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  •  Aquinas had a related word (2+ / 0-)
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    Swordsmith, tita weng

    When he wrote about the characteristics of a great work of art, he wrote that it had unity, harmony, and "claritas."

    Literally it means clear, not obscured.  It also means vivid or brightly-colored.  Look at medieval painting, and all those apply.

    But the word goes down at least one more level, to mean "radiant." On its face, that's an odd, vague word for someone as precise as Aquinas to be using.

    I walk into a Gothic cathedral.  They're pretty cold buildings to my flesh. But in the early morning, or late afternoon, when the sun comes directly through the stained glass windows, the cathedral fills with a light that is not the light of everyday.  The place becomes warm, emotionally.  The sun, filtered through the stained glass, brings warmth and comfort into the cathedral.

    There would be an analogy there to Aquinas's theology.  The love and grace of god radiates out to us, comes thru us, giving us life, and bring life and love and grace into the world.  A great work of art also radiates a sense of the light and energy and grace of god-in-us and god-thru-us.

    Great work, of any kind, has this quality: claritas.

    The problem for me comes with art and literature that deals brilliantly with our darker nature.  Dante's Inferno has claritas, but its a dark world indeed.  And Shakespeare's great tragedies.  Even Rimbauld in "A Season in Hell."

    The great shamanic journey could be a journey to the realm of sky god or to the underworld.  Either way it was the same journey.  And its purpose was always the same: to heal.

    Is there something at the heart of great teaching (or, again, any great work) that illuminates, radiates, and heals? Is that its defining characteristic? And is there an English word that will synonym for "claritas"?

    Or have I just been awake too long past my bedtime?

    Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

    by world traveler on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 09:19:55 PM PDT

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    •  what a beautiful way to frame a question (2+ / 0-)
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      world traveler, tita weng

      I've experienced the way stained glass and light bring radiance and warmth to dank, closed-in feeling Gothic spaces; it's nothing short of magical. Certainly teaching has moments that reflect the same sort of magic.

      I'd like to think that there's "something at the heart of great teaching that illuminates, radiates, and heals." Certainly teaching has done all of those things for me, and I think to many of my students. Perhaps it's too limiting to define teaching only by its finest moments, however. There are times when teaching is magical, but there are days when it's a slog, when nothing seems to connect, when I feel like I'm touching no one. Yet some of those slogs, in retrospect, have touched students as well, or laid the groundwork for the magic. There are many levels short of the ideal that we strive for, and if only the ideal counts, we'll spend a lot of furstrated moments, even though some of those moments have produced genuine accomplishments.

      An analogy from gaming (since gaming has contributed dramatically to my teaching skills, and my ability to read a room emotionally and connect and communicate): When I run a game, I create a world that isn't real, and narrate that world for the people playing the game every week. Most games are fun, and many of them are cathartic at a certain level. And if I'm really good at what I do, three or four times a year I can make people lose themselves in that world, can communicate something so intense and evocative that for a few hours, the players forget that it's not real. That's the essence of running a game - but the other days aren't failures. They're fun, they lay the groundwork for the moments that really click. I can't measure myself only by what I accomplish those three or four times a year. Yet at the same time, in a certain sense, I have to. Because knowing that sometimes I can accomplish that is part of what keeps me running games - is part of what makes me so passionate about teaching.

      Economic -5.00 Social -5.49 http://politicalcompass.org/

      by Swordsmith on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 09:46:17 PM PDT

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      •  "Shall I create a world" (1+ / 0-)
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        Swordsmith

        Ah, yes, there are many days that must be devoted to laying groundwork, practicing methodology, shaping models/paradigms (great 90s word).

        I just read an article in the Chronicle of HE that said research scientists spend about 50% of their time doing paperwork and administrating.  No wonder countries like Singapore can lure back their scientists from the US to build great Singaporese research centers, great Thai hospitals.

        And I've had the same experience--a pretty dull semester, and a student or two who comes up at the end and says the class has changed the way they think about things/understand/live. And there have been classes that were brilliant every day.

        But that's not the reward any more. Been in the trenches too long.

        I look for a job well done.  Has the shape, the form, the line been right.  Did this nuance, that adjustment, create a more elegant flow. Were such interesting questions that arose given appropriate respect and discussion. Were pedestrian questions answered clearly. If the audience is ready, the class will work for them. If they are not ready, perhaps it will come back to them at the right time. If they are just checking a course off the requirements list, did they receive a class that accomplished the purposes set out for it.

        I've talked with other older artists/craftsmen. We all appreciate the acolades of intelligent, informed viewers. We all want to do work that connects. But in the end, satisfaction comes from standing back and saying,

        this work is good.

        Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

        by world traveler on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 10:14:38 PM PDT

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