Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On "A Moral Imagination"

Rallying The Really Human Things by Vigen Gurorian has helped me to understand the importance of cultivating the minds of children. To develop and feed the imagination of a child is inevitable. If we do not supply the child with quality literature to help their imagination form, something else will grow in its place. Each human being was formed to have a sense of imagination; to somehow make some sense out of that which does not. We exist in a world that does not make sense. 

If one does not purpose to train a child's moral imagination what will grow in its stead? According to Guroian, a "corrupted imagination" will take root in one of three forms: Idyllic, Idolatrous, or Diabolic.

In other words, whether you purpose to cultivate the imagination or not, inevitably, the imagination will grow. Unfortunately, if not cultivated properly, weeds will grow in its stead and thus, the person will lead a life with a corrupted imagination. 

Gurioan claims "The moral imagination is the distinctively human power to conceive of men and women as moral beings., that is, as persons, not as things or animals whose value to us is their usefulness." He goes on.."The principal office of life in which society invests and entrusts this care are the parent and teacher. Modern educators - a breed with which I am all too familiar - have not been good gardeners of the moral life. In their penchant to treat fact as god, event as illusion, individual as datum, person as chimera, norm as relative value, and human nature as social construct, they leave the moral imagination to perish." (pp. 55 Rallying The Really Human Things)

Gurioan contiunes to establish his claims when he concurs "In philosophy and literary criticism memory is often associated with the imagination, for memory is thought to provide the images out of which the imagination construes the ultimate shape and meaning that we attach to the world." (pp. 70 Rallying the Really human Things)

I am stimulated into the reality that we must tend to our children's minds. We must put before them fairy tales and stories with heros and saints. One must never stop with the pre-school stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I am enjoying the adventures of King Arthur and his knights, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with my teens. In fact, I am reading The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle for the second time. It is, by far, one of my favorite books and I would challenge you to read it to your teens. I promise it will stimulate the "moral imagination" as well as increase their faith in God. Pyle often challenges the reader to trust in the God Almighty and bring glory to Him in ones conduct.

Yesterday I began reading Hereward The Last of The English by Charles Kingsley. In the preface to the story, Kingsley is setting the stage to write a book about a lowland hero, so it seems. When I read the paragraph below, it immediately brought my mind to Guroian's book, as well as Gregory Wolfe's Book, Beauty will Save the World

In reference to the Scottish "low lander" who has not been exposed to the the "poetic and romantic elements". Kingsley lists that which "still remains in the Scottish Highlands; and which when it disappears from thence, will remain embalmed forever in the pages of Walter Scott. Against that half magical background of his heros."  Kingsley asserts that these "lowladers"  have attained "none of the background of the unknown, fantastic, magical, terrible, perpetually feeding curiosity and wonder…" In other words, the lowlanders have not been exposed to a liberal education and have been robbed from the cultivation of a moral imagination. The nightmare that follows such a tragedy is the loss of a belief in God, or the making of an atheist. Atheism will grow in the gardens of an uncultivated imagination.

Kingsley continues to assert the repression of the lowlanders who lack a moral imagination:

"He finds out, soon enough for his weal and his bane, that he is stronger than Nature; and right tyrannously and irreverently he lords it over her, clearing, delving, diking, building, without fear or shame. He knows of no natural force greater than himself, save an occasional thunder-storm; and against that, as he grows more cunning, he insures his crops. Why should he reverence Nature? Let him use her, and eat. One cannot blame him. Man was sent into the world (so says the Scripture) to fill and subdue the earth. 

But he was sent into the world for other purposes, which the lowlander is but too apt to forget. With the awe of Nature, the awe of the unseen dies out in him. Meeting with no visible superior, he is apt to become not merely unpoetical and irreverent, but somewhat of a sensualist and an atheist. The sense of the beautiful dies out in him more and more. He has little or nothing around him to refine or lift up his soul, and unless he meet with a religion and with a civilization which can deliver him, he may sink into that dull brutality which is too common among the lowest classes of the English lowlands, and remain for generations gifted with the strength and industry of the ox, and with the courage of the lion, and, alas! with the intellect of the former, and the self-restraint of the latter. - Prelude to Hereward The Last of the English by Charles Kingsley

I conclude this rant and appeal with a list of books that will cultivate the imagination. Books such as: Andrew Lang's Fairy books, Charles Dickens, George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis, Beowulf, as well as the other books I listed in this blog. I do not earn money on your clicks. I simply added the links to make it easier for you to obtain copies of the books I am recommending. Be challenged to read great books to your kids, not only for their moral imagination, but also for your own. You will be amazed at what a difference it makes in the building of a human being with strong character. After all, isn't that why we are homeschooling in the first place?


Katie said...

Wow. What a great blog post. I need to get Guroian's book!

The girls and I are currently reading _The Holy War_ by John Bunyan. It is an allegory. I highly recommend it as another of the stories that feed a moral imagination.

Colette said...

I "second" the recommendation for _The Holy War_. I just picked it up off the bookshelf today!! Of course, _Pilgrim's Progress_ and _Christiana_ are wonderful, as well.

Anonymous said...

Vigen Guroian's books are wonderful! I also enjoyed "Tending the Heart of Virtue:How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination".