Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lewis extended quote that blows my mind every time

At the end of his sermon "Weight of Glory":

It may be possible for each to think too much of his potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour's glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.

Considering others better than ourselves?

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

And I love this part:

This does not mean we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. Our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner - no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hint #1 or at least somewhere near the top of the list...

I can probably say this is my favorite piece of music literature. I also love its accompanying other "passion week" choruses. The quintessential baroque example of word painting (I don't know what quintessential means but my music history book in college used it a lot.) I like the ending
...the Lord hath laid on him, the iniquity of us all.
And here is my other favorite in the same section.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I already tweeted about this incident, but I'm going to record it here since it goes with my stated blog theme.

Today a car drove past my classroom, and the sunlight reflected off of the car onto my wall. One kindergartner, Micah, was startled and called out "what was that?" He wanted to know what that "beautiful light" was. I explained that it was the reflection of a car and the sunlight. Another kindergartner confirmed that he has similar experiences of light coming into his window at nighttime; when a car goes by. Besides Justin's addition to the conversation our music circle was starting to explode with six year old thoughts about this light phenomenon and I kind of wish I had run with it instead of going back to singing.

Micah repeated that the light he had seen was beautiful, and he thought it was fireworks at first.

I can't manufacture these moments at whim, and I wouldn't want to, but it is surprisingly easy to talk to children about beauty. I love my job.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Awkward Sunsets

My family owns ten acres of open farmland, and we get to see great sunsets all the time. My mom will often see a sunset and start exclaiming about it and we consequently all have to get up from the dinner table to go look. We are pretty dutiful about it, we don't join in with her exclamations, and we are always ready to go back to the dinner table.

Now one of three things could be true about the slightly awkward moments that sunsets incur. Number one could be that none of us really have the sensitivity to enjoy the sunset. Number two could be that we do enjoy looking at the sunset but we are really hungry. Number three, though, (which is my best guess) deserves a little explanation.

I understand how my mom feels. I felt at an early age, although I didn't put it this way, that beauty hurts. I would look and look at the Appalachian mountains. But all along I didn't know how to describe those mountains. I didn't know how to tell someone else how I felt about them.

But that was just it. There is no way to describe mountains and sunsets, because God created them for us to look at with our eyes. Words are not for mountains and sunsets. Eyes are. (Music education plug here: words are not for music either, to quote one educator, "talking about music is like dancing about architecture.") The reason we feel awkward when Mom tells us to look at the sunset is because we are used to incessant talking, and there's nothing we can say when it comes to sunsets.

I want to praise God for all of the senses. I appreciate the visual arts, because they are "visual." I appreciate music that I can hear, and I appreciate words that I can speak and write. Praise the Lord for his "goodness to the children of men."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My blog name

I named this blog after a Rich Mullins song, "Such a Thing As Glory". One friend, the only other Rich Mullins aficionado in my life, says that I hated this song at first listen. And I probably did then (given the simplistic repetition in the bridge), but the second or third time the lyrics started to resonate with me.
There is such a thing as glory
And there are hints of it everywhere
And the hints are overwhelming

And its scent is in the air
It's more powerful than morning
Oh the morning can't compare
With such a thing as glory...

The whole idea reminded me of a thought introduced to me by my brother and developed by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis takes the 'hint of heaven' idea much farther than anything like the traditional teleological argument and argues that our innate, sometimes undiscovered, and always unsatisfied longings are irrefutable evidence that we were made for 'another country.' (No doubt I will be blogging about Weight of Glory.)

At any rate, whether it is in the simple sense of talking about beauty and order, or whether I am bearing my secret desires for heaven, I want my blog to show "hints of glory". There is a heaven, and there is a Christ.

I have been and will be writing rudimentary or off-beat thoughts about aesthetics, theology, and educational theories; and my hints of glory will probably be culled from those realms of thought. If that doesn't grab anyone's interest that's ok - this blog is for me, to practice writing, and for my 8th grade music students, who are not going to read this but definitely don't need me to be pontificating on aesthetics in class. If I can get a little online fellowship from the blog that will be an added bonus.

While I'm on the topic though, two of my family members started blogs about the same time I did with the same goal - to show hints of glory - and are "doing it better." First, my sister-in-law Jenny explains her goals to create beauty through the small things in life here. My cousin Mary finds hints of glory in the small moments of every day. Visit her beautiful blog here.

An optimistic look at today's popular culture

I just finished reading Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making us Smarter, by Steven Johnson. Johnson argues that today's consumers are ingesting more and more complexity than ever before. Examples are the multiple threading in shows like 24 and The Sopranos (in contrast with the half an hour closed plots in the shows of yesteryear); and the myriads of cultural allusions and self-referencing allusions in The Simpsons and Seinfeld. The book's chapter on all the probing, problem-solving and decision-making that occurs during video games was revealing to me, as was the assertion that blogging about your junior high love life is intellectually more healthy than watching a soap opera.

Children, teens, and adults are now interacting with technology in ways that allow them to problem-solve and create in ways equally or even more complex than a doing a math problem or a story writing project.

Aside from the book being merely interesting, I think this book has a major ramification for me as a teacher. I underestimate my students' potential. Every family has a running joke about how their seven-year old can program the VCR when their parent cannot. But does anyone stop to consider the problem-solving abilities that that fact infers? That child did not merely learn the steps to work one machine; he has internalized overriding principles about how to probe a new system and find out how it works.

So yesterday in second grade music we somehow ended up talking about Tom and Jerry, which apparently is experiencing a renaissance on Cartoon Network. I have one learning disabled student who has, for two years, been singing monotone but experienced a very obvious breakthrough in her singing just this week. During the Tom and Jerry conversation, I sat back, enjoyed that student's very specific, multiple-step instructions about how to find Tom and Jerry On Demand, and thought about the vast potential that she has.

I am reminded of one of my graduate professors favorite pedagogy images - that of constantly working to keep the students' heads barely above water - not submerged and overwhelmed, not wading in shallow water and bored. In this respect I could take a cue from the gaming, cinema and television industries and keep my kids' brains engaged.

Next on my reading list to get the other side of the coin: Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think and What We Can Do about It by Jane Healy.