Tag Archives: civilization

The burden of homey and shapely things.

We’re coming to the end of what is the “school year” for most families, and often thoughts are on what options will be best for the children next year. I offer excerpts from what I found to be a very encouraging article, for all of you loving and diligent parents out there! (And “excerpts” from the lives of homeschoolers I’ve known. ­čÖé )

From “Easy Burden” by Graeme Hunter in Touchstone Magazine, Sept/Oct 2012 issue:

“Homeschooling is only countercultural because our culture is suicidal. Homeschoolers stand for what our culture was when it was serious about living . It affirms our Christian tradition, our Christian morality, and our highest cultural achievements. To affirm such things today is countercultural only because our culture has turned its face to the wall.”

“…No doubt there are conservative and conscientious redoubts here and there in the bleak landscape of public schooling, but if it seems to you that your child is being transformed for the worse by attending school, you are likely correct.

“Here are some reasons why:

“First, education means struggle and achievement, but schools are egalitarian. Achievement presupposes discipline, but schools shun discipline, and pretend students are high achievers no matter what they do.

“Second, children arrive in the world as bundles of impulses and desires. Part of education is to teach restraint, a process known as civilization. Schools encourage pupils from the earliest years to act upon their impulses and to be, in the jargon of the education industry, ‘spontaneous.’ Schools are therefore the enemies of civilization.

“Third, one of the finest fruits of education is to become a discriminating person, able to tell good from bad, whether it be in art, in political proposals, or in human conduct. Schools treat discrimination as the only mortal sin.

“‘The wrong of unshapely things,’ says the poet W.B. Yeats, ‘is a wrong too great to be told.’ He explains that when we fail to cultivate discrimination in ourselves and others, we wound the entire human community. Real educators see something beautiful in us, and long to bring it into the light. Yeats calls it an ‘image that blossoms, a rose in the deeps of his heart.'”

“…When we homeschooled, there was a cross to be borne each day, but family life was a delight to us, education was thrilling for pupil and teacher alike, and we had joy in our family that has not diminished even now that our children are grown.

“Furthermore, none of the dire consequences predicted came to pass. Our children are well-adjusted. They love God, and they love life. And they are doing well enough in life, even as the world measures these things.

“Homeschooling did not bankrupt us. How could it? We invested our talents in the children God gave us, and the investment paid off a hundredfold.”

“….The road, then, is cruciform, but the yoke is easy and the burden is light. Homeschoolers: seize the day!”

–Graeme Hunter

It takes wisdom to be content – or discontent.

Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.

–G.K. Chesterton in Commonwealth, 1933

I don’t know that my comments on this ironic statement can add much, but for my own sake I will think while I type, and ramble as I think. GKC’s words startle me out of feeling guilty for complaining about modern life — after all, “We are so well off!” We have (noisy) leaf blowers so we don’t have to spend so much time raking. We can stop for fast food on our mad trips up the interstate, and while we eat off paper plates at dirty tables and lick our fingers we can be thankful we didn’t have to go to the trouble of finding a picnic spot by the river.

My first encouragement to question the amassing of things we don’t really want was 40 years ago, in the La Leche League’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The motive was to help women cultivate a peaceful home in which they would have the time to leisurely nurse their babies; that goal would require sorting out one’s priorities concerning what we now call lifestyle choices. Do you really want your tabletop cluttered with knick-knacks, the author wrote, or might you enjoy having clear surfaces that are easier to keep clean and will ultimately be, in their simplicity, more pleasing to the soul?

The whole concept of More With Less has gained ground in the last decades, but Chesterton’s words reveal how easy it is to lose, bit by bit, the most valuable and wholesome “comforts” that our poorer forebears had in abundance, and not even notice what we have given in trade. Note that intangibles such as decency and good manners are on the list, to remind us that civilization is more than physical comforts.

The book Margin by Richard Swenson comes to mind here. He writes (first in 1995) about how the  people he doctored in third-world countries were by-and-large happier than the Americans back home, and he analyzes the reasons why. Even without health care and modern technology, they enjoyed several of the things mentioned in the quote, in good measure.

My own life provides the leisure that Josef Pieper calls the Basis of Culture, enough of it that I can take the time to ruminate on several facets of Chesterton’s clever jibe. At this stage, for myself, I can’t complain. But I pray that I’ll always have the wisdom to know what I want and need to go without, for the sake of being content.

 

 Linking up to Weekends with Chesterton.