Areopagus Volume LXXXI

Areopagus Volume LXXXI

Welcome one and all to the eighty first volume of the Areopagus. Yesterday I was caught up in a shattering thunderstorm the like of which I haven't seen for years. But "seen" is almost the wrong word; I felt the thunder shaking the earth, the skies, and my bones. The great Epicurean poet Lucretius wrote about such storms over two thousand years ago — it was his words that came to mind:

Lest, perchance,
Concerning these affairs thou ponderest
In silent meditation, let me say
'Twas lightning brought primevally to earth
The fire for mortals, and from thence hath spread
O'er all the lands the flames of heat. For thus
Even now we see so many objects, touched
By the celestial flames, to flash aglow,
When thunderbolt has dowered them with heat.

But the storm has passed — and in its wake another Areopagus begins...

I - Classical Music

Praeludium in G Minor

Dieterich Buxtehude

Performed by Michael Farris
Angels in the Night
by William Degouve de Nuncques (1894)

The delightfully-named Dieterich Buxtehude was born in Helsingborg, now part of Sweden but then part of Denmark, in 1637. His father was an organist and the young Diderich (as he was then called) followed the same path, eventually taking over his father's role as the organist at St. Olaf's Church in Helsingør. In 1668 Buxtehude moved to Germany, where he became organist at the Marienkirche in Lübeck, a wealthy city-state in northern Germany. There he remained for the rest of his life, Germanizing his name to Dieterich, writing new music every week — whether choral or instrumental — and playing at services of all manner and scale.

Buxtehude was a master of the organ and his nineteen praeludium, or preludes, written to exploit the unique qualities of the organ, proved to be a major influence on none other than Johann Sebastian Bach. Buxtehude even met Bach, who allegedly walked nearly three hundred miles to Lübeck to hear his performances and study his methods. And not only Bach; George-Frederick Handel was another who came to Lübeck to meet and learn from him.

Buxtehude thus took his place as one the foremost composers of a fabulously-named genre known as the stylus fantasticus. This is not a term with a strict meaning or one attached to particular musical structures or subjects. Rather, it refers to a strand of Baroque music whereby composers created technically flashy, grandiose instrumental pieces primed for performance where the only restriction was a composer's imagination. The purpose was essentially to push the limits of what an instrument could do — and coequally test the skill of the composer. Listen to Praeludium in G Minor and, regardless of having any technical knowledge, I think you can hear Buxtehude's freedom, virtuosity, and pursuit of grandeur.

II - Historical Figure

Apollodorus of Damascus

The way we talk about history is dominated by three things: individuals, ideas, and empires. We speak of leaders like Napoleon or Genghis Khan, of various "isms" and "tions" like Liberalism or the Reformation, and of the Roman or Mughal Empire. This makes sense, but it inevitably obscures the critical role of what we might call "ordinary people". No individual can change the world on their own, nor can any "ism" or any "technology" actually do anything by itself, and any "empire" or "republic" is only a byword for a great many people doing a great many different things.

William Morris wrote about this with typical precision, in this case focussing on art and architecture:

Nor must you forget that when men say popes, kings, and emperors built such and such buildings, it is a mere way of speaking. You look in your history books to see who built Westminster Abbey, who built St. Sophia at Constantinople, and they tell you Henry III, Justinian the Emperor. Did they? or, rather, men like you and me, handicraftsmen, who have left no names behind them, nothing but their work?

A thunderously important observation! How often do we say that "Khufu built the Great Pyramid" or that "King Ludwig built Neuschwanstein Castle", for example? No doubt the person who commissions and pays for a building deserves to be remembered — too often we lose sight of the fact that, most of the time, we get the architecture we want, demand, and pay for. Still, no temple or castle or cathedral can be built by one person, however rich or powerful, alone. Architecture, more so than any other form of art, is fundamentally collaborative.

