Thoughts on Poetic Knowledge, chapter two (part one)
I'm hopelessly late in this week's discussion of the first part of chapter two, but life is what it is. I want to join in this discussion, but finding the time to devote to it is tricky.
I read over the chapter, including my marginal notes, which made reference both to Charlotte Mason (of course), and also to Alfred North Whitehead. It's been several years since I read The Aims of Education by Whitehead, so I had to pull the book out and look over my notes there to recall the similarities. One thing that I think is important to understand about "poetic knowledge," as it is called by Taylor in this book, is called by other names from other authors. Thus, when you read about "romantic knowledge" in Whitehead or "synthetic knowledge" from David Hicks (Norms & Nobility), it's really important to realize that they are talking about the same thing. Taylor borrowed the word "poetic" from some older authors, and it is valid, but it is not the only term to describe what he means--what Charlotte Mason called "the science of relationships."
Poetic knowledge is very much the difference between knowing things, and knowing about them. Our information age has made "knowing about" extremely easy, and it is easy to confuse a second-hand familiarity with real knowledge. We mustn't. The real knowledge is the poetic knowledge of close association, interaction, and ultimately, love.
This poetic knowledge begins with a sense of wonder, and I really like the quote from Dennis Quinn:
Wonder, always considered a passion, was classified by Aquinas and many before him as a species of fear....There are, of course many kinds of fear..[and] it is helpful to distinguish wonder from some passions in its immediate family. When we do so, we see that wonder is the most rational form of fear.
This kind of wonder, that makes us approach some new and unknown with awe and reverence, is, I think, what the Bible means when it tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
It is, of course, closely connected with the sense of ignorance that makes us aware that there is something we do not know, and that we need to know, or want to know--a state of humility without which true education cannot take place.
The one author that springs to mind when I think about this is Jostein Gaarder. I have read everything he has written (that has been translated into English), and I have never encountered anyone better able to articulate this sense of wonder than he does--from The Christmas Mystery to Sophie's World. I don't agree with all of his conclusions, but there is no doubt that understands the right frame of mind for looking at one thing--a flower, an orange, a sheep--and understanding how truly amazing it is--how worthy of our awe, because it is such an amazing thing, "infinitely more than nothing."
Now that I've wondered all over the map, it's probably pretty clear why I didn't get any kind of post done earlier for this chapter. In the end, it was this or nothing. I've avoided reading everyone else's thoughts until I posted my own, so I'm to do that now. You may want to join me.