I love food. I am not talking about a casserole or a fast food hamburger. I am talking about beautiful food. I mean an artfully crafted feast. I delight in a table loaded with baskets of bread, and too many cheeses to pronounce. Give me a landscape of bowls, stemware, and utensils of every size. My senses take pleasure in a plethora of color, texture, and aroma. It invigorates my mind thinking about all of the parts of a great meal. I imagine the gardener who sows the seeds, cultivates the soil, and harvests the crop. I think about the farmer who wakes up at wee hours in the morning and works night and day to care for his animals. I wonder about the chef, who spent hours practicing, inventing, and innovating. Even down to the carpenter who built the table, and the designer that chose the dinnerware–all of those moving pieces came together for one beautiful meal.
The love of beautiful things is instilled in us by our Creator. Beautiful things move our soul, whether it is food, music, art, or even a well-built car, or a sports player that has mastered his skill unlike any other.
“Beautiful things by their very nature are hard.” – Plato
We live in a society with a fading motivation to “do hard things.” We desire our children to come out of school with good communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving skills, discipline, and good character. But how do we effectively cultivate those skills? Cultivating beauty is not always delightful. Like a chef who must first learn to chop, dice, peel, cream, whisk, and braise her ingredients, cultivating beauty is often boring and tedious. But hastiness or convenience does not lend itself to beauty. It is far more often an attribute of ugliness.
A classical education seeks out beauty. And we recognize that beautiful things are hard. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do hard things. But we recognize that hard work is immensely fulfilling. There is a deep level of satisfaction when gaining mastery in something. Struggling through something is doing more for your brain and your soul than doing something easy. Classical Educator Andrew Pudewa says, “He who struggles is twice blessed. He not only learns what he has to learn, but he had to learn how to deal with the struggle of learning.”
A classical education spends time cultivating beauty. In the Grammar stage, we apply ourselves (sometimes tediously, perhaps) to memorizing facts and definitions. In the Logic and Dialectic stage, we slowly work through Latin and logic, and read difficult ancient texts. In the Rhetoric stage, we learn how to carefully listen, pay attention, and be in harmony with one another. We also spend time discussing and wrestling with big ideas. Our aim is not a drive-thru education where we can get through things quickly. Our aim is to cultivate a feast of learning about the world the Lord created for us.
A classical education realizes that the most beautiful things are beyond our senses. If we just focus on a physical feast, it will cripple our souls. A physical feast is temporal. Our appetites yearn for more than meat, drink, bread, and cheese (or whatever you find beautiful). There is another feast that withstands time. A feast that should awaken our souls to act on behalf of our Creator.
“On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine-
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain He will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
He will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)
We believe every soul has the potential for being beautiful. We look at each student as not just a consumer of education, but as a person made in the image of God. It is our desire to cultivate students toward truth, goodness, and beauty. The Lord tells us the key to a beautiful soul is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. But if we focus on doing what is easy, comfortable, convenient, and fast, what kind of soul will that produce? Beautiful things are hard.
As a parent myself I am guilty of wanting my children’s lives to be free from pain and “too much work.” I tend to help them, and make life easier for them so they don’t feel any pain or discomfort. But I am now realizing that the easier I make life for them, the more I am hindering them from a path of beauty. When our children go through hard times or have to do hard things, let’s not be quick to make it easy for them. Instead, let us realize that a masterpiece is in the process of being constructed. Beautiful things are hard. Let’s embrace it!