I’ve been coming to Duluth performing shows for about ten years now with my ragged assortment of actors. There are glimpses of striking beauty around here, especially Split Rock Lighthouse, north of here, the most beautiful lighthouse on earth – placed high on a cliff above the waves crashing upon the shore of Lake Superior. It is one of the most stunning sights you can imagine.
One actress saw it and turned away crabby, looking for a place to smoke.
And I thought, part of education, of building a culture, is training people to understand Beauty – along with Truth and Goodness. Learning to read poetry or to appreciate good music or to read a novel, or for that matter to read a person – these are things without which we are less than what we should be; things without which we turn from manifestations of God and revel bitterly in our own addictions.
After writing about Catholic Culture and the Chesterton Conference (see below), I read John Senior’s marvelous book “The Death of Christian Culture”. Senior writes
“Culture, as in ‘agriculture,’ is the cultivation of the soil from which men grow. To determine proper methods, we must have a clear idea of the crop. ‘What is man?’ the Penny Catechism asks, and answers: ‘A creature made in the image and likeness of God, to know, love and serve Him.’ Culture, therefore, clearly has this simple end, no matter how complex or difficult the means. … All the paraphernalia of our lives, intellectual, moral, social, psychological, and physical, has this end: Christian culture is the cultivation of saints.”
And step one, as Chesterton would tell you, is to wonder at the world God has made and to lift up your hearts in thanksgiving, while our churches have lost the Fear of God, our lives have lost Wonder, and we are crabby addicts dying for a smoke. May we all turn from our selfish petty sins to Wonder at the world and to Fear the Lord Who made it. That is the beginning of Culture.
When so many academics endlessly ponder the mysterious and manifold purposes of education, Kevin O’Brien
succinctly reminds us of the essence and dimensions of education to be “the training of people to understand beauty as well as truth and goodness”. Our plethora of self-annointed intellectuals should wonder–“How did I miss that?”