We’ll be leaving at five in the morning tomorrow for Louisville, KY, and the CiRCE Institute’s annual conference on classical education, on the theme ‘A Contemplation of Creation’. Last year’s conference, on the theme ‘What Is Man?’, was a real treat, my wife and I having been sent by a generous Providence Hall parent, Chris Dickerson, as a sort of scouting expedition for our school. Not only did I get to chat a bit more with CiRCE founder Andrew Kern, whom I had met previously when we both spoke at the Climacus Conference in Louisville, but I also had lunch with the charming Armenian Orthodox moral theologian, Vigen Guroian.
This year Providence Hall will be returning in force. I hope to reconnect with prior acquaintances, meet a few new ones (not the least of whom will be the generous Logismoi reader, Kimberly Jahn), and, of course, buy a few books from good old Joshua Sturgill at the Eighth Day table. We may also stalk speaker Wendell Berry a bit. I hope to make a full report sometime next week. In the meantime, I shall leave you with an interesting quote to ponder from Umberto Eco’s excellent Art & Beauty in the Middle Ages, tr. Hugh Bredin (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1986):
The view that the Middle Ages were puritanical, in the sense of rejecting the sensuous world, ignores the documentation of the period and shows a basic misunderstanding of the medieval mentality. This mentality is well illustrated in the attitude which the mystics and ascetics adopted towards beauty. Ascetics, in all ages, are not unaware of the seductiveness of worldly pleasures; if anything, they feel it more keenly than most. The drama of the ascetic discipline lies precisely in a tension between the call of earthbound pleasure and a striving after the supernatural. But when the discipline proves victorious, and brings the peace which accompanies control of the senses, then it becomes possible to gaze serenely upon the things of this earth, and to see their value, something that the hectic struggle of asceticism had hitherto prevented. Medieval asceticism and mysticism provide us with many examples of these two psychological states, and also with some extremely interesting documentation concerning the aesthetic sensibility of the time. (pp. 5-6)