Poetic Knowledge, Chapter Three, Part II

Mystie, I've read all your links to older posts and benefited much from them. Poetic Knowledge and leisure. The questions from this chapter are those you propose, Mystie, What is this “habit of poetic knowledge”? What does it look like? What does it entail? How do we get it? How do we give it? And to me this quote from the book gave me much to think about:

But, since modern philosophies have emerged that no longer regard knowing the truth as natural, or even possible, where what was recognized as self-evident is replaced with a system of doubt, under such conditions, Pieper says, learning is now perceived exclusively as work, rather than an act of leisure. In other words, the modern idea of learning is dominated by the ratio, and the simplex intuitus acts of the mind are dismissed as irrelevant under a scientific idea of knowledge. There are no "givens" nor can "inspiration" be taken seriously as valid knowledge --all is mental work and the student, more and more, becomes the intellectual laborer. Leisure and poetic knowledge suffocate under the weight of this new scientific philosophy where the way is opened for the school and all its operations to function quite comfortably with imagery analogous to a factory where products are produced for a marketplace.  (Page 77)

Now cross this with a quote from Berman, on page 135 of The Twilight... that I read two days ago:

NMI, the new monastic individual, says Fussell, make up the class of people that belong to no class, have no membership in a hierarchy. They form a kind of "unmonied aristocracy", free of bosses, supervision, and what is typically called "work". They work very hard, in fact, but as they love their work and do it for its intrinsic interest, this work is not much different from play. In the context of contemporary American culture, such people are an anomaly, for they have no interest in the world of business success and mass consumerism.

Reading the first quote, I'm trying to understand why I am myself suspicious of anything that does not show itself as WORK. It may be that I'm equating no work to entertainment. On one hand this is the way I'm aspiring to live, free from much of what I see around that falls into this factory or work model, the skills without the ideas as Cindy called them in her post, and maybe now I'm finally understanding that the opposite of this is not the busyness or business like life, or the entertainment guided proposal that I see in some approaches to homeschool. Let me explain with concrete examples.

1. I see many ideas of WORK with preschoolers, and even elementary children, and they are just based on working skills per se, I don't see a cultivation of ideas, I don't see understanding learning as a whole, but very fragmented and sensorial, which does not have to be poetic because it is an external bombardment of the senses in my opinion. Activities that are to me useless busy work. So if we are not doing those are we being lazy? It depends. What is then that you "do"?

2. The last psychology book I read precisely stated that a person who had a very bad childhood, will be most likely either depressed or maniac. The depressed sometimes fall into inactivity, or they may fill an empty life with noise and busyness, with lots of activities. A non healthy person, mentally talking, can't stand the silence, the lack of activity and noise, he will have to confront his true self. I enjoyed Mystie's explanation of how this leisure state could be for an introvert, for me, an extrovert, it is simply silence, being to myself. This is something that I did not know how to do before and that I'm learning. At one point I was truly bad, no surprise I was mentally unhealthy and not a christian yet, or a new christian who did not have a strong relationship with her Creator. To an extrovert the hard part is to resist the temptation to check email or rss feed often, or to get the phone to make a phone call in order to be busy and avoid the quietness, not when I genuinely want to share or try to listen to someone.

3. Thus I am learning to not be busy. I do not know yet all that the habit of poetic knowledge entails, if I'm near a good measure of it, let alone how to inspire it or give it, as Mystie asked us, but I know it has to do with not being busy but laboring. Labor versus work. Leisure versus entertainment. And it is tricky, as Mystie also remarks, activity or lack of it does not equate leisure. I guess it can't be pinned to a list since it depends much on our own mode of life, our approach and take to life and what we do, two people could be doing the same thing but from different schemes. There may be things flat out non poetic, or things most likely to attract poetic knowledge, but ultimately it depends much on the subject in combination with whatever being "done".

4. I would love to think I'm an NMI (new monastic individual) aspirant, but probably by mentioning that name I chased it away, right? ;) However I see things in myself that point to this, and others that qualify me as Miss Scientific. It alerts me to hear from homeschooling moms (and others in general), how busy they are. My heart aches. I have things to do, but I do not live in a rush. But let's not criticize others, I have plenty to look at inside myself.

