Commonplace Entries: Wendell, Dietrich, and Charlotte on the Sacred/Secular Split

coaster - woodburning on cedar for a sweet handcraft (note where the heart is!)
Have you added to your commonplace book lately? Here are 3 of my commonplace entries that deal with the dualism that often besets our lives. This has been a hot topic around here lately.

From Wendell Berry:

I see also that my language has changed. In the earlier poems, I used the words "spirit" and "wild" conventionally and complacently. Later I became unhappy with both. I resolved, first, to avoid "spirit." This was not because I think the word itself is without meaning, but because I could no longer tolerate the dualism, often constructed in sermons and such as a contest, of spirit and matter. I saw that once this division was made, spirit invariably triumphed to the detriment, to the actual and often irreparable damage, of matter and the material world. Dispensing with the word "spirit" clears the way to imagine a live continuity, in fact and value, between what we call "spiritual" and what we call "material." - This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems, Introduction p. xxv

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"There are not two realities, but only one reality, and that is the reality of God, which has become manifest in Christ in the reality of the world." -Ethics p. 195

From Charlotte Mason:

"We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life." - principle #20, Vol. 6 p. xxxi

Teaching from Peace,

Plutarch, Polio, and Philopoemen

Morning lessons at TBG/The Hive
I have mentioned that in 2010 on the way to L'Harmas in Canada, I had the privilege of sitting next to Ron Stroud, a Classics Professor at UC Berkeley. He noticed that I was reading Howard's End is on the Landing (a delightful book about books) and we struck up a conversation.  Well, I asked most of the questions when I found out what he had spent his life studying and I was particularly interested in his experience with Plutarch.  He shared with me how he encountered Plutarch as a student and how that helped him choose his career path.

Artist study
This past week, I sent him an email.  One never knows if one will hear back from someone they met 7 years ago, especially if that person is, shall we say, elderly. To my delight, he responded and was happy to answer my question about Plutarch and the influence Plutarch had on his life. I shared this with my children (13,15, 17) and they all LOVED it.  Actually, they said, "Awwwww!  Mom, you have to share that!" And so I will.


Dear Nancy;
I am very sorry to disappoint you but I have lost all memory of Plutarch changing my life, but I can tell you about the Latin teacher in Toronto who first introduced me to Plutarch when I was in high school. He had been a student at the University of Toronto, active in sports such as swimming and bike riding, when a severe polio epidemic hit that city in 1938. At that time there was no Salk vaccine or the like and thousands of people were left maimed and crippled, if they recovered at all. He was put in irons from his neck to his ankles and told that he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was able to finish his B.A. in Classics and went on to a year at Ontario Teachers' College where he completed his certification to teach high school. He got a job at the high school in my neighborhood and taught for a few years in a wheelchair. By the time I encountered him, he had abandoned the wheelchair and got around on a pair of crutches. He was still in irons and had to prop up his writing arm whenever he wrote on the board--and his handwriting was beautiful. Every Friday morning in Latin class he would take 15 minutes off for a "commercial." He was recommending the Great Books and that was when I first met Plutarch. My teacher's name was Lorne Smith and he used to ask us, "How can you live another year of your life without reading Plutarch, Plato, Dante, Gibbon, .... " It was through him that I was led to read the Parallel Lives in the old North translation when I was 16-17. He was a most remarkable man and one day he said to me, "Ron, Latin is really fine, but a truly educated man knows Greek." Well, my high school did not offer Greek, but he agreed to teach me early in the morning before the school day began and late in the afternoon after the last scheduled classes were over. He even corrected my Greek exercises in the summer when I was up 900 miles north of Toronto working on the railroad. Through him I was able to get enough Greek to enroll in the Honour Classics program at the University of Toronto.
A truly great man.       
All best wishes,  
I began our lesson at TBG/The Hive today with reading that note. Needless to say, our Plutarch lesson went well as the students narrated about Philopoemen breaking the javelin that had pierced both his thighs by moving his legs and then moving on to lead his troops into battle. They mentioned many ideas of courage, determination, and valor that Philopoemen demonstrated, how he refused to compromise, and how he took a rag-tag group of soldiers and worked with them until they could move like a murmuration.

