I have had a slow start with the blog for 2009. There are a number of interesting writers lined up for you this year–I would give you names but I am sure I would leave out someone.
May peace and good health be yours during this year. If you have topics or ideas you would like to see someone discuss on this blog or in the journal, please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully, very soon we will have all conference information out for you. The conference will be June 10-13, 2009. Many thanks to all of you for your continued support and encouragement. Now to living books:
When we look at the feeding episode (the crowd that followed and wanted more and its desire to have a king who would feed it), we are reminded of Frederic Engels’ program that people need bread, not ideas. With Marx, the revolution promised to provide not only bread but also cake for all. But the Bible’s directive is the opposite, as found in Jesus’ words. People need bread in the immediate emergency. But for lasting provisions in the hardships of life, they need ideas and living words about the truth of the universe. They need answers to the pressing questions of life. Udo Middelmann
Like so many other topics, since I have been studying the philosophy and pedagogy of Charlotte Mason, I have pondered the idea of living books. It seems to me that this topic like so many of Mason’s ideas has layers of meaning coming from her years of work and study in education. Unpacking these layers of meaning can be difficult because frequently a well-seasoned educator has many concepts and thoughts buried in a phrase like living books. This is why it is important to research and study the work of an educator/philosopher like Mason. In this blog I want to give some preliminary thoughts to what the phrase might mean. There are many ideas that can be conveyed about living books and I am sure you have thought of some that will not occur to me. To begin, let’s have a look at what the word living might mean.
From the online Free Dictionary by Farlex one can find the following:
1. Possessing life: famous living painters; transplanted living tissue.
2. In active function or use: a living language.
3. Of persons who are alive: events within living memory.
4. Relating to the routine conduct or maintenance of life: improved living conditions in the city.
5. Full of life, interest, or vitality: made history a living subject.
6. True to life; realistic: the living image of her mother.
7. Informal Used as an intensive: beat the living hell out of his opponent in the boxing match.
As I read these various definitions of the word living, I find a number of them I think I can relate to living books. Let’s begin with the first one: possessing life. Living books have a life of their own. In fact, the second definition comes into play here: in active function or use. Because living books have a life of their own they provide a kind of spiritual energy that feeds the mind thereby being “in active function.” Somehow, it seems to me that a living book is not only “full of life” but also “true to life.” In fact, sometimes the simplicity of the true to life book or realistic book that provides truth in simplicity can be the most engaging. In any case, looking at this definition, one can easily see what “living” books are and how we might define them. But I think there is more to understand about living books.
Looking back at the quote that I put at the outset of this article, consider what Middelmann says: With Marx, the revolution promised to provide not only bread but also cake for all. But the Bible’s directive is the opposite, as found in Jesus’ words. People need bread in the immediate emergency. But for lasting provisions in the hardships of life, they need ideas and living words about the truth of the universe. They need answers to the pressing questions of life. Udo Middelmann (pp 51-52)
I have written before in various articles and blogs that when we view life from a matterial (meaning life is only of matter) perspective then what Marx had to offer should have been sufficient. In fact, the cake should have been really good. But, it has not worked out that way. Before we criticize Marx too badly, we need to realize that capitalism cannot meet our needs either, particularly uncontrolled, immoral capitalism–that which we are presently seeing come to full bloom in our own democracy. Why? We have bought image, greed or to use Middelmann’s word we must have our own “cake.” The cake in capitalism can be the American dream: have it all–image, house, cars, boats, the good life. But we are learning that life is not sustained by things or matter. In fact, these dreams of cars, a house at the beach can leave us empty. No, we cannot live by bread alone; we must also have nourishment for the spirit. We are matterial beings but equally important, we are spiritual beings, which, requires living ideas found in living books. Cake, no matter if it comes from communism or capitalism does not satisfy. It provides no spiritual nourishment. We need spiritual nourishment provided by living ideas from living books to “answer . . . the pressing questions of life.”
In sequels to this blog I want to pursue two ideas: 1) how the word shalom might give us further understanding about living books; 2) And, exactly what did Mason mean by “spiritual.”
Middelmann, Udo (2008). Christianity versus fatalistic religions in the war against poverty. Paternoster: thinking faith: Colorado Springs, CO.
The Free Dictionary can be found at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com.
© 2009 by J. Carroll Smith