5. Linking this to the holidays and celebrations, we make progress every year. I do not have lists of gifts, we don't have any compromise or thing we need to do, I simply decline most of the "parties". December is to us another month, although there is always so much pressure to counteract, it is not easy, but Decembers have been more and more enjoyable every year to us. Far from the times when I was a teacher always sooooo busy and so vain. I read your post about celebrations and we simply think that there is one an only religious celebration we christians need to mind every Sunday, that is our worship on the Lord's Day. In the New Law this is a commandment that first century christians followed as we read in the Bible. The rest (including Easter and Christmas) came later in history as traditions of men linked to religious events, but events that are not signified in the Bible to celebrate in a different manner, but just to learn about. This is part of the reason, to me, why many are rescuing more and more traditions from the past that the Bible tells us about, and well intentioned people are exhorting us to celebrate with an spiritual meaning only attached to them. And while spiritual celebrations are the right way to celebrate and what composes a true celebration, we in my household and many christians that make the case for a pre denominational christianity, such as it is understood from the Bible and such as it was lived from the time when His Church was established in the first century, we are careful to celebrate spiritually only that which The Lord approves. Remember the many instances in the OT in which we have examples of celebrations and sacrifices done in His name that he rejected? We should learn from this that not everything done in His name is pleasing to Him... but this is for another long and controversial post. As for the so called secular celebrations, they have, as those other "religiously oriented" ones, become heavily materialistic. We don't see them like that. We simply celebrate what they mean, because Thanksgiving or Independence Day have much relevance to us as Americans, (adopted but Americans nonetheless). And we truly look after that leisure in our celebrations as opposed to entertainment.

6. That of the workaholic and lazy being two sides of a coin, very well seen. Once you hear it it makes all the sense. If man is created by God to labor, none of those persons accepts this, or is in communion with this part of their being. The workaholic does not labor, he works. You see, labor is intrinsic, work extrinsic. The workaholic lives off the recognitions, the pride of life, the material status and compensations... the laborer lives because he labors, labors because it is what defines him.

7. Talking to my friend Stephanie, she asked what makes us like some things more than others, such as reading a book more than cleaning our home... I don't know, it may be we are very detached from a poetic knowlege attitude toward life. All I know it's that I like washing dishes today more than I did ten years ago. And also that the closer I'm to God and the more focused on Him, the less stressed, and the less stressed I am, the less I need to have a busy and appealing agenda.

8. I needed a lot of poetic knowledge this morning to regroup and stop from comparing to you, ladies, and your fantastic plans and schedules for next year. I'm who I am. I guess I need to remember this when I stand in front of my daughters and try to be the best model of teacher I can. So I stopped looking at our schedule and other schedules in terms of productivity, and simply remember we don't do things to scratch them off a list, but that we are living and learning, and laboring and playing!

Last I want to mention is that my oldest girl, while we were writing thank you notes today and listening to different versions of the owl and the pussycat, told me, "mom, what is a year?", twelve months, I replied, and then she asked "a year and a day in a boat?" In my busyness, in my doing this to not fall behind, I played the song, had the things to do today... and I realized I never LISTENED to the song. And lastly, thank you ALL in the book club and for your newly found blogs, because reading this book with you is truly enabling me and it has rekindled my desire for introspection and growth. 

4 opinion(s):

Mystie said...

I like Berman's concept of the New Monastic Individual, even if he did make it an annoying acronym. :) Your quotes at the beginning made me think of the word "amateur." I used to think of the word as someone who did something as a hobby and therefore rather poorly, but the word actually means someone who does something for the love of it, rather than for money (professionally).

So I get caught balancing wanting to be an amateur (teaching and homemaking out of love) *and* a professional (teaching and homemaking intentionally and diligently, whether or not I feel like it in the moment).

Willa said...

That Berman book sounds interesting -- I hadn't heard of it.

I have been reading a book called "Drive" which is about motivation. Some of the ideas sound a bit like that passage you quoted. The book talks about how people aren't motivated so much by extrinsic rewards as scientists previously thought. They want their work to matter, to be personally rewarding and to be valuable to others around them. You see this online as many people will do "open source" programs and offer other resources for no payment (you see this in the homeschool world, too).

Some of what you said reminded me of the Montessorian idea that play and work are somewhat the same thing. I think that "work" that is done for its own self (as opposed to being done for something else, like money or to escape punishment) is done with a different attitude.... more like Taylor's example of the lovingly handcrafted ladle that you mentioned in an earlier post.

I always love reading your posts, so thought-provoking!

Silvia said...

That book Drive sounds good too! So many good books so little time, right?

Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

Oh, I have Berman's book sitting on my shelf. I really need to read it...I just keep reading everything else...


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