Standing and Staring

This blog is supposed to pull together several strands from the past week, all of which have coallesced in my mind in a wonderful way that may be beyond expression, but that does not stop me from trying.  Okay, disclaimer done, let the blog begin.

I am going to lay out the strands first, then bring them together.

My son Philip shared this wonderful piece he found from William Davies:

What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare? No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see when woods we pass, when squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see in broad daylight streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at beauty glance, And watch her feet how they can dance, no time to wait how her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare. (William Henry Davies, Leisure)

Then Andrew Kern shared this quote from Sayer’s Mind of the Maker as we discussed The Odyssey this past weekend during a Circe Webinar:

“It is the business of education to wait upon Pentecost. Unhappily, there is something about educational syllabuses, and especially about examination papers, which seems to be rather out of harmony with Pentecostal manifestations.” (Dorothy Sayers, Mind of the Maker, p. 112).

Also in that discussion came the following quote from The Odyssey text itself:

A great fire blazed on the hearth and the smell of cedar cleanly split and sweetwood burning bright wafted a cloud of fragrance down the island. Deep inside she sang, the goddess Calypso, lifting her breathtaking voice as she glided back and forth before her loom, her golden shuttle weaving. Thick, luxuriant woods grew round the cave, alders and black poplars, pungent cypress too, and there birds roosted, folding their long wings, owls and hawks and the spread-beaked ravens of the sea, black skimmers who make their living off the waves. And round the mouth of the cavern trailed a vine laden with clusters, bursting with ripe grapes. Four springs in a row, bubbling clear and cold, running side-by-side, took channels left and right. Soft meadows spreading round were starred with violets, lush with beds of parsley. Why, even a deathless god who came upon that place would gaze in wonder, heart entranced with pleasure. Hermes the guide, the mighty giant-killer, stood there, spellbound … But once he’d had his fill of marveling at it all he briskly entered the deep vaulted cavern. Calypso, lustrous goddess, knew him at once, as soon as she saw his features face-to-face. Immortals are never strangers to each other, no matter how distant one may make her home. (The Odyssey, Homer, Fagles trans., 154-55)

What we so desperately need to recover in education is what each of these passages is pressing upon us, either in narrative, poetic, or prosaic form:  Time to stand and stare.  Recovering a sense of wonder, or spiritual curiosity (really, the ability to worship) is perhaps the singular key to reforming our educational calling rightly.  I spent much of the weekend turning this idea over in my head, finding Davies’ phrase the most common and useful: “Time to stand and stare.”

stand and stare

Sayers’ quote nails it – much of what we do in education right now (and she wrote this 60 years ago) is diametrically opposed to giving the student time to think, to stand and stare, to wait for the spirit of the thing to come in full power.  What education needs is Pentecost.  Our Father, form in us such hearts.

I want to blog more on this, but my head/mouth is full of food.  I must have time to chew (to stand and stare).


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