We know the names, much less the careers, of few ancient architects. But one whose name and achievements have survived is a certain Apollodorus of Damascus, who was born in Roman Syria at some point in the second half of the 1st century AD. He was of Greek and Nabataean descent — the Nabataeans being the Arabian peoples who, among other things, built Petra in Jordan — at a time when the Nabataeans had been conquered and integrated into the Roman Empire. What did Apollodorus do? He served as a military engineer and an architect under the Emperor Trajan. His work includes Trajan's Column, the first Roman monument of its kind, along with two triumphal arches, a concert hall, the monumental Market of Trajan, a temple, the largest basilica in Rome, and a colossal bridge over the Danube.

Everything Apollodorus designed for Trajan bears the emperor's name — Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Bridge, Trajan's Market, and so on — and thus it is only because of a handful of other references to Apollodorus that his name has survived. Apollodorus may even have designed the world-famous Pantheon. It had originally been built under Augustus but burned down and was rebuilt under Hadrian, Trajan's successor, who would surely have turned to his predecessor's chief architect for a task of such importance. In short, this was a man who played a major role in the vast construction schemes instituted by Trajan and many of his works are now among the most famed Roman remains.

The later historian Cassius Dio gives us a colourful (and now-disputed) account of Apollodorus' end at the hands of Hadrian:

...he first banished and later put to death Apollodorus, the architect, who had built the various creations of Trajan in Rome — the forum, the odeum and the gymnasium. The reason assigned was that he had been guilty of some misdemeanour; but the true reason was that once when Trajan was consulting him on some point about the buildings he had said to Hadrian, who had interrupted with some remark: "Be off, and draw your gourds. You don't understand any of these matters."
When he became emperor, therefore, he remembered this slight and would not endure the man's freedom of speech. He sent him the plan of the temple of Venus and Roma by way of showing him that a great work could be accomplished without his aid, and asked Apollodorus whether the proposed structure was satisfactory. The architect in his reply stated, first, in regard to the temple, that it ought to have been built on high ground and that the earth should have been excavated beneath it, so that it might have stood out more conspicuously on the Sacred Way from its higher position, and might also have accommodated the machines in its basement, so that they could be put together unobserved and brought into the theatre without anyone's being aware of them beforehand. Secondly, in regard to the statues, he said that they had been made too tall for the height of the cella. "For now," he said, "if the goddesses wish to get up and go out, they will be unable to do so." When he wrote this so bluntly to Hadrian, the emperor was both vexed and exceedingly grieved because he had fallen into a mistake that could not be righted, and he restrained neither his anger nor his grief, but slew the man.

I realise that I have not said overly much about the architectural style or innovations of Apollodorus. But that is the point — his name alone is the headline here. I offer it as but one small example of the type of person who has usually been erased from history, not only with regard to architecture but all eras and movements and events, to be replaced by the name of a ruler, idea, or group. Nor indeed can we forget that Apollodorus was but the chief architect; his designs, however majestic, would have been nothing without the artisans and labourers to actually build them, brick by beam and pediment by pilaster. So let the name of Apollodorus serve to remind us all that "history", so-called, is primarily the story of ordinary but forgotten people; a fact we ignore at our peril!

III - Painting

The Banquet of Cleopatra

Giambattista Tiepolo (1744)

Had I not already given you the title of this painting, I doubt you would have guessed that this scene is supposed to have taken place in ancient times. What do we see? Those two famous and doomed lovers: Mark Antony, right-hand man of Julius Caesar and later a joint-ruler of the Roman Republic, opposite Cleopatra, the legendary last queen of Egypt. What is going on? I shall let Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century AD, relate this curious tale:

There were formerly two pearls, the largest that had been ever seen in the whole world: Cleopatra, the last of the queens of Egypt, was in possession of them both, they having come to her by descent from the kings of the East. When Antony had been sated by her, day after day, with the most exquisite banquets, this queenly courtesan, inflated with vanity and disdainful arrogance, affected to treat all this sumptuousness and all these vast preparations with the greatest contempt; upon which Antony enquired what there was that could possibly be added to such extraordinary magnificence. To this she made answer, that on a single entertainment she would expend ten millions of sesterces. Antony was extremely desirous to learn how that could be done, but looked upon it as a thing quite impossible; and a wager was the result.
On the following day, upon which the matter was to be decided, in order that she might not lose the wager, she had an entertainment set before Antony, magnificent in every respect, though no better than his usual repast. Upon this, Antony joked her, and enquired what was the amount expended upon it; to which she made answer that the banquet which he then beheld was only a trifling appendage to the real banquet, and that she alone would consume at the meal to the ascertained value of that amount, she herself would swallow the ten millions of sesterces; and so ordered the second course to be served. In obedience to her instructions, the servants placed before her a single vessel, which was filled with vinegar, a liquid, the sharpness and strength of which is able to dissolve pearls. At this moment she was wearing in her ears those choicest and most rare and unique productions of Nature; and while Antony was waiting to see what she was going to do, taking one of them from out of her ear, she threw it into the vinegar, and directly it was melted, swallowed it.

Whether or not Cleopatra really dissolved a pearl in vinegar and drank it has been disputed by scholars for centuries. The spirit of the story, however — of Cleopatra's wealth and wit, of her fabulously lavish courtship with Antony — seems true to the past. Here we see Cleopatra about to drop her pearl in the vinegar:

This painting is, in the first place, an important reminder that "historical inaccuracy" was much more common in the past than in modern Hollywood. Tiepolo had no qualms with painting a Ptolemaic Egyptian Pharaoh and Roman Republican general as flamboyantly dressed, fashionable citizens of the 18th century Europe.

As for his style, Tiepolo was one of the leading artists of the Rococo. This was an art movement which emerged in the 18th century. Think of it like an evolution of the Baroque, a style famed already for its extravagance, drama, and dynamism. Rococo transmuted this Baroque energy into something equally ornate but rather more frivolous; much Rococo art seems dedicated to a sort of refined pleasure-seeking. You can see this in Tiepolo's version of the banquet; he prioritises elegance over gravity. Rococo art was also highly theatrical — for this was the age of opera, we must remember — and Tiepolo was known for painting scenes that were reminiscent of a stage filled with costumed actors.

To show you more clearly the nature of Tiepolo's art, and the characteristics of Rococo more generally, I include here — for compairson — two Baroque depictions of Cleopatra's banquet, by Jan Steen and Gérard de Lairesse respectively, both from 1600s:

Notice, compared to these two paintings, Tiepolo's use of mellow, pastel colours, and his general lack either of deep shadow or intense light. This was a broader trend in Rococo art; an example of how the heavier aspects of Baroque art — think of the shadows of Rembrandt or intensity of Caravaggio — were rinsed out of the Rococo. This does not make less interesting, however; for is it not harder to be subtle than showy? And Tiepolo was a master colourist. Sometimes I find myself paying little attention to what his paintings depict and more to the sheer delight of his colours. Plus Tiepolo was more sincerely emotional than many of his Rococo counterparts. Look at Cleopatra's face, for example. We do not see the face of a blind hedonist — there is a sort of self-aware, troubling ennui in her blank expression. It turns out the Rococo could become more than mere aristocratic pleasure-seeking; in Tiepolo it reached those heights.

IV - Architecture

Buzludzha Monument

Past, Present, or Future?

What is that? This must surely be our first question when seeing what seems to be a UFO on the crest of this barren hillside in the Balkan Mountains of central Bulgaria. Its name is the Buzludzha Monument and it was built by the Bulgarian Communist Party to serve as their ceremonial headquarters. This location is also of great importance in Bulgarian history, what with various key events during the Liberation of Bulgaria (from Ottoman rule), the rise of socialism, and the Second World War having taken place nearby.

Though there is a cast-iron stereotype linking Brutalism with Communism, the truth is that Brutalism was invented in western Europe in the 1950s. It was only in the 1970s, as it had started to fade away elsewhere, that Communist nations adopted Brutalism. The Buzludzha Monument represents the peak of this concrete wave. Construction started in 1974, led by Georgi Stoilov, and it was opened in 1981.