I think Ron's note inspired them.

Teaching from Peace,

More Plutarch posts!  Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
Explaining her diagram of an internal combustion engine (Physics)
Simple experiment with cyclic motion (Physics)
Written narrations regarding great speeches and Queen Elizabeth I (Great Speeches)

Annual Valentine exchange - I love that the high schoolers still like to do this!

Winter Thoughts

Miss Mason extolling the virtues of the Humanities

We talked at our last Living Education Lesson about virtue and how it plays out in Mason's paradigm, particularly in regard to Citizenship. The above was a favorite quote of mine, so I thought I would share. Things are busy this week as I am off to the Large Room Retreat in D.C. - can't wait to see everyone, share about some exciting living books (immersion fun!), and talk about Charlotte Mason.

The word for today from John Greenleaf Whittier is timely -


Father! to Thy suffering poor
   Strength and grace and faith impart.
And with Thy own love restore
   Comfort to the broken heart! 

 And here is a recommended blog post by Amy about what is enough, or rather, WHO is enough!

Teaching from Peace,

Parnassus on Wheels

 “When you sell a man a book you don’t sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night - there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.”- from Parnassus on Wheels
It's about time that I tell you about a little book that is one of my favorites - Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley, pub. 1917.  It is related to the name of my blog. It's not a heavy, deep book.  Rather, it's a lovely, sometimes humorous read with lots of book titles involved.  What's not to like?  I've read it a few times and it brings me a little bit of joy each time. Any book about a mobile bookseller from the early 20th century will have my interest. (Jan and Gary Bloom, anyone?)

To read the dust jacket, one might conclude that Roger Mifflin is the main character.  He is a well-read bachelor who roams the country in his book wagon, Parnassus, seeking to enlighten all he can convince with his selection of great literature. But right away we meet the self-deprecating Helen McGill, spinster and caretaker of her famous country author-brother, Andrew. She leaves the farm and sets out on a series of adventures, sometimes with and sometimes without Roger. My edition is the Book Club edition.  It has an introductory section titled "Certain Essential Preliminary Footnotage" by John T. Winterich"  - don't miss it.

Did you know that the first full-fledged bookmobile was started in Hibbing, MN in 1915?  I didn't, until my friend Sandy sent me The Horn Book Magazine with an article about mobile booksellers (and how Parnassus on Wheels was an inspiration).  You can read the article, "Treasure Island by the Roadside", here!

Now,  just when you thought I wasn't going to tie any of this (besides books in general) to Charlotte Mason...a connection has been uncovered! My friend Kerri, a mobile bookseller herself of sorts, found this gem in the archives from a 1921 Parents' Review book review:

Parnassus on Wheels, by Christopher Morley. Here we have a most racy tale of "the most godly diversion known to man,-selling books." A man who loves books and knows a book when he sees it sets up 'Parnassus' which is a van containing many books and many comforts for the natural man and very naturally drawn by 'Pegasus.' He meets 'Helen McGill' the sister of a popular author who tries to keep farm and home togehter while her brother makes books. He sells his van to her and goes a trial run with her that she may learn the trade. Of course they marry. "What I say is, who has ever gone into highroads and hedges to bring literature to the plain man, to bring it home to his business and bosom? The farther into the country you go the fewer and worse books you find...It's a great work, mind you, it is like carrying the Holy Grail to some of these wayback farm houses." Here Mr. Mifflin gives us the motif of Parnassus on Wheels.

I may or may not have shouted with glee when she sent this to me.   Some of you will understand.

Hopefully,  I have mentioned a new book for your enjoyment!



Extra goodness:

A modern day Parnassus on Wheels!

Librovox audio of Parnassus on Wheels!

Parnassus on Wheels has a sequel - The Haunted Bookshop which is great fun, too!