Sunday, January 1, 2012
Full turns of Time’s big wheel always cause me to recall Mircea Eliade (1907-1986). He was one of the chaotic but inspired thinkers who influenced people like me, thus people who rashly jettisoned tradition, religion in youth. People like me needed guides who seemed to have embraced the modern but then had come to doubt it. Another such was Carl G. Jung. I was exposed to such brilliant modern interpreters of the traditional as Etienne Gilson, but stuff like that flowed over me and left no trace. Traditionalists did not engage the world I thought I knew. Brought up in, but rejecting, a tradition in which the liturgical year played a major guiding influence, I had to read a book like Eliade’s Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return before I intuitively understood the genuine meaning underneath such structures as the liturgical year. To think of myth as actual, real, here and now—that’s something of a leap. But exactly the same process fashioned my approach to mathematics. I was taught it in the traditional way—which assumes that I’ll be a good boy and simply cram the information, learn the rituals, and accept all that without intuitive assent. I didn’t. I put math right next to religion as something to be despised—useful in minor ways but beneath the dignity of genuine engagement. Until later—when I tackled the subject on my own. Odd this. But there always will be people of my sort who don’t take well to regimentation—those for whom, in fact, regimentation is a signal that something must be viewed as dead. Education can’t be mechanized—not the real thing. But teaching anything at all effectively is extremely expensive in time and money. But when it’s done right, at least we get something for the effort and resource expended.