Liberal Education Works

As a teacher at a prestigious Catholic classical high school,  I have been thinking a great deal about floor joists, plywood widths, cast iron pipe and tile.

 Why? Well…it’s summer, and this is just what classical teachers do in the summer!

 The classically trained mind thinks lofty spiritual matters, and about matter itself and the material world during those long winter school months…but in the summer it immerses itself with great zeal and energy into the very heart of the physical world. Mind confronts matter in its myriad and individual circumstances, its messy imperfections and raw primal state with an unflappable confidence saying “this is only matter after all. How hard can it be?”

Very hard indeed!

But do not confuse the classically trained mind with the “ivory tower intellectual!” The ivory tower intellectual gives a bad name to learning and philosophical pursuits. He lives aloof from the brazen realities of cast iron plumbing and horsehair plaster. He has never scorched his fingers with a propane flame torch when soldering copper pipes together. He has never melted lead off the end of a brass collar!

The ivory tower intellectual gets his practical work done by making phone calls.

But the classically educated mind does not hesitate to leap headlong into full-scale demolition work. He doesn’t have the snobbish contempt for matter (which is probably really a mask for his fear) that the “intellectual” has. The CLASSICALLY trained mind knows with religious conviction that mere matter – mere concrete, wood, bricks, cast iron or copper pipe is simply no match for the dynamic power that the mind has from chanting Latin forms. But this does not make him despise matter. No! It does however help him to appreciate the mind.

Take for example this photo of the classically trained mind wielding the thirty-five pound Hitachi Jack Hammer!

 

Two layers of tile over 3 inches of concrete. My sunglasses served just fine for eye protection.
Two layers of tile over 3 inches of concrete. My sunglasses served just fine for eye protection.

Taking out that floor was tough…but not nearly as challenging as learning the rules for the sequence of tenses in Latin! Even if they used to make tile floors in second story bathrooms on 3+ inches of concrete!

Or take this example!

IMG_7879

I had to laugh when I saw this semi hexagonal shape under the shower. I said to myself “Euclid would hardly consider this a regular polygon!” So I ripped it all out and am now ready to work with the “almost prime matter” underneath it all!

After hauling out 30 buckets of concrete and broken tile we have something we can work with!
After hauling out 30 buckets of concrete and broken tile we have something we can work with!

There is no problem in the material world, as far as I can see, that the classically trained mind can’t overcome with the aid of a heavy-duty Milwaukee Sawzall. I love this tool. I even cut through those old obsolete steel pipes – except for the wider one in the middle which I think services some of my radiators.

In general I think my house is breathing a sigh of relief now.  Wouldn’t you feel better if someone removed 1500 pounds of material from your life?

But I did wonder how the house could remain substantially the same house with all of those parts removed.

I had to "sister" some of the floor joists to provide a level substratum upon which to lay the 3/4" ply
I had to “sister” some of the floor joists to provide a level substratum upon which to lay the 3/4″ ply

Don’t worry about the broken orange level on the right, it still has the essential parts that I need to make this job level! I do wonder whether I should replace those ugly copper pipes at the top. They bend up from under the joists and then go behind the wall studs. Not quite up to classical standards.

 

 

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
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11 Responses to Liberal Education Works

  1. Margie says:

    Mr. Langley, could you extrapolate on what kind of a role exactly servile work plays in man’s end? Why is it that man delights in servile work when it is not proper, so to speak, to his end which is intellectual?

    • Mark Langley says:

      Hi Margie,

      I am not certain what you mean when you say “man delights in servile work?” Just can’t figure out what you could possibly mean by that!

      Mr. Langley

      • Margie says:

        🙂 Isn’t there something fulfilling and delightful about raking leaves, digging ditches, and chopping wood? Sometimes we enjoy servile work. Don’t hearty people enjoy going outdoors and doing manual labor? – like on a farm? Or even indoors? Doing a ga’zillion dishes can be fun! – It just seems like we often enjoy doing manual labor and so I’m wondering why this is. 🙂

        • Mark Langley says:

          Margie, I just am not able to understand what you are saying.

          “Doing a ga’zillion dishes” …this is what we Langleys do everyday and I always console myself with the thought that someday I will not have to wash a single dish!

          Manual labor …fun? I just can’t figure out what you mean.

          Maybe it is satisfying to see the completed work? Maybe it is fun to talk with interesting people while you work?

          But the work itself is really quite difficult and in my opinion something that I would never choose to do if I could avoid it. 🙂

  2. andrew says:

    that might be a good idea to remove those pipes, you can scrap them for a good sum and replace them with cheaper pvc pipe ps nice saw-zall

  3. Raj R Singh says:

    you shouldn’t have running water that is not classical

  4. Mark Langley says:

    “Running water” not classical? If you had said “electricity” I would be more inclined to agree.

  5. Raj R Singh says:

    there was no running water in classical times

    • andrew says:

      there WAS running water in the classical era, if you will recall the great Roman aquaducts that the roman armies built during the times the were not at war

  6. Helen Peyrebrune says:

    “There is no problem in the material world, as far as I can see, that the classically trained mind can’t overcome with the aid of a heavy-duty Milwaukee Sawzall.”

    That’s a good line.

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