Wednesdays with Words – May 21, 2014

As school winds down and graduation approaches, time to read and think about “real” things has been almost non-existent.  However, I am still crawling slowly through Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott.  Here are a few quotes from Chapter 2:


True human memory is not mechanical repetition; it is an organic assimilation and appropriation. What is remembered is not something other than the self, but something experienced and known through the self. This means that we must probe a little more deeply into the meaning of memory, before we try to work out how to recover it.


Thus by speaking of Memory or Remembering we are really speaking of the foundations of attention, of the integration of the personality, and of the road to contemplation. We are also speaking of ‘conscience.’ Remembering is the gathering-together of the self in the light of consciousness, which in us tends to be a piecemeal process, but in God is complete and ‘instantaneous.’ For us, therefore, the training of memory is essential if we are to discover and enlarge our human identity in the image of God. It is an essential foundation for any education worthy of the name.


The Hall of Fire in Rivendell … represents the place where tradition is passed on through story, where meaning is revealed, where language expresses itself in the making and interpretation of worlds. The ambience of fire, of a friendly hearth where all strangers are made welcome and find consolation, speaks of a place where humanity can take root and flourish, a true home—the ‘Last Homely House.’ Here prose is subordinate to poetry, and poetry to song.


He shared with other English Romantics the sense that something vital had been lost from our civilization in the new industrial and scientific age. That something was a poetic consciousness, a mode of knowing through feeling and intuition that connected us with nature and with the natural law, with the reading of God’s intentions expressed in nature and the divine wisdom manifest in creation. He believed we had become increasingly alienated from nature (the natural world around us and increasingly our own human nature as well) by our determination to know it solely by conquest, through experiment and measurement. He would have supported the educational idea that children should be brought up on a rich diet of folklore and story, with plenty of experience of natural, growing things in the garden and countryside.

Through story—the right kind of story, including traditional legends and fairy-tales—that ability to see all things with a pure heart and in the light of heaven could be evoked. [Tolkien] wanted to prove that poetic knowledge, George MacDonald’s ‘wise imagination,’ could be awoken even in a world apparently closed to its very possibility.

We have spent many an hour memorizing Scripture, poetry, and songs in our homeschool rather than lists of facts.  At times I have wondered if I was doing the right thing but after reading this section of Caldecott’s book, I am instead wondering if I spent too little time with Scripture, poetry, and song.  Helping them to acquire a storehouse of beautiful, good, and true words in their minds for all of their lives has to be the greatest gift I could have given to my children other than the Gospel.  I am glad we have spent so much of our time reading and memorizing and reciting and singing.  I hope that one day they do the same with my grandchildren.