Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ideas Have Consequences Chapter 3

I just finished reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's book,
On the Banks of the Plum Creek to my youngest daughter. With a sigh, I closed the book, wishing I could somehow turn back the clock and live in those days when solid principles of truth formed the warp and woof of society.

Richard Weaver corrected an error in my thinking.

".....the things of highest value are not affected by the passage of time; otherwise the very concept of truth becomes impossible." Therefore, it is illogical to think that one must travel back in time to capture it.

The real longing in my heart, I think, is to see truth rooted front & center in the society in which I live. How does one live in that center, when the mad rush of society is to the periphery?

Weaver discusses the periphery and that flight from the center of truth in this 3rd chapter, which is entitled "Fragmentation and Obsession." When a culture un-tethers itself from the anchor of truth, disintegration is inevitable.

Through the ages, there have been learned men who have held tenaciously to those central truths. Weaver takes us back in history to trace the office of the philosophic doctor, the men who had attained to the highest level of learning. Surrounding him, in concentric circles, stood those with less mastery: the ones who had "acquired only facts and skills." When society was faced with a knotty problem, whether a problem of justice or finances or governing, the philosophic leaders could be counted upon to untangle the difficulties. The truth that they possessed enabled them to answer ultimate questions and make decisions for the benefit of all. They were synthesists, men who could unify many branches of truth and use that breadth of knowledge for the common good.

As history unfolds, we find that the philosophic doctor was replaced in more modern times by the gentleman. Weaver describes him as "a secularized expression of the same thing." Those of this era sought to maintain the best of the heritage left behind by the philosophers, but without the religious underpinnings. This triggers in my mind a scripture: "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The gentleman had ideals, but without the deep roots of his predecessor.

Moving another step away from truth, we find the money-makers and politicians replacing the gentleman. Their obsession with materialism is incompatible with the sacred truths of ancient days, so they abandon not only religion but also ideals.

The "fragmentation" that Weaver refers to in the title is the opposite of synthesis, and it is the result of abandoning central truth. Where once knowledge was combined from parts to whole, modern man stands at the periphery of truth and takes pride in being a specialist. He has only a fragment of knowledge and thus there is nothing to synthesize:

"he is no longer capable of philosophy."

Here is another worthy quote on the subject of specialization:

"Specialization develops only part of a man; a man partially developed is deformed; and one deformed is the last person to be thought of as a ruler...."

My thoughts now:
If we want to raise up real leaders, leaders of the caliber of the Biblical Daniel, we must provide them with a liberal arts education! The materialistic emphasis in education is contributing to the decay of society because it is wholly self-centered. Weaver goes so far to say that specialization leads to obsession, which leads to emotional instability, which precludes a person from any ability at all to lead.

There is much, much more in this chapter but I think these 7 words sum up the gist nicely:

"Wisdom does not lie on the periphery."

"Thus says the LORD,
'Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your soul.
But they said, 'We will not listen.'"
~Jeremiah 6:16

Friday, January 18, 2008

Nature Poetry

As the hart panteth after the water brooks,so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:when shall I come and appear before God?"
David from Psalm 42:1-2

I love nature poetry and nature books. Often I read books by Edwin Way Teale in the winter, when I can't get outside much for my "nature fix". Nature poetry was addressed in my devotional reading today. A.W. Tozer highlighted King David, arguably the greatest nature poet of all time. Here is what I read:

"David was acutely God-conscious. To him God was the one
Being worth knowing. Where others saw nature, he saw God. He was a
nature poet indeed, but he saw God first and loved nature for God's sake.
Wordsworth reversed the order and, while he is great, he is not worthy to untie
the shoelaces of the man David."
A.W. Tozer, from the book
The Warfare of the Spirit

I think Tozer has a point; the sense of awe that is typically expressed in nature poetry can be confused with worship. Anyone can feel awe when they view a gorgeous sunset or see a rainbow, but that feeling does not necessarily constitute worship. To see God first and love nature for His sake is a different matter entirely.

Viewing creation in connection to the Creator is like tracing the sun ray back to the sun. Nature observations can increase our understanding of the One who has made it possible for our very lives to be His "poiema", His poetry. Just maybe, the nature poetry that humankind so universally enjoys strikes a chord within us because we ARE poetry--whether lovely or crass. Lord, make my life a poem that honors You.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Snickerdoodle Cake

Today my oldest daughter, Melody, celebrated her 15th birthday. Two of my children always request a chocolate birthday cake, Joy likes something pink, and my husband prefers spice or banana cake. But Melody always chooses my personal favorite, Snickerdoodle Cake. Here is the recipe:


Solid vegetable shortening for greasing the pans
Flour for dusting the pans
1 pkg. (18.25 oz.) plain white cake mix
1cup whole milk
1 stick butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
2 t. cinnamon
Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.

2. Place the cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. place the pans in the oven side by side.

3. Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27-29 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert them again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow them to cool completely, 30 minutes more.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows).

