Nascantur in admiratione–let them be born in wonder–is a centuries old phrase meant to indicate the core of education. The word “education” itself has a nascent connotation: ex ducare, its Latin corrollary, means literally “to draw out.” A sculptur sees the intended image within marble–a statue of King David, for instance–and then draws it out, chips away the inessential for the essential, gives birth through fine attention to his materials.
Today, we are hardly trained to engage in this kind of attention and discipline. Our modern society is mechanized and therapeutic. We live in increasingly burdensome, soul-crushing, and complex commercial systems matched by an increase in psychotherapy, diversions, empty entertainment, pet obsessions, and various ways to concoct a false sense of catharsis as a brief repreieve from the systems that, deep down, we know to be immoral, unjust, and disabling pursuit of self-control and virtue. We indulge in wasteful and unnecessary vies in order to “let of steam” or “decompress” from the inane weight of modern secular society.
How little, then, we engage in either work or leisure for its own sake! Everything is subordinated to some utilitarian purpose: a dollar amount, a system of success-estimation, health benefits, even a semblance of perceived effectiveness in religious ministry or spirituality! In living for the perceived benefit of the moment, in throwing a pinch of incense at the idols of convenience, administration, pragmatism, and capitalism, we lose our love for good things because they are lovable. We seek knowledge as a means, not as an end defined by love. And in losing our love for knowledge as its own end, we in fact lose our souls, and lose love itself, making us a clanging gong or resounding symbol in St. Paul’s words, a “sound and a fury, signifying nothing” in Macbeth’s.
In his short work Only the Lover Sings: Art & Contemplation, Josef Pieper suggests a two-fold solution. First, we must unplug from the noise and cacophony of our culture. We have to learn to say no, to turn off the phone, to not receive automatic updates, to unsubscribe, to take a baseball bat to our televisions. But second, and perhaps more importantly, we must make intentional artistic acts. We must make things because we love to make them. Engaging in a disciple of creativity is the antidote; one must not merely plug his ears to a culture of death and noise pollution that, as T.S. Eliot says, keeps us “distracted by distraction by distraction.” One must also open his heart, minds, and hands to begin making a culture of life and harmony. However, the first point remains an important step: one must first disconnect, say “no.”
Nascantur in admiratione–let them be born in wonder. Say no, stay up late to star-gaze, host poetry workshop. Strike out from the moving walk-ways of our busy culture; admire, wonder, contemplate, and be truly born.