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Friday, October 8, 2010

Frugality, Decluttering: Paradise

OK. So I've been teaching George Herbert, wonderful 17th-century poet. Went to class. Heard the B-word. B is for BORING.

I ditched my plan and showed them this poem first.

Paradise.

I Bless thee, Lord, because I GROW
Among thy trees, which in a ROW
To thee both fruit and order OW.

What open force, or hidden CHARM
Can blast my fruit, or bring me HARM,
While the inclosure is thine ARM.

Inclose me still for fear I START.
Be to me rather sharp and TART,
Then let me want thy hand and ART.

When thou dost greater judgments SPARE,
And with thy knife but prune and PARE,
Ev’n fruitfull trees more fruitful ARE.

Such sharpnes shows the sweetest FREND:
Such cuttings rather heal then REND:
And such beginnings touch their END.


I said, "What do you think is going on with the words at the ends of the lines?"

Then I looked down at my book for a while, using the trick of silence I learned when I taught at a Quaker college.

Eventually, a student said, "It's about pruning and paring, as he says in the next-to-last stanza." Yes!

Now, look at the title: through PARING, you get to PARE-ADISE=PARADISE.

Certainly, I didn't go into Renaissance literature because of the religious content: it just so happens that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British lit is IMHO the greatest ever, and not just because of Shakespeare.

And isn't it true that PARADISE is all about PARING DOWN, whether one is talking about frugality or about decluttering one's space or wardrobe?

My blogpal Duchesse, by the way, is challenging us to limit our wardrobes, another kind of paring down.

How are you paring down these days?

7 comments:

Duchesse said...

I just love this post, so literate and harmonious. And thanks for the mention, the "experiment" will be set up with guidelines (not rules) next Wed. My problem is, I have too many enjoyable clothes. Know what I could do with them (donate, sell), but letting them go is a wrench.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Neat! I don't think my lecture on health insurance in the US today is going to be quite as nifty.

Though for my other class next week we'll be doing the birthday problem which is pretty mind-blowing-- about how it's likely that unusual things will happen even though it's unlikely that they'll happen to any specific person. "Someone's gotta lotto, but it probably isn't going to be you."

Deja Pseu said...

How cool is that? Yes, paring down is indeed Paradise.

Terri said...

Isn't it George Herbert who has the "concrete poems" as well. My community college students like those and it seems so far ahead of his times.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse-Thanks. If this is harmonious, it is also due to George Herbert, who was an accomplished musician. Many of his poems have been set to music.

@NicoleandMaggie--How 2 people always have the same birthday in a group of 30 or so? I remember one of my teachers did that.

@Deja--Thanks for appreciating it.

@GTerri--The Altar and Easter Wings, right? Many post-modern concepts are right there in 17th c lit.

Funny about Money said...

Gracious and beautiful! Thank you.

What am I paring down? My courses. Big time.

Have decided I give the little jumping beans wayyyy too many hoops to bounce through and not enough time to do solid work on the assignments that matter.

So, I'm converting four or five "exercises" into (heh) "learning guides," which will be ungraded, with the caveat that they will be expected to master the skills therein and their papers will be graded on that expectation. Learning guides will go up on Blackboard just as they've been doing as graded exercises, with a nominal "do it by" date, and after that date the answers go online. Moi...I do not even look at the things. Stoonts won't, either, of course.

Well, I probably will review them, but I'm not grading that stuff.

Because we're required to teach writing as a recursive process (students think that means "curse and re-curse"), I can't get out of at least nominally scoring the various stages the classmates have to stumble through to get to the final draft: brainstorming, discussing, drafting, peer reviewing, revising & editing. But still: getting rid of the various learning exercises and folding brainstorming & topic discussion into a single score will cut the workload from about 25 scored events to 16.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--That is great news. I tend to do more than the students--it IS supposed to be the other way around.