This is a subject that I have talked about before, and seems to be gaining a little bit of traction in Catholic circles. The concept of “finer things” is teaching our children about more classical aspects of culture. Things like classical music, poetry, a fine art of some type, and etiquette. As cultures ebb and flow, the one constant is “modernization”. Every culture experiences it, because every culture moves forward. Ours is being defined by technology and sex. So, if we have any hope of imprinting some aspect of traditional culture on our children, we need to do it ourselves. For some of us that means that we have to experience and learn some of these things for ourselves. It becomes a learning process for us as well as our children. These “finer things” are important because as a culture, what we do with our “leisure time” and how what we do for hobbies and enjoyment not only define our culture, but they shape our values, and influence our virtue.
What are we talking about?
As I said, the types of things I am talking about are culture and leisure based. These are elements of our lives that add to how we see live in the abstract. Poetry for example not only helps us read in a new way, but makes us think. You know the type of thiking I am talking about, alliteration, allegory, illustrative metaphors, etc… It forces us to analyze things based on our life, as well as trying to discover the authors intention. It is the “preparation of a meal” rather than going to “McDonald’s.” (See how that worked? Just talking about poetry is influencing the way I write and think .)
We also have to intentionally choose the types of things we partake in. Music is an area that there is a wide variety of choice, but we often succumb to the lowest common denominator. We listen to the radio and whatever someone else tells us is good. We do no exploration of what we actually like. If we don’t do these things, how will our children learn to do it? I like much of the music I do, because of the influence of my parents.
So try listening to something new. Listen to the entire album. Check out The Vitamin String Quartet and listen to some of your favorite songs done in a classical format. This is especially important. We need to teach our children about forms of music that have shaped where we are today. In our world, if it isnt new it isnt good, but these things have not been created ex nihilo, they came from somewhere and that somewhere is important. Discover the roots, and show them to your children.
Why it is important
These ‘finer things’ are important because they are both reflective of our culture, but it also informs our tastes and values. As Catholics, we are virtue based moral beings. Our values, are supposed to be the fruits of our morality mixed with our cultural inclinations. We value time with our family, because we are supposed to be a culture of life. Do we watch movies, read books, and participate in cultural things that reflect that belief? If not, what does it say about that core belief? What does it do to shape and sharpen our virtue?
What about virtues like patience and diligence? Sewing and taxidermy are things that children would learn at a young age. Now, girls learn to shop for the best deal, and boys go hunting… well, they kill zombies on video games. Not that sewing and taxidermy make you a better person, or Catholic for that matter, but they do instruct us in virtue. They show us diligence and patience. They make things a process and not an event.
If we can teach some of these ‘finer things’ to our children, if we can have our family’s culture defined by things that are “finer” and more intentional, we will help to make our values more aligned with the virtues that instruct them. It isn’t about the superiority of one type of “thing” over another, it is that some things have at their core something intrinsically good. It is figuring out how to do this as a family, so that what we do from a leisure standpoint makes an impact not only on the “pleasure” portion of our brain, but also on our heart. What we do for “fun” should be symbolic of, and illustrative of, what we find appealing about life. Ultimately all these things should point back to God.
Joe writes daily at: Defend Us In Battle. This featured column: Battle Ready, appears every Tuesday. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. He also writes a weekly piece for VirtuousPla.net every Thursday.