Sacred Heart).

First, we set the tone by eating together (link to Blue Willow).

Thankfully, imaginations can be revived.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Club:  Imagination Method #4

It destroys memory
and weakens the mind,
relieving it of the work
that makes it strong.

It is an inhuman thing.

What is it?

Just like Plato lamented the use of the stylus during his lifetime, Anthony Esolen makes a valiant case against exposing ourselves to the synthetic light emanating from the GNAC, whether it be an LED or a neon billboard.

Sound bites, cliches, spin, or propaganda, Esolen gives us example after example of how truth has been corrupted and reading literature will keep you from falling for everything (from decay).

Just like I admired the dust jacket for Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, this week I spent time studying the bibliography and index.  Those two sections distinguish this book, making it more useful.  But in order for our charges to be able to read and comprehend the recommended novels, we teachers must lay a solid groundwork early on in our children's schooling.

There are lots of ways to build that foundation.

Those basics never change.

But there is a host of skills that parents alone must demonstrate.

Nothing better than a cursory examination of the current state of affairs in the great USofA (link to Land of Opportunity) and watching our current leaders talk like they are living in Camelot (link to prayer b'fast analysis) proves that we are already stultified.

Please don't tell me that you dont know what I'm talking about.

Bonus Link:  (Creative Writing by Yours Truly)

Monday, February 07, 2011

O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;*

Once upon a time early in his reporting career Verity Jones of WGNC-TV covered the trial of Sheriff Miles Upright when the US DOJ indicted him on felony charges.

And despite the fact that ten years had passed since that final on-camera interview with the defendent, Verity continued to ponder the entire situation especially the lawman's parting comments.

What did he mean when he looked straight into the television camera and said ~

Read your Shakespeare!

Sipping his cognac in the Men's Grille at the country club, Verity was alone with his thoughts.

Read your Shakespeare!

The words haunted him.

He could recall the plot of Romeo and Juliette from high school English class and could still recite a few lines from Hamlet's *To Be or Not To Be* soliloquy.  Did it count for something that last year he'd taken his wife to the Shakespeare Tavern for dinner?

But actually sitting down alone in a peaceful and quiet place, handling a book, opening the volume, turning the pages, and reading all the lines of just one of the bard's plays?

That he'd never done.

Verity regretted never following up directly with Upright to ask exactly what he'd meant by that exhortation:  three simple words... spoken clearly and directly into the young reporter's microphone when leaving the courthouse after the sentencing.

Verity continued to be confused about the way the case play out.  Justice seemed overshadowed by politics.  The sheriff had a wide reputation for doing what was right and honorable.  Somehow the fraud investigation had backfired.

How did Upright get caught in all this intrigue?

It didnt make sense.  The sheriff was not easily fooled.

Just last week at the sheriff's funeral, citizens and family alike lauded his charisma and character.   He knew when to be silent and how to be patient.  He thought before he acted.  He protected the community.

Read your Shakespeare!

The evocative effects of the cognac were wearing off and Verity finished brooding.

On the way home he stopped at the bookstore.

It was past time to soldier up.

*Virgil, in Book I of the Aeneid:

O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;
What goddess was provok'd, and whence her hate;
For what offense the Queen of Heav'n began
To persecute so brave, so just a man; [...]

(John Dryden translation, 1697)

Bonus Link:  Who's Afraid?

Link added 7/9/2105 *Best Business Book*

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Book Club:  Imagination #3 Discussion Questions

Cindy, book club hostess, continues to deliver shocks to our synapses even while suffering with a fever.  This blogger is dedicated to discipleship, even when she declines your invitation. 

We're reading Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy Your Child's Imagination.

Has God made the human spirit resilient enough to overcome the dangers of modernity?

Yes ;-)

Sociologically, though, we do see patterns, knowing how God does give us the ability to overcome how should we approach the schooling norms of our age?

Set your eyes on a vision, make a plan, execute maneuvers, re-evaluate annually, repeat.

Is it still possible to succeed without traditional schooling?

Yes, read the example of Mr Mission Possible.
 (google it)

Why do we worry about it so much?

Mistrust.  And worry is entertaining.

Is going to a science museum similar to going to Chuck E Cheeses?

I dont think so, espcially if you go to The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY

Besides I hate Chuck E Cheeses.  The gorilla scared me!

What projects have your children done on their own?

In addition to the dreaded annual science project, one spear-headed an a capella singing group at her high school.  I will post others as they come to mind.

What did you do as a child along these lines?

Aside from the normal school project, I had a thriving babysitting business as teenager.  Then I worked summers as a lifeguard (in additional to a part-time retail clerk).  I taught group swimming lessons at our neighborhood pool.

Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?
Only if the sky is blue.

Either than or she's making fun of us  ;-)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Book Club: Imagination Method #3

Scott's Antique Market is the type of place that comes to mind while reading Anthony Esolen describing the merits of junkyard schooling in his new book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 4, 5, and 6 are the next dates.

Take advantage of Scott's cultural experience here in Georgia.

One man's trash is another's treasure.

There are lots of positive outcomes from this type of parenting.

Georgia boasts a writer who grew up in a junkyard:  Janisse Ray.

Texas claims a junkyard millionaire:  Ron Sturgeon.

But the best advice I've read for helping one's child select a way of life (a career) is from a lady who is 113 years old today.  She wrote a book in 1971.

Here's a link to my short review of Leila Denmark's book, Every Child Should Have a Chance.

There is a common thread in the lives of these three successful individuals, besides lots of reading, a hobby, and elbow grease (hard work).  Esolen highlights it in this third method of his tongue-in-cheek parenting manifesto:  How to Destroy Your Child's Imagination  or Keep Children Away from Machines and Machinists.

Janisse, Ron, and Leila all spent time around adults and in places where children supposedly weren't allowed.

When Ron was only 17 years old his father died and his stepmother kicked him out of the house.  In a 1992 INC Magazine article, he gives advice:  "Read, read, and read some more!"

Janisse's dad, Franklin Ray, was a fatherly conundrum, depriving his children of such luxuries as television and inspiring them to preserve nature while junking up the landscape with old cars and blown-up tires.

Leila Denmark followed her curious intellect.  As a child she did not know that a woman could become a doctor, but she knew she loved to see things live.

Actually these testimonials just undergird my thinking that imaginations can not be destroyed, only stunted or perverted, but prayerfully captured for the Lord.  It may be difficult to envision something this far in the future for your young children.  But rest assured that events and experiences that happen today affect and build on their futures. 

It's all a matter of perspective.

How you see things.

How your child sees things.

Actuallly it's a little exciting to me.  That is, I feel expectant when I ponder how current life happenings will play out in my future.

When I'm not sure about my eyes and ears though, I re-read I Corinthians 2.

And I avail myself of the fine exposition of Scripture as it relates to child-rearing, especially Elder Tim Price's new series at my church.

Who or what encourages you as you rear your family?

Scott Antique Market - photo borrowed from Google Images

Photo at beginning is also borrowed from Google Images and is not representative of the booths at Scott Antique Market here in Georgia. I just wanted to highlight the lady's obvious character and personality.