Hidden Art

Creativity & the Commonplace

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“There are times when memorization is out of favor in education. Some might say that “rote memorization” is not appropriate as a teaching strategy. “Rote memorization,” however, is loaded language, biased against the discipline and effort required to learn things permanently. There is nothing wrong with challenge. We must remember that the alternative to remembering is forgetting, and when we teach something as important as grammar, that will be needed for one’s entire life, the ban on memorization makes little sense. There are areas of knowledge that should be memorized, and in the past, there was a better term for it: to learn by heart.” ~Michael Clay Thompson

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“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply…” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

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"Any reasonable ordering of the books must have The Last Battle as the final story, and must place Prince Caspian before The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader,’ since the latter is very straightforwardly a sequel to the former. Also, The Silver Chair cannot come before either of those books, since one of its main characters, Eustace, appears in Dawn Treader as a younger and very different sort of person from the one he is in The Silver Chair. Moreover, readers of the series will probably agree that The Horse and His Boy, being a largely self-contained story with minimal connections to the others - it is mentioned briefly in The Silver Chair, and the Pevensies appear in it briefly as rulers of Narnia - could be stuck into the sequence anywhere except the beginning and end. So the dispute really concerns only one question: should the sequence begin with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or The Magician’s Nephew?

The argument for The Magician’s Nephew is simple: since it describes Aslan’s making of Narnia, placing it at the beginning yields a biblical, Creation-to-Apocalypse arc for the series. The case for The Lion is more complex and much stronger. First of all, though Lewis spoke of altering the order of the books, he also spoke of needing to revise the books in order to remove inconsistencies - and if Nephew is read first, there will be many such inconsistencies. For one thing, we are told quite explicitly at the end of The Lion that its narrative is ‘the beginning of the adventures of Narnia’. For another, Lewis tells his readers that the children in The Lion do not know who Aslan is ‘any more than you do’; but of course the readers would know Aslan if they had already read Nephew. Moreover, much of the suspense in the early chapters of The Lion derives from our inability to understand what is happening in the magical wardrobe - but if we have read Nephew we will know all about the wardrobe, and that part of the story will become, effectively, pointless. Similarly, one of the delights of The Lion is the inexplicable presence of a lamp-post in the midst of a forest - a very familiar object from our world standing curiously in the midst of an utterly different world - and one of the delights of Nephew is the unexpected discovery of how that lamp-post got there. Anyone who begins with Nephew will lose that small but intense pleasure, the frisson of one of Lewis’s richest images.

If Lewis really and truly thought that the series was best begun with The Magician’s Nephew, he was simply mistaken. The original order of publication is the best for any reader wishing to enter Narnia.”

Alan Jacobs, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” in The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis. (via giftsoutright)

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It is the easiest thing in the world to work all the time, compared to the incredible difficulty of spending one hour or one day of rest in a proper way.
Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Out Of Revolution (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1938), p.14. (via bluedollar)

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Just as we were all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worth while asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I’m certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in an agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all-too-familiar sight — three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, “It’s disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can’t the authorities execute criminals humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?” Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the nature of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
W. H. Auden, in A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (via ayjay)

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Old technology dominates life much more than we think. We still sit on chairs and eat with utensils that the ancient Mesopotamians would recognize. Beer (early Neolithic), wine (late Neolithic), and tea (1500 BC) are the most popular beverages in the world. Boeing’s 787 would be worthless without a 4th millennium BC artifact: the wheel. As Robert Sutton says in his book Weird Ideas That Work, “All the excitement about building better products and companies can make us forget that most new ideas are bad and most old ideas are good.”
Why The Most Popular Viral Hits Spread Slowly | 250 Words. Nice passage, but about that quote from Sutton: No. If he meant to write “Most good ideas are old,” then okay. But most old ideas were just as bad as most new ideas — it’s just the the lousy ones didn’t stick around. (via ayjay)

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Good clothes look better when they are nearly worn out than very cheap clothes look when they are new.
Edward Spencer in Clothes & the Man (1901)

(Source: putthison)