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01 May 2018

Commonplace Book: April

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. This is what Mother Culture is all about: self-directed, conscious self-education. 

Mankind has long since passed from the stage in which speech is used for the mere expression of physical facts and desires, to that in which language is employed as the highest tool within the grasp to paint the pictures of poetic imagination, and sway a world-wide audience to noble thoughts and deeds. Not only to supply the necessities of travelers in far countries has the study of languages ever been desirable, but to penetrate the spirit and genius of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Goethe, Hugo, Dante, it has become, to the cultured of every country, a necessity for the full gift of a liberal education. Since language became literature, the necessity for the mastery over other tongues than his own has forced the attention of student and of professor to the problem of studying languages...
-The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, preface.

...education must be organic and not mechanical, that language teaching, modern and classic, should proceed by dealing with things and not with words and grammatical abstractions, and that before all else education should have direct bearing upon actual life.
-The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, preface.

When he saw Oliver, he pushed the book away from him, and told him to come near the table, and sit down. Oliver complied; marveling where the people could be found to read such a  great number of books as seemed to be written to make the world wiser. Which is still a marvel to more experienced people than Oliver Twist, every day of their lives.
-Oliver Twist by Charles Dickons, p128

"Look here! do you see this! Isn't it a most wonderful and extraordinary thing that I can't call at a man's house but I find a piece of this poor surgeon's friend on the staircase? I've been lamed with orange-peel once, and I know orange-peel will be my death at last. It will, sir: orange-peel will be my death, or I'll be content to eat my own head, sir!"
-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, p131

It is in the recognition of the vast part the imagination -or, to be more accurate, the faculty of visualization - plays in the learning of languages, as in all mental operations, that the originality and success of M. Goun's "Series" system depends... Desirable as the discovery of the rationale of the gift may be and certainly is -- for language underlies the acquisition of all knowledge and the study of all arts and sciences -- the investigation of this "gift" must be, whether it be recognized or not, in reality the investigation of the rationale of all "gifts" and powers of the mind.
- Preface, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages

Alongside the material railway needed to enable our bodies to communicate, it is absolutely necessary to construct a "mental railway" for the intercourse of minds. This mental railway must take the form of a linguistic method that shall enable a person, by means of the language, to enter into and assimilate the intelligence, and the spirit of a foreign nation, not as now, in a period of ten or twenty years, and in so doing expend the third part of a a lifetime, but in the space between two equinoxes, or, for those of the trained will, in the space of a single season.
-M. Fracois Gouin, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, 2

"Hush!" said Mrs. Maylie, laying her hand on Oliver's head. "You think like a child, poor boy. But you teach me my duty, notwithstanding. I had forgotten it for a moment, Oliver, but I hope I may be pardoned, for I am old, and have seen enough of illness and death to know the agony of separation from the objects of our love. I have seen enough, too, to know that it is not always the youngest and best who are spared to those that love them; but such things teach us, impressively, that there is a brighter world than this; and that the passage to it is speedy. God's will be done! I love her; and He knows how well!"
Oliver was surprised to se as Mrs. Maylie said these words, she checked her lamentations as though by one effort; and drawing herself up as she spoke, became composed and firm. He was still more astonished to find this firmness  lasted; and that, under all the care and watching which ensued, Mrs. Maylie was ever ready and collected: performing all the duties which devolved upon her, steadily, and to all external appearance, even cheerfully. But he was young, and did not know what strong minds are capable of, under trying circumstances. How should he, when their possessers so seldom know themselves?
-Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, 282-3

I wonder if they like it --being trees?
I suppose they do.
It must feel so good to have the ground so flat,
And feel yourself stand straight up like that.
So stiff in the middle, and then branch at ease,
Big boughs that arch, small ones that bend and blow,
And all those fringy leaves that flutter so.
You'd think they'd break off at the lower end
When the wind fills them, and their great heads bend.
But when you think of all the roots they drop,
As much as bottom as there is on top,
A double tree, widespread in earth and air,
Like a reflection in the water there.
-"Tree Feelings" by Charlotte Perkins Stetson, quoted in the Handbook of Nature Study, 615

Alas! I can say it now; it all depended on a very small error. I had simply mistaken the organ. The organ of language -ask the little child- is not the eye; it is the ear. The eye is made for colors, and not for sounds and words. Now all that I had hitherto learnt, I had learnt by the eye. The word was in my eye and not in my ear. The fact expressed by it had not penetrated to, was not graven upon, my intellectual substance, had never been received by my faculty of representation. This was why I was deaf though I yet heard, both deaf and dumb though I was able to speak. Fool that I had been! I had studied by the eye, and I wished to understand by my ears. I had set myself to represent printed characters instead of representing real facts and living ideas. I had wearied my arms to strengthen my legs.
-M. Francois Gouin, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, 33


Anne Chovies said...

"... marveling where the people could be found to read such a great number of books as seemed to be written to make the world wiser." I know of one young man, your brother, who is making a vigorous attempt at it. You do pretty good at it, yourself.

Ritsumei said...

Ha. That's a true story! It's pretty remarkable, though, how many of the books just in my *house* that I haven't managed to read.


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