October 14, 2009

poetry in the machine

This video is a swirl of metaphors, on so many levels that I suspect I will be thinking about it for a long time.  I feel provoked, in the best sense of the word. 

For my fellow readers of Leisure: The Basis of Culture in the Ordo Amoris book group, here I see a hopeful glimpse of Pieper's unproletariat -- a man both fully at work and fully at leisure, and why?  Because he works at something he finds worth loving.  The work of his hands is fueled by his whole being, by a mind that serves his hands as a wellspring of passion, beauty, order, meaning, and a bracing precision of thought.  For him, this work is both physical and spiritual; it keeps his body fed, but it also feeds his soul.

Here, then, is a rare glimpse of the artes serviles and the artes liberales happily waltzing together.

I see him as an agrarian in spirit -- one whose dirt is ink.  

Both this video and all the preceding chapters of Pieper's book have kept in the forefront of my thoughts a favorite quote from Charlotte Mason, from page 331 of Toward a Philosophy of Education:

"Only as he has been and is nourished upon books is a man able to "live his life." A great deal of mechanical labour is necessarily performed in solitude; the miner, the farm-labourer, cannot think all the time of the block he is hewing, the furrow he is ploughing; how good that he should be figuring to himself the trial scene in the Heart of Midlothian, the "high-jinks" in Guy Mannering, that his imagination should be playing with 'Ann Page' or 'Mrs. Quickly,' or that his labour goes the better "because his secret soul a holy strain repeats." People, working people, do these things. Many a one can say out of a rich experience, "My mind to me a kingdom is"..."

David had sheep to tend, but out in the pastures alone with his flocks, his mind was at play in the kingdom of God because he had hidden the Word in his heart -- and therefore we are blessed to have the Psalms.  This is clearly an example of productivity born of contemplation born of productivity -- an organic, symbiotic dance of heart, soul, and mind.  By the same means, my father's best sermons found their shape and substance and power not at his desk, but on a tractor in a wheat field.

So it strikes me that for any life to have the wherewithal to be enriched by both productivity and contemplation, it must be a life remarkable for its well-cultivated habit of attention.  One cannot have a kingdom for a mind unless one has learned to keenly attend; to absorb and order and synthesize and reproduce knowledge.  Contemplation is, in a sense, a patchwork quilt of all the pages one has carefully beheld, stitched together by unifying, living ideas.

Every good fruit, then, finds it beginnings in the rich soil of the Habit of Attention. 

All that to say that the more I read Mr. Pieper, the more grateful I feel toward Miss Mason, who crusaded tirelessly against the deadening utilitarianism that Pieper is attacking in this book.  Mason's final book, which I quoted from above, begins with a cautionary review of the vile social forces that brought about the World Wars.  Like Pieper, Mason saw clearly the dangers of a world that seeks to shackle the mind to the hands, and starve the soul.   I will be curious to see if his prescription ultimately resolves as akin to hers.


Natalie M. said...

Hi Lynn, I am a longtime closet reader of the Beehive. I've been so spiritually nourished by many of your posts. We are only beginning our homeschooling adventure, 10 weeks into Ambleside Online year 1. I was so pleased to watch this video. It will be perfect to share with my son as we're reading in D'Aulaire about Ben Franklin's apprenticeship in a print shop. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with those of us new to Charlotte Mason.
Natalie M.

Lynn Bruce said...

Thank you for introducing yourself, Natalie! I'm so happy that you're starting AO. I just adore Year 1 -- and now, sadly, I'm all out of Year 1 children! Do enjoy it.

Do pop in and comment again! I do love to hear from Beehive readers. It's encouraging.

Unknown said...

This reminds me of one of the reasons I always assign permanent chores rather than rotating ones. The chore doer becomes familiar enough with the tedious job to allow himself time to think.

In all my wanderings and thinkings over the years, I have never, ever been able to get away from Charlotte.

Lynn Bruce said...

Me neither, Cindy, but then, I don't know why you'd ever want to! I've not yet come close to exhausting her stores of wisdom. It extends so far beyong the realm of teaching.

Your method for assigning chores is a fitting application of what CM is saying in the passage I quoted. It occurs to me, in thinking about this, that repetition of a task (ie a sustained chore) can either lead to a state of acedia or to a state of rest -- the difference lies in the imagination and mental hardiness of the individual.

There is wisdom in teaching our children (and ourselves) to redeem times of tedium, because such times inevitably comprise a hefty slice of life's pie.

Laura A said...

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this, particularly how you linked work and leisure, and related it to Charlotte Mason.