Those of us who love the music of Bruce Cockburn will have his song Lovers in a Dangerous Time resonating around the back of our minds all the time and this is right. Somehow we must never forget to be lovers, no matter how dangerous the times are, because thereby we cock our hats towards a different flag, and march to a different and very resonant drum.God calls us – calls us – to love children and lead them. That’s all. Everything else is secondary. So of necessity we must be amateurs in the true sense: lovers.
During the siege of Leningrad in the Great Patriotic War that the USSR fought from 1941-1945, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his 7th symphony as a testimony to and story of, the siege and its attendant suffering. The famous ostinato theme of the first movement, sometimes known as the “invasion theme” is a mocking pastiche of German pretensions, like a child standing on the wall of a city and throwing rotten tomatoes at tanks. It was a dominant voice for all Leningraders for 3 years, but there was another, resonant and beautiful voice of struggle and suffering and love for their motherland that kept the defenders going, the Germans out and the people resisting and surviving. Two different songs to listen to. Two different melodies to grow with. Get away from the raucousness of the first movement into the rest of the symphony, or listen to his 8th string quartet or the passacaglia from the first violin concerto, and you will see the song of love arise, a song to expand your soul.
I have quoted this from Wendell Berry before, but I think in the context of my attendance today at the “whole” education conference today and the work on assessment earlier in the week, it is worth repeating, from his essay The Responsibility of the Poet.
Professional standards, the standards of ambition and selfishness, are always sliding down towards expense, ostentation and mediocrity. They always tend to narrow the ground of judgement. But amateur standards, the standards of love, are always straining upwards toward the humble and the best. They enlarge the ground of judgement. The context of love is the world.
I am off to find out how “whole” this Whole Education is straining to be, and in which direction.