Saturday, January 11, 2014

What is this soul, and how does it pass?

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. 
--G.K. Chesterton

People who aren't used to thinking in a Chestertonian way may think this statement extravagant, or overly poetic and ephemeral. I forgive them, because they likely are recipients of a societal soul that lacks perspective and understanding. It takes time and tradition to build a healthy society, and the modernists who taught many of us have lost the moorings of our Christian past. Many people don't have a concept of passing something on to their children; they just want them to have a college degree so they can get a Good Job.

I have done most of my growing up in the little society of the family my husband and I created many decades ago, and the culture and nourishment has been good. The word soul didn't come to mind as a descriptor of what we were trying to impart to our children, while we were trying to give them the best nurturing, the best culture for healthy growth, but now that I have for so long been focused on cultivating life in my children and my self, Chesterton's way of describing it seems perfect.

Of course, it's frighteningly full of possibilities. How would you characterize the soul of American society? Or the society of your extended family? Are you in a church that is unified and close-knit enough to constitute a society, and is it one that you can feel good about the next generation continuing? The process that GKC hints at brings to mind images of some ghost-like being floating over the globe, and I wonder how much control I can have over that?

At any rate, this thought makes me gladder than ever that my husband and I were able to homeschool our children for many years, and pass on to them thousands of small bites of hearty soul food. We can't even know for sure which were superfoods and which were maybe just as nourishing, but harder to digest, seeing how God redeems and uses even our failures. But we cooked up the recipe ourselves, in our home kitchen, so to speak, and after all this time, it is still tasting very good.


Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things is hosting a blog event in 2014, Weekends with Chesterton , and you can see more of how various of GKC's ideas stimulate and encourage bloggers by perusing the pages linked from there.

11 comments:

M.K. said...

These are interesting thoughts, esp. for me who am still working at the home culture for our last child, and am just now wondering how exactly we have passed on anything of value to the children who've left. I do think we have a definite culture, and Adam and I have been deliberate and unified in it, and consistent in instilling it in our kids and the home altogether. But did it stick? It's very hard to see sometimes. And besides that, life events and disasters (of which we've had quite a few) intervene and disrupt your goals in this, goals like peace and consistency and stability. Thanks, GJ.

Farm Girl said...

Well as a long time fan of G.K. Chesterton. I can tell you my whole goal from the time I held my first baby in my arms was the idea through these little lives that God had so graciously in trusted to us was to transform society. Now that they are growing up and having their own families and children, seeing that the same idea has been passed on,it makes me happy. Now that even the ones at home are saying why they too will home school when they have families. We still have those discussions when we get together.

My daughter reads G.K. Chesterton for a little light reading even now. :) It makes me happy.
Very insightful, I liked this very much and agreed with your conclusions.

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Gretchen,

I so enjoyed your post this morning. I like Mr. Chesterton, although I have not read all of his works; I'm more acquainted with him through his many thoughtful quotes that circulate around in books and posts.

You give me much to ponder here. I want to think about what you ask about what characterizes the soul (in my case) of Canadian society. And especially the society of my extended family.

You mention in your first paragraph about people who have 'lost their moorings'. There is so much in our society that has gone the way of the dinosaur that I have felt this feeling creeping even in my own soul.

Thankfully, though the traditions of family and community crumble in so many places, if we stay on the Rock, the Lord Jesus, we will come safely to harbour again. He is my ever-present mooring in this unsafe world.

I am so blessed to know that you and you husband created a society for your growing family over the years that was like a harbour to you. It's good to know not all is lost.

I'm reminded of Elijah, after his great battle with the prophets of Baal, when in his extreme weariness, he felt he alone was left to stand for God. And God showed him, no, dear boy, I have kept for myself 7000 who had never bowed their knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18)

Many blessings to you this day. Here's wishing you catch glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Happy New Year!
Brenda

Sarah Mackenzie said...

Oh wow, this is such great food for thought. Your last paragraph, especially hit home for me.

"We can't even know for sure which were superfoods and which were maybe just as nourishing, but harder to digest, seeing how God redeems and uses even our failures."

This is the long view- the one we can't assess year by year by year. Actually, I wonder how much of true education we can really assess at all under GKC's understanding of the nature of education itself?

Lucy Casey said...

Your post is very edifying to read - thank you. Such a disconnection from the past in society today. I hope that I can impart soul food to my little ones to fill in the void that I find myself in culturally.

Gumbo Lily said...

This makes me smile. Your word pictures are brilliant. Thank you for this.

Anna@stuffedveggies said...

What a blessing it is to be able to home school! I was just thinking last night - while watching my daughter sleep - that the best quality time the two of us have together is during the school day! So much of the other parts of our day are centered around other people & daily routines - and we're beside each other but don't focus on each other. But, during the school day, I spend MOST of my time helping her grow - Spiritually, Academically & Character-wise!

Kate said...

Thanks for this. I love the quote and your reflection. I feel like I need to mediate on this as we set intentions for our young family.

Gail @ http://biblelovenotes.com said...

I love reading your thoughts here. And I really like the last paragraph: "We can't even know for sure which were superfoods and which were maybe just as nourishing, but harder to digest, seeing how God redeems and uses even our failures. But we cooked up the recipe ourselves, in our home kitchen, so to speak, and after all this time, it is still tasting very good." We homeschooled our children (who are now 38 and 40--we were a bit of pioneers at that time). And I like this description. And it fits the Chesterton quote.
Thanks for sharing,
Gail

Anna Yager said...

I just found your blog through Sarah's blog and the Chesterton linkup, which I just found out about through Annery's blog (whew!) I lived my entire life in Northern California until my husband and I moved to Mexico 5 years ago (that means 60 years in NorCal), and I have been SO loving your posts of your life and travels. The photos feed my soul…the words too. Thanks, and I've got you bookmarked now so I'll be a regular reader.

M. T. said...

Very interesting quote! It does give me a lot to think about. Education is so much more than schooling, isn't it?
God bless! Thanks for visiting (and commenting! Yay!) on my blog.