“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Monday, May 05, 2014

Remember, Remember

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education
Chapter II  Remembering (Part 1)

In one word Caldecott changes the nature of the discussion of classical education and for that I will love him forever.
He is not coy. He names his chapter on grammar Remembering. His first sentence says in plain English, "With this chapter, I begin to examine in detail the first three of the liberal arts, namely Grammar. I want to connect this to the art of Remembering."

Let us stop and ponder this gigantic improvement.  It will take years.  The Hollywood movie Troy has a soundtrack that includes the song Remember sung by Josh Groban. This song captures beautifully the Greek pathos of memory.  Dorothy Sayers gave us the Logos of memory but Caldecott returns us to the Pathos. Without this pathos we might not have The Iliad or The Odyssey. Without the pathos the logos is hardly worth remembering but because we NEED the logos and the ethos we must not leave out the pathos. We must not.

"Memory, then, is the mother both of language and of civilization. This is what gives us our link between Remembering and language."

"It was Grammar that enabled the Greeks to enter more deeply into the reality of the cosmos, not just by becoming conscious of how language functions, but by becoming conscious of themselves as inventors, users, and refiners of language."

We just finished reading aloud Dorothy Mills The Book of the Ancient Greeks . Once again I am loathe to move on to the Romans. I love the Greeks. I care about the things they care about. I am more interested in veiled statues than the phalanx. Both the Romans and I love the Greeks.

What does Caldecott mean by remembering? It is not a vapor although we have to think hard to understand exactly what he means. He says, "The  ideas are in us, or we could not recognize them."  Remembering is bound irrevocably to truth and because of that love.

"The moment we suspect that our tradition is based on a lie is the moment it loses its authority over us. Thus tradition is based on the act of faith."  

And here is the key:
"Tradition joins the generations together in a community of anamnesis that transcends time. The contemporary dissolution of the family is also the dissolution of tradition, because it can only be passed on within the community whose identity it helps to define."

Caldecott says that our "....Technology also tends to eliminate tradition, and with it the possibility of a truly human living in time."

We live in a time and it is connected to the past. We are not drifting in the universe alone unconnected to time or each other.  Our grammar is our language and it is how we connect to one another. It is how we connect to what came before. Grammar is our Rosetta Stone of understanding those who came before and it also connects us to those who follow unless we break the stone tablet, unless we cut the umbilical cord. 

When Sister Monica Joan responds to a man with "Golden lads and girls all must..." and I respond in my heart,"like chimney sweepers come to dust," I am finding myself connected to the Sister, the story she is communicating, the past, Shakespeare, and the future. I am not just connected to the logos and the ethos of life and death but the pathos which Sister Monica Joan, Shakespeare and I remember together.

And then there is Achilles. The Greeks implore me to remember him. Why? This is education.

"Remember, remember the Fifth of November." "Remember the Alamo." "I Remember, I remember the house where I was born."  This is grammar.

Do not mistake Information for Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding. Remember from whence you have come and where you are going for the children's sake.

(We are not done with this chapter. Not by a long shot.)


  1. this is the third time in a week or two that I've run into the word "anamnesis".

    Your reminder to look to not only the logos, but pathos and ethos or Remembrance is such a valuable insight. Thank you! I'm going to go cogitate on pathos and anamnesis for a while....

  2. What a great song -- thanks for sharing that. It's been, what, 4000 years and we still remember.

  3. So glad you are back and not done with this chapter of the book. It is taking me where I have not been before. And also the reminder to watch more than the first season of Call the Midwife which we loved.

  4. And that is why the study of folk songs and hymns is so important. Thanks for explaining what I haven't been able to put into words!