5. Place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes.

Buttercream Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
33/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 to 4 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar, 3 T. milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 T. milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Recipe taken from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Ideas Have Consequences Chapter 2

It was an exciting day for little Tommy. The younger children in the family watched with a tinge of jealousy as he strapped on his new backpack and skipped off to Kindergarten for the very first time. His conscientious Mother had filled that backpack with all the supplies the teacher had requested: scissors, number 2 pencils, a ruler, pack of felt markers, a box of kleenex. On each item, she had placed a little name tag so that Tommy's "stuff" wouldn't get mixed up with anyone else's.

Upon his return home, Tommy's backpack contained something else; a note from the Kindergarten teacher which read:

Dear Mrs. G.,
Thank you for sending the appropriate school supplies with Tommy. I have returned them to you with a request to remove his name from all of the items. Once the items come into class, they become the collective property of all the students. We want each child to start Kindergarten on equal footing. Thank you. signed Mrs. R.

Tommy had just received his initial lesson in social studies, a first hand look at "socialist equalitarianism". His Mother made sure he didn't receive any follow-up teaching from this teacher~~she pulled him out of school and homeschooled him.

This true little vignette (which happened to a friend of mine) illustrates accurately, I think, the ideas encapsulated in the 2nd chapter of Richard Weaver's book, entitled "Distinction and Hierarchy". In it, we are challenged to apply logic to the increasingly common societal plea for "equality". We are hearing that word often in this presidential election year, aren't we? Equality in healthcare, equality in education, equality in employment, even equality in kindergarten! It all sounds so virtuous, so right.

But is it? Weaver contends that the call for equality is insidiously destructive to a healthy society because it instills a hatred for superiority. To level the playing field, to bring everyone onto equal footing would mean removing the rewards for those who engage in the self-sacrifice and risk taking that is required to climb the ladder of success. A healthy society needs these people; it is virtually impossible to operate on a uni-level system. Weaver is even so bold as to say that (gasp) all labor is not equally useful.

It is not within the realm of possibility to erase distinctions; to do so would require a tyrant with an iron fist. But supposing we COULD become a uni-level society, how would that change us?

It would change us profoundly. We would cease to be a society and would instead become a "mass". I find that concept frightening. The mass focuses only on "having what you have". It is a materialistic mindset, devoid of the higher virtues.

Without the structure of a hierarchy, a democratic society ceases to exist; an aristocracy is an absolutely essential element of a democracy. Amongst the aristocracy there must be leaders who strive for non-material virtues, who are able to measure policies and actions for the spiritual good of the people.

In place of equality, Weaver promotes the concept of fraternity. Those who are of the upper crust, who have climbed the ladder, have a duty to care for others who have not attained. Fraternity looks outward, to others. In contrast, equality seeks benefits for self only.

Education is one of the keys to developing fraternalistic virtues. Well, let me correct that and say education SHOULD be developing virtue. Today's prevailing mindset seems to be that education is merely to prepare students for lucrative employment.

That is why I have classical leanings in my educational philosophy. The classicist always had virtue in view. Education without virtue creates a mass of fools.

Interesting stuff here. I am a little surprised that equality was an issue when Weaver wrote this (in the 1940's). I thought it to be a more modern concept. It goes to show that ideas take a while to hatch before they come to full fruition.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Beyond Song

He made an heroic effort, he really did. But I could see that the grief of losing his Mom was making it difficult for my husband to enter into the festivities of Christmas Day. I was glad we had chosen to spend this day quietly at home.

After the remnants of the ribbon and wrapping paper were cleaned up, we had a few hours to nap or draw or read or just enjoy cookies by the fire. The Preacher disappeared for awhile into the basement, reappearing later with an armful of old vinyl record albums. He had received a nostalgic-type record player for Christmas, and he was going to try it out.

Shortly, the strains of Christmas in Velvet could be heard. That brought back memories! We purchased it in 1978, probably one of the first in our collection as a married couple. Then I heard The Stamps quartet, Barry McGuire, The 2nd Chapter of Acts, Evie Tournquist, the Oak Ridge Boys, the Imperials........

I left him to himself to listen, but I checked in on him several times. I saw him weep. I saw him clap, dance, and tap his feet. He laughed; he remembered. This man was in a different place!

After several hours, he came back to us, and he was changed. Somehow that heavy grief had been eased, lifted off and carried away with song. Peace had replaced the pain.

A. W. Tozer speaks of an experience "beyond song".

"The Bible is a musical book, and next to the Scriptures themselves, the best book to own is a good hymnbook. But still there is something beyond song.... (snip) when song breaks down under the weight of glory, then comes silence where the soul, held in deep fascination, feels itself blessed with an unutterable beatitude." ~from The Root of the Righteous

I think my husband was inhabiting that Holy place on Christmas Day. I am thankful for the gift of music. It may be only a vehicle to bring us to a higher place, but what would our lives be without it?