Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remembering the present

In Beauty in the Word, I based my philosophy of education on three pillars or elements: Remembering, Thinking, and Communicating (roughly equivalent to the ancient categories of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric – the "Trivium"). The connection between these is not always obvious, but I think it can be explained in the following way.

Memory is foundational. On it is grounded not only our sense of personal identity, but our ability to think and communicate. One of the most profound comments on memory I have come across is in Pavel Florensky's The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. In it he writes, "That which in God is called 'memory' completely coincides with God's thought, for in God's consciousness Time is identical to Eternity, the empirical identical to the mystical, and experience is identical to creativity. God's thought is perfect creativity, and His creativity is His memory. God, remembering, thinks, and, thinking, creates" (p. 149). Thus for man, too, remembering is the highest form of thought. Education begins and ends with the awakening of memory – get that right and the rest follows.

It is not that we already know, or knew, every detail of what our teachers want us to learn. Rather, to remember the Being from which we come and on which we depend – to recall the Principle of existence – is to establish a context for learning everything else. It is to give thinking and communicating a place to stand. Again, in God, thinking is identical with remembering, and so, for us, to think correctly we must remain faithful to the memory of our origin and build upon it. Thought, science, argument, must be soaked in wonder to be authentic. Communication, too, must come from the heart where our most fundamental memories are pondered and treasured. The Beautiful, Ethics, and the Arts can only flourish when heart speaks to heart, which is when hearts stand on the same universal ground, the ground of Memory.