Saturday, 17 January 2015

Why literacy?

In the appreciation of a work of art, the amateur appreciates the subject, but the connoisseur admires the painting.
-David Berkinski, Infinite Ascent, p. 39

The notion of "literacy" goes beyond the ability to read and write. It requires further commitment from the reader to "turn water into wine". What I mean is that the reader is invited to partake in a tradition that is rich and generous beyond imagining. It does this by paring down the superfluous, the unnecessary (ie, ignorance and pride) and by building upon, by appealing to what was always there (ie, intelligence and rationality).

It is strange that there is no "literary-literate", but there are such things as "scientifically-literate"; "philosophically-literate"; "politically-literate"; etc.—even "artistically-literate"—that seem to suggest that literacy, per se, is not a mechanical but a maturation process of sorts, a gaining of excellence and mastery. Ie, it goes beyond, as Northrop Frye says below, the facts and statements of a text and, if trusted and allowed, goes on to affect the existential being of the person who has become literate:

Wisdom is the central form which gives meaning and position to all the facts which are acquired by knowledge, the digestion and assimilation of whatever in the material world the man comes in contact with.
-Northrop Frye, Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake

The notion of "wisdom" is a slippery, hard-to-give-a-pat-definition concept because it is not a thing but a perceptual framework that is acquired not in textbooks but in contemplation of the narrative (be it history, oral traditions, classicist literature, and what is called "conventional wisdom"—or, as I call it, normative exegeses).

In the study of the Holy Scriptures I consider theology a blasphemous abomination by the simple virtue that it seeks to limit that which cannot be, by definition, bound:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.
-Tao Te Ching

rather, my belief in the Gospel of the Christ Jesus has to do with the transcendent, transformative personal obligations we owe to G*d, to nature and to our fellow human beings (love (or agape) and reconciliation). I include in our obligations to nature because it says in the Book of Revelation:

...The time has come for judging the dead,
    and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
    both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.
-Book of Revelation 11:18 (NIV)

Socrates—in a round-about way—was less interested in definitions per se in his insistence upon universals but rather in the nature of things that define us, and our values: In discoursing on justice, he is not interested in the definition of "justice", but, rather, what is its nature, what is required of us to embody it?

In all my talk of Inuit Qaujimaningit (IQ or Inuit Knowledge) and the Family Health Model (spoken of in more detail somewhere in this blog) I've tried to impress upon people that I'm not wanting definitions of words to be posted as labels but that we discourse on and explore the implications to (personal and social) value systems. These are not intended to provide definitive answers to questions not asked but help us to be able to formulate contemporary issues around a common framework and learn from each other.


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