Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Liberty and vocabulary...

My mind has been buzzing lately as my online classical ed loop (known as my loopy friends) have been discussing liberty in preparation for a summer conference that several of us may attend. We have been inventing ideas in the classical way, using the topics of invention, and have spent a couple of days kicking around the idea of defining liberty. Of necessity, many other connections come up when one begins to define an abstract term. It has been a delightful and stimulating discussion, ranging from topics educational to theological and philosophical, from the idea of work and vocation, to the idea of vocabulary. "Vocabulary," you ask, Gentle Reader? Yes, vocabulary. As we can understand words and the ideas they express, we are freed from our bondage to ignorance, and our minds are made more facile. But you don't have to take my word for it. I found a lovely couple of quote from Tracy Simmons in His Book, Climbing Parnassus. The context is that Simmons has been discussing the importance of learning Latin, and listing several reasons this is so. He talks about our English indebtedness to Latin, and describes the English speaking student who has learned Latin as owning an obvious edge in English over their contemporaries who do not because,
..."not only has that student learned what the words mean, he learns what they have meant; he has seen them jostling and lounging in their original habitat. They've gamboled at his feet. 'Liberty' never means the same after our backs have been burdened with the full weight of Roman 'libertas'"
T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus(p.168)

He talks about language learning of this sort making our brains "more capacious", that the words and ideas become like tactile things we can feel and that our commerce with them becomes easier and easier. Later, he makes this statement:
"Over time advantages arise from this commerce. One is mental expansion. Not only do our minds become better stored, but they also become more pliant, better able both to embrace new ideas and to judge old ones. They can analyze and synthesize on command. our intellects graduate to hard-won independence. They can cut through thickets of official obfuscation and doubletalk. Classically-educated people are not the prime consumers of propoganda..."
T. L. Simmons, Climbing Parnassus (p.169)

So, today I am grateful for the capacity to name things, which enables the ability to think more carefully. And I am grateful to Christ, who frees me from my sin and from the law, to pursue the calling He's given me in liberty. I hope you all find places to have such discussions!

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