Monday, January 09, 2012

A Rumination on Literature

I'm preparing to begin the journey through "Beowulf" with my students this week. The joy of teaching the great stories of the world is uncovering the timeless and universal truths in them. What can we learn about the human condition? How do we travel through this life? How do we stay true to our beliefs, frequently in the face of events we never anticipated? Where do we turn in the face of despair, desperation, and the darkness we encounter? How do we remain inspired, and where do we find joy?

As a teacher I find joy in discussing these questions with students. I am doubly blessed by the fact that I teach in a Christian school and can approach these questions from a Biblical worldview. I am continually fascinated how often Biblical truths emerge in places where they might not be expected, such as the ancient Greeks or in Norse myths, which is what we looked at last week in class.

Tonight I am reviewing some notes a colleague shared about "Beowulf," and I'm excited to see elements that we both marked for deeper exploration, albeit not always from the same vantage point. While teaching art classes I have often remarked to students how different artists can tell the same moment from the same story in such different ways and with such different perspectives. As I read such lines as "Behavior that's admired is the path to power among people everywhere" I can imagine the conversation that will take place in class as we ponder the impact and truthfulness of such a statement. But that doesn't mean the discussion will follow my vision, which is part of the beauty of teaching because in those moments I frequently learn from the students as much as they might learn from me.

Tonight I am excited for tomorrow. That might not be quite so true when my alarm sounds in the morning, but by the time we reach class the excitement will have returned. We will open our "Beowulf" books and take the first steps on our next literary adventure as we step through the door to a new time and place. J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “ 'Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.' ”

Let the journey begin!

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