Introducing George Herbert, part one

Perhaps you are fortunate to have already met George Herbert. In that case, I hope to further the aquaintance. If you do not know him, I hope to give you a treat.

I first met George Herbert well enough to speak to through Charlotte Mason. By that I mean that I believe I had run into him here and there, in hymnals, in books, in passing reference, but never had noticed him well enough to learn that an aquaintance with Mr. Herbert was one worth pursuing.

As I read through Charlotte Mason’s six volume series, I came across quotes that caught my attention and made me want to know more.

For instance:

“Kindness which is simple thinks none of these things, nor does it put
evil constructions upon the thoughts that others may think in the given
circumstances. “Be ye kind one to another” is not an easy precept,
but–

‘All worldly joys go less
To the one joy of doing kindnesses.’
Herbert”

Page 102, volume 4, _Ourselves_

“We must bring wide reading, reflection, conscience, and judgment to
bear upon our opinions, if it be only an opinion concerning a novel or a
sermon- upon our principles, if they affect only the ordering of our
day.

‘Who sweeps a room as for Thy law
Makes that and the action fine,’

is a general principle; and no action is fine but as it reaches after a
principle greater than itself”

Page 150, volume 4 – the ‘who sweeps a room’ bit is from one of Herbert’s poems. The context of CM’s quote, I believe, is that one must be careful to make sure every idea we take into our heads is worthy.

Keep this in mind when I share the whole poem in a moment.

“Perhaps most of us fall on our knees and give thanks for special
mercies that we have begged of our Father’s providing care…
For such graces as these we give ungrudging thanks, and we do well; but
the continual habit of thanksgiving is more;-

“Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be,
Thy praise.”
Herbert

Page 193, Volume 4, OUrselves

And finally, (and I know this may be tiresome, but please do stay with
me, I think it’s worth it):

But what sort of apporaches do we prepare for children towards the God
whom they need, theSaviour in Whom is all help, the King Who affords all
delight commands all adoration and loyalty? Any words or thoughts of
ours are poor and insufficient, but we have a treasury of divine words
which they read and know… [she means the Bible;-)]

By degrees children get that knowledge of God … and all other
knowledge which they obtain gathers round and illuminate this.

Here is an example of how such knowledge grows. I heard a class of
girls aged about thirteen read an essay on Geroge Herbert. Three or
four of his poems were included and none of the girls had read either
essay or poems before.

They ‘narrated’ what they had read and in the course of their narration
gave a full paraphrase of ‘the Elixir, The Pulley, and one or two other
poems….

In such ways the great thoughts of great thinkers illuminate children
and they grow in knowledge, chiefly the knowledge of God.”

Volume 6, Towards A Philosophy of Education, page 64

Part two will be a biographical sketch of George Herbert’s life, and part 3 will be a sampling of his poems.

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Where have all the grown ups gone?

Being good is hard work. Developing character requires thinking about it and acting on those thoughts. We may have the HOly Spirit, but the Bible also tells us to work out our own salvation and that solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5).

Once upon a time everybody understand that character was important and that it required practice to develop. That practic included effort, personal, real, and sustained effort.

For years now we have tried to take shortcuts. We try to change ourselves from the outside in, to change ourselves by changing our image. We attempt character growth through conspicuous consumption. We can think we can accessorize ourselves into a better human being. What we buy, what we own- these, we think, will bring about the changes in who we are that previous generations understood came through hard work and training in good habits and right thinking and living.

All too often I find myself thinking about something I want to teach my children or to change in myself, and my next thought is “what can I buy to do this?” Our culture no longer has a self-sufficient mindset. Instead, we have a quick fix, instant gratification way, character growth in a box for cash or credit approach.

William Kilpatrick writes that T. S. Eliot ‘observed that some of his contemporaries were in the habit of “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”

He says we still dream of finding a substitute for character. Kilpatrick also points out that “The dream of a society “so perfect that no one will need to be good” is really a child’s dream. It betrays a hope that the grownups (society, the government) will take care of everything so the rest of us can just play. This is exactly the kind of attitude we might expect to arise in a culture where so many people are in search of their own inner child. And it helps to explain why when hurt in the pursuit of play and pleasure, so many look for someone else… to blame.
We need to stop dreaming. The truth is, there is no substitute for personal character and there never will be…. there is no way to educate young people for character in the absence of adults with character.”

We not only have a lack of adults with character, we have a dearth of adults. Nobody wants to be a grown up anymore. We see this demonstrated in many ways. Those adults in age who tell other people’s children, “Don’t call me Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith is my mother-in-law. Call me by my first name,” those are adults who are not comfortable with being the grown-ups. A friend of mine just told me about two new grandmothers she knows. They think they are too old young to be grandmothers (they are not- the mother of the new baby is 30 years old), so they have declared that they will not be grandmother- the hapless grandchild will call one of them ‘Princess,’ and the other ‘Cupcake.’ These are adults who are not comfortable with being grown-ups.

Many adults think it’s fresh and entertaining to talk about still being children and never wanting to grow up. They burden children with making grown up decisions because they are too afraid of being the grown-ups themselves. They think Peter Pan is a hero because he never grew up. In truth, Peter Pan is the story of a sad, lonely, frightened little boy cut off forever from his fellow man because he refuses to grow up.

We need more grown-ups.

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Here’s Some Exciting News

Man recovers from coma after ten years:

A firefighter brain-damaged in a 1995 roof collapse had an “amazing” weekend, recognizing and speaking with his four sons and other family and friends for the first time in years, a family spokesman said Monday.

“I want to talk to my wife,” Donald Herbert (search) said out of the blue Saturday at the skilled nursing facility where he has lived for more than seven years. Staff members put Linda Herbert on the telephone…


Dr. Rose Lynn Sherr of New York University Medical Center (search) said when patients recover from brain injuries, they usually do so within two or three years.

“It’s almost unheard of after 10 years,” she said, “but sometimes things do happen and people suddenly improve and we don’t understand why.”

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The New S.A.T.

Need to help your students prepare for the new S.A.T.? Tell them to write long essays, the longer the better. Making stuff up is good, too.

See the Instapundit for more.

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Are We Losing Our Minds?

According to this study:

…excessive day-to-day use of technology — whether it’s sending e-mails or using mobile phones — can be more distracting and harmful to the IQ than smoking marijuana.

“an average worker’s functioning IQ falls 10 points when distracted by ringing telephones and incoming e-mails … more than double the four-point drop seen following studies on the impact of smoking marijuana.”

The report cited a 2002 report on marijuana use by researchers from Carleton University in Ottawa.

The research found that 62 percent of adults are addicted to checking e-mail and text messages. Half of the workers would “respond to an e-mail immediately or within 60 minutes.”

I’d offer some cogent and pungent commentary on the implications of this study, but I forget what we’re talking about.

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