Friday, June 25, 2010

Climbing Parnassus...

As the Gentle Readers of this blog know, I have been reading Climbing Parnassus over the last year or two, in little bits and pieces. You know, because you have been reading my favorite quotes from the book as I've slogged along. Near the end of the book, Tracy Simmons sums up the work this way:
"Latin and greek are not dead languages," J. W. Mackail once said. "They merely have ceased to be mortal." Parnassus-- that resplendent symbol of inspiration, eloquence, refined polish, and grace-- has lodged within the Western mind a majestic image of the Baeutiful and the unattainable. it's steep, forbidding peaks, its cloud-girt summits, stood out against the sky, throne of Apollo, abode to the Muses, and source of inspiration for untold pilgrims seeking artistic perfection and the peace that comes at the end of arduous acheivement...Parnassus reminds even now that we must struggle and sacrifice, even to become fully human. Few reach the crest. But it's the climbing that counts.
The book is not only a fascinating history of classical education, but an inspiring apologetic for its revival and use. With me reading the book, of course, he was preaching to the choir. I already understand the importance of classical education. But i was inspired and encouraged on the journey. And I recommend the book to you, Gentle Readers, if the quotes have been provocative or interesting to you, you will enjoy the whole of the argument as well. Mr. Simmons ends the book this way:
...The best education, the highest and most bracing education, does not scorn the ground; without the ground we cannot spot the horizon. Yet it doesn't disdain the stars. it shows us how to be fully human-- and to exercise all the powers proper to a human being. It bids us, as Pope once inscribed, "to trace the muses upward to their spring."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Intellectual shallowness...

Another excess of modern life-- and one not unrelated to well-intentioned, naive multi-culturalism-- is intellectual shallowness. This vice besets all of us. Never have so many people earned so many academic degrees and known so little. Yet never have so many thought they knew so much...
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing parnassus, p.231

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A healthy correction to tedious, mindless relativism...

A classical curriculum, though, can act as a healthy correction to tedious, mindless relativism. It is not so much uni-cultural as aristo-cultural-- it directs us to models of the best in all fields of human achievement. And we are all "minorities", all of us are "disadvantaged", in the face of superior objects, whether they be words, thoughts, things, or deeds.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.232

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The drama of dogma...

It is...startling to discover how many people...heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion what it is. If you tell them, they cannot believe you. I do not mean that they cannot believe the doctrine: that would be understandable enough, since it takes some believing. I mean that they simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting and so dramatic can be the orthodox Creed of the Church.
Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore-- and this in the Name of One Who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which he passed through the world like a flame.
it is the dogma that is the drama-- not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death-- but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe.
~Dorothy L. Sayers, as quoted in Glimpses of Church History, Issue 246

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Death, where is your sting?

Today I read an honest and difficult reflection on our enemy, Death. Sometimes God gives such grace on a death bed. And more often it is nothing but horrific. We sometimes forget that death is our enemy- counter to our creation. Sometimes in the throes of death, we see its ugliness for what it is. As Denise Day Spenser says:
In that moment I realized that the hardness of Michael’s death was a reminder that it is not supposed to be this way. Ever read the first three chapters of Genesis? Man was created for life, not death. But we live in a fallen world, and the cherubim still guard the tree of life with white-hot swords. Our only hope is a Redeemer who has conquered death itself and has risen as he said. He will deliver us to a new world, a world where “there shall be no more curse,” for “…on either side of the river [is] the tree of life…”

What a timely reminder for us who live, that while death looms ahead, we were not created to die, but to live. And it is in Jesus we live and move and have our being in this world and the next.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A bulwark...

Classical education is a bulwark against slick stupidity and easy opinions. Far from spiriting us away from the lovely things of the world, it affords greater possibilities of intimacy even with those things we haven't read and been tested upon in school. it opens doors and keeps them open. The trained and cultivated mind is free to enjoy at those times when enjoyment matters most--when we sit quietly by the beach or before the fire with our friends, our drinks, our thoughts.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.231

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vicariously rapacious...

But this we can know: Ignorance is no asset, and the empty, formless mind is surely a positive liability. Few qualities can be more useful, whatever one's future may hold, than the fortified mind. Parents who cannot see this are shortsighted, misinformed, or vicariously rapacious.
~T. l. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.214

Monday, June 14, 2010

What is it good for?

"Let us not forget," Emerson once said, "that the adoption of the test 'what is it good for' would abolish the rose and exalt in triumph the cabbage." And man cannot live by cabbage alone.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.213

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Memory of the past...

The letters of Adams and Jefferson fairly shimmer with the utility of reading classics; for them this was no merely ornamental skill; Greek and Latin furnished their minds and formed their political judgment. Classics contained a not-so-subtle spur to grow up, intellectually and culturally. The Founders took to heart Cicero's standing, eternal question: "For what is the life of man, if memory of the past be not interwoven in the life of later times?"
~T. l. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.211

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Preserving democracy...

"John Adams and Thomas Jefferson knew where they stood. They sought, for themselves and their posterity, the vita beata, the happy life. And they hoped for a stable commonwealth. These two men knew intimately Aristotle's vital, now neglected distinction between the education that democrats like and the education that can preserve democracy. Good intention aren't enough.
~T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus, p.210

Friday, June 04, 2010

A peaceful place...

Following our Family Cancer Retreat a couple weekends ago, Dave and I hiked the ruins trail at Pecos National Monument. it is not only beautiful, but so peaceful. If you are ever passing through along I-25 a little north-east of Santa Fe, make the time to stop. It is lovely!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

It's not fair...

Today I had a beautiful day. I watered things outside in the coolness of early morning, and quilted away the middle of the day. Then I went for a hike with friends at the beautiful spot pictured on the right. It is very hot today, so I came home over-heated and tired, and took a cool shower and had a rest in my comfy chair.

And what did Dave do today? He slaved away inside all day, in secret places, keeping the world safe for democracy, and bringing home the bacon to boot.

It's not fair. But I am very grateful!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


This morning i had another of those very real dreams-- the ones that come just prior to waking that seem so realistic that it's hard to deal with after you wake. Sometimes they are silly things: I dream I am late for a test in a class I've never attended, or that I am trying to remodel this big house, and keep finding new rooms. I seem to be having lots of these lately. I had to e-mail a cousin after I dreamed of a death in her family. I had to work very hard not to be mad at Dave after I dreamed he had rejected me. And this morning I dreamed about cancer again. Not mine this time, but Dave's. I'm sure Freud or Jung would have a field day with my dreams, but I don't want to get too carried away by them.

I wonder how God built my subconscious mind, anyway. I have not been worried about cancer. But we have been talking about it more lately. And I wonder if Satan sees the opportunity to sneak up on me and instill fear where strong emotion exists. So, I need to be on guard and fight him at every turn. He will not steal my joy.

So, I climb out into the sunlight of the day, from the dark place of this terrible dream into the happy blessings of reality. I read God's word, and remind myself what is true. And I wonder briefly if Satan is demanding me before the throne today. May God give me, and you, Gentle Reader, the grace to prove faithful in such silly trials.