On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Does It All Connect?

Last night I was talking to my husband about the Wendell Berry books he was reading (a Christmas gift from yours truly). We discussed briefly the fact that Berry sees areas being interconnected that not everyone sees as connected at all. This really resonated with me because I had just recently listened to Dale Alquist discussing the fact that Chesterton is neglected in schools because he doesn't pigeonhole easily into one discipline. Alquist pointed out that Chesterton wrote fiction, poetry, literary criticism, essays on economics and sociology, essays on theology and art. So no one area could claim him as "theirs." It also reminded me of some things that Joseph Pearce pointed out in Small is Still Beautiful about E.F. Schumacher and the ways in which he saw the connection between philosophy and economics.

It seems to me that one of the things I've learned over the past decades is that a person's philosophy and theology should influence the other areas of their life (like their economic policies, their ways of treating the environment, the ways they raise their children, their attitudes towards health care issues, for example). Yet somehow I think that often we tend to compartmentalize and do things in our work life or our shopping life, or our home life, or our approach to our health, that are not consistent with what we claim our philosophy or theology to be. I think that modern educational systems where learning is compartmentalized have a great deal to do with this. Education used to be far more integrated, but now we have specialists for everything.

I think that perhaps one of the beauty of homeschooling (especially for the moms and dads delivering the instruction) is that you get to see again how things can integrate together. If you are teaching your children from a Christian perspective, for example, integrity and math, compassion and ecology, thankfulness and science, beauty, and literature, truth and history, well they all work together (and you can switch them around as well). It's also true that history and literature integrate together, as do science and history, or literature and science. Philosophy and history, philosophy and science, philosophy and ecology, philosophy and economics, philosophy, and literature are also integrally connected. Only sometimes we just don't seem to get it these days or perhaps we simply choose to live unconnected lives.

However, integrating philosophy with economic theory apparently is a forgotten notion to most modern economists. One of the radically different things about E.F. Schumacher is that he did just that. The recommendations that he ended up making as a result had an impact on a lot of thinkers at one point. Unfortunately, the economists whom most people listen to weren't listening to him. I would highly recommend Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful and Joseph Pearce's book Small Is Still Beautiful to anyone who's interested in the connection between philosophy, economics, and even ecology. I'd also recommend the discussion going on at www.smallisstillbeautiful.com

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's All in the Attitude

When I woke up this morning I was greeted with the coldest day of the year, or even of the winter. The temptation was to grumble about the cold, but yesterday I had spent part of the day reciting "ice and snow, praise the Lord, frost and chill, praise the Lord." from the canticle said on Sundays in the Liturgy of the Hours. So I was prepared! I began by thanking God that I could stay under the warm covers long enough to say the office of readings and morning prayer, and be thankful for the warm wool army blanket that tops my bedcovers. Then I got to be thankful for warm wool socks, a warm wool sweater, and warm wool hat. I got to be thankful for the sheep who provided the wool, the person who sheared the sheep, the person who washed and carded the wool, the person who sold me the dye, the woman who taught me to spin, my mother who taught me to knit, the people who wrote the books that my knitting patterns came from, and oh the people who fed the sheep (even when it's bitter cold outside). Then I got to go and feed the fire, so I got to be thankful for my husband who brings in the wood (even when he's tired) and who starts the fire in the morning. I got to be thankful for the man who fells the trees and cuts the wood into lengths. Then I went upstairs to the kitchen to start breakfast and do some chores. I got to be thankful for a dryer (so I don't have to hang my clothes out in the cold), a washer, and a dishwasher (even if it doesn't always do a perfect job). I got to be thankful that my mother taught me to bake bread so I had homemade raisin bread to make into toast. I got to be thankful for the people at the American Chesterton Society who sold the mug for my tea that always makes me smile.

By the time I was done, I didn't feel like complaining about the cold at all. Now, having dutifully "tracked" my raisin bread toast, peanut butter, glass of milk, and cup of tea on the points tracker at Weight Watchers, I can go back downstairs and begin spinning some more wool. That way, hopefully by next winter, my son will have a sweater to be thankful for on a cold January day.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Well There It Is, Karen

You will note that the computer genius managed to snap a quick photo of me before heading back to her home up north. She snapped it after I had spent most of the afternoon cooking Mexican food with the males of the family, so it isn't exactly a picture at my dressed up best, but it's the best we could manage this time.

It's been a long day after a long night. We rang in the new year with ice cream sodas and Trivial Pursuit (and I even won after a come from behind final sprint!). Then it was up early to clear away the remains of the party before heading out to Mass. Then home again to make a Mexican dinner (chili, enchiladas, guacamole, and tacos). My kitchen seems so small when three of us are attempting to collaborate.

Mass today was wonderful. Father Mattison talked about why the doctrine of Mary as mother of God was important. Since I had just read St. Athanasius in the office of readings this morning it seemed to underscore the point. I came away pondering the fact that as a Protestant this seemed like an odd Catholic idea, yet it now means so much to me. The idea that the flesh that Jesus has he got from his mother, and that if it were not for her he would not have been one with us in our humanity just means so much. Sometimes as a Protestant, even though I knew that Jesus took on our humanity, it seemed like we focused so much on His divinity that it was almost as if God had simply planted an already formed baby in Mary's womb, just what St. Athanasius says He didn't do. Mary was not just a convenient womb, like a surrogate mother of today. She was Jesus's real mother. He really was born as a human baby and grew up to be a human man. He was also fully God. It's a mystery of course, but it's a mystery that Mary is a very tangible part of.

Happy New Year to all of you.