Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Finding the path of beauty

 “This willingness continually to revise one’s own location in order to place oneself in the path of beauty is the basic impulse underlying education. One submits oneself to other minds in order to increase the chance that one will be looking in the right direction when a comet makes its sweep through a certain patch of sky.”

Elaine Scarry

Phew! I am glad I found this quote. It was drumming in my ears as I went on my training run this morning.

Elaine Scarry may have been referring to Education here, but I can’t really separate life and Education; life is education.

The idea that struck me was the bit about increasing your chances that you are in the right place to see something worth seeing, or to experience something worth experience, or to learn something worth learning.

, BBC weather presenter

, BBC weather presenter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning the Carol Kirkwood gave the forecast of sun, rain and hail – and she was bang on. I was doing my running-in-contact-lenses-in-the-rain trial – and in minutes the brooding dark became lashing hail and I was first of all soaked through and then covered with wee crumbs of ice. Halfway through the run, the ‘sun came out and dried up all the rain’ and the hail all disappeared and the world was transformed to one in bright and bold colour: green grass, blue sky, white clouds, yellow sun. The shades were out and on and the homeward journey was underway with the word “gazelle” leaping about uncontrollably in my mind as I bounded home.

The “willingness to revise one’s own location” is not a traditionally ‘Scottish’ trait, certainly in physical terms. If you were to wait until it were sunny to go out and do something, if it were sunny and you got yourself organized, by the time you were out there it would be raining again. The trick is to go anywhere as planned, despite the weather – and once there, there is at least the chance that you might catch a nice blast of sun, heat, or – whatever it is you are after. There is a pattern of Scottish behaviour that I am certainly guilty of; when the first hot day of the year comes, I spend that day making a mental list of things we could do with for the garden, and then going in the oppressive heat in the car to B&Q and buying stuff, bringing it back to the garden and then the midges coming out, the darkness falling and a return to depressing temperatures ensues. Favourable conditions just don’t turn up. You have to be out there making do – and anything good that happens is a bonus, or indeed a joy.

But Scarry, I think, is suggesting that this flexibility in location is to do with – perhaps – worldview? To see things from someone else’s perspective? To do a bit of a Scout Finch and stand on the doorstep and see how things look from within another person’s world.

It might sound a bit alarming to say one should “submits oneself to other minds” – but it is daft to argue with someone trying to show you something that they know about, or teach you a skill they have that you want to learn. This submission to an educator – in any context – makes sense. There is no point arguing – you have to trust them and listen to them to see if they do take you to the place where you are in a position to be aligned with “the path of beauty” – when you can see/do/make/experience what you hoped.

Whether or not this submission of the mind is a ‘good thing’ depends entirely on the mind to which you submit your own – for the purposes of your education.  Is theirs a perspective worth seeing from? Should you stand on their doorstep and look out at the world?

I think that as long as you are aware that you are only walking around in their shoes and seeing things their way – that you have your own porch to go back to – then it is probably a good thing. You don’t need to adopt their world view – but you can be aware that that is what it is – and that is how things look from ‘over there’.

Of course, when you find yourself in the ‘path of beauty’ – and you are caught up in a moment of reality that is truly yours because of where you have been brought – then, that is yours – and becomes part of your perspective and experience.

Where do you want to stand for a while? What do you want to see? What do you want to learn?


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23 thoughts on “Finding the path of beauty

  1. Good work.
    Gold star.

  2. ‘You have to be out there making do – and anything good that happens is a bonus, or indeed a joy.’

    You summed up my life philosophy.

    Re the educators – if they do their job properly, you will eventually disagree with them at some point.

    This post isn’t really about the weather, is it? 🙂

    • I love that moment when I disagree with someone 🙂 It then shores up my own opinion as my own opinion – and usually crystallises the reasons why I have that point of view.
      As to whether or not this post was about the weather – if the weather hadn’t gone from shocking to lovely in the space of a minute on my run I’d not have remembered this quote about being in the right place at the right time… and the post would never have been.

  3. If you are running through patchy weather, you’re bound to be in the right place at some time. 😀
    However, I love when you write like this!!!! Much better than agonizing over pancakes . . . 🙂

    • Exactly. But, that reminds me… I need to bake for my book club tomorrow: crisis!

    • Sugar cookies? Not a term I am familiar with…
      Are they *very* easy?

      • Very. And lovely. Here’s my recipe (sorry in U.S. terms!) :
        1 lb butter, softened
        1 c. sugar
        1 c. powdered sugar
        Blend above, well.
        2 eggs
        1 tsp. vanilla
        Blend in well.
        4 1/2 c. flour
        1 tsp. baking soda
        1 tsp cream of tartar
        Sift above and mix in, well.
        Drop by teaspooon onto ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with glass dipped into sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Mmm! 🙂

      • They’re a bit like shortbread (or what we think shortbread is!) but have leavening and more sugar, and shaped like a 2-inch disc. I think you say biscuits? (Which over here, are fluffy and have no sugar; meant to sop meat- or chicken-broth …)

      • Oh, you know, I just noticed I had ignored the baking temp and I baked mine at 350!!!! (This is a forgiving recipe, or what?) Now I know why I needed the full 12 minutes baking time to get my results. Crazy me! Just wanted to give you full disclosure so you would see how a dizt like me can succeed with these things. Ha. Also, although I am not a huge tea drinker, these sugar cookies are marvelous with tea, just marvelous. Mmm!
        And they really are best for a crisis. Try them for scraped knees and parking tickets. They are made for crisis! 😉

    • Brilliant thanks Katharine. I have some American “cup” measuring things, so I’ll give it a go…
      I have so little time tomorrow, they will only just about have time to cool before the book club get here 🙂
      Here’s hoping this is as failsafe as your hard boiled egg strategy and the frying bacon one.
      Homeschool? Worldschool…

    • Confession… I never got around to baking… Son has a virus.
      However, he went to bed early, we had the book club anyway.
      I served shop-bought Victoria sponge.
      Never mind – he seems better today.

  4. Laurie Nichols on said:

    I love your phrase “you can go along and walk around and their shoes because you have your own porch that you can come home to” That sums up a wonderful perspective about everything. I love it when you get philosophical.:)

  5. Pingback: Looking through the single window | Wee Scoops

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