At this point I make a distinction of my own conjuring: between Generic Brutalism and Pure Brutalism. People often look at vaguely box-shaped, boring concrete buildings and call them Brutalist; I don't think that is accurate. Brutalism as it was first conceived, and as it was developed around the world in the second half of the 20th century, was anything but boring. You may call it ugly, but that is a different shortcoming. Indeed, the very appeal of Brutalism is in its boldness; vast, undecorated concrete surfaces arranged into colossal forms of pure geometry. That is Pure Brutalism; that is the Buzludzha Monument.

In this way the Buzludzha Monument and other works of Pure Brutalism have more in common with ancient, monolithic architecture. Think of the pyramids of the Egyptians and the Aztecs, or the ziggurats of the Mesopotamians, or even Stone Henge. They all look simultaneously ancient and — somehow — futuristic. It this quality of strange massiveness that Pure Brutalism draws on.

The Buzludzha Monument was also decorated with mosaics depicting the history of Communism in Bulgaria. But, since being abandoned shortly after the events of 1989, these mosaics have started to fall apart. Its copper roof and marble slabs were removed for reuse and, though officially closed to the public, looters and explorers have entirely stripped the Buzludzha Monument down. And so what was a strange and striking building already has become stranger; a futuristic monolith has transformed into a concrete ghost haunting the landscape, an unspeaking sentinel from a previous age.

Thus the Buzludzha Monument also raises an important question about the architectural legacy of old regimes. Laws, governments, political systems, and economies may change — buildings remain. What, then, to do with them? This question is made only more difficult when people disagree about the very legacy such buildings embody. Work to preserve the Buzluzhda Monument — saving its remaining mosaics and preventing any further deterioration — is currently underway. The thrust of this campaign is apolitical and concerned above all with education and tourism. Indeed, those behind it have made the explicit point that Buzludzha, if preserved, can serve as a perfect symbol of how people so often have different views about their shared past, and thus of the need for dialogue and tolerance. Such is their goal — alongside saving what is without doubt an entirely unique piece of architecture.

V - Rhetoric


You may recall the Progymnasmata from previous volumes of the Areopagus. This was a standard set of exams for students of rhetoric in the ancient world. It comprised a series of exercises, increasing in difficulty and complexity, to test their ability in different areas of rhetoric. One of them was the encomium, which is a speech in praise of a particular thing, be that a person, place, or idea. Thus it is a fairly broad genre of rhetoric which includes everything from eulogies at funerals to dedications at the start of books.

The encomium seems deceptively straightforward; surely praising something is simple work! Not so. In truth, it is woefully easy to write a bad encomium and maddeningly difficult to write a good one. Why? Because the temptation is to fall back on generic language, tired tropes, and specious cliches which may not actually be true. As John Ruskin once said, and said well:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw
in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see.

By calling something "beautiful" or "interesting" or "important", and other such imprecise words, we fail to really explain why a particular thing genuinely is good. The best encomiums are those which pick up on the specific traits of their subject and say something about it that could not be said of anything else. If I were to describe William Wordsworth as "one of the greatest Romantic poets" this would be true — but one could also say the same of several dozen others. Consider, by comparison, what Matthew Arnold wrote about Wordsworth upon his death:

Ah! since dark days still bring to light
Man's prudence and man's fiery might,
Time may restore us in his course
Goethe's sage mind and Byron's force;
But where will Europe's latter hour
Again find Wordsworth's healing power?
Others will teach us how to dare,
And against fear our breast to steel;
Others will strengthen us to bear—
But who, ah! who, will make us feel?
The cloud of mortal destiny,
Others will front it fearlessly—
But who, like him, will put it by?

Now that is more like it! Arnold parses out what, specifically, make Wordsworth special. Or, for something in prose rather than verse, consider how the aforementioned John Ruskin describes his love for boats:

Of all things, living or lifeless, upon this strange earth, there is but one which, having reached the mid-term of appointed human endurance on it, I still regard with unmitigated amazement... and that is the bow of a Boat. Not of a racing-wherry, or revenue cutter, or clipper yacht; but the blunt head of a common, bluff, undecked sea-boat, lying aside in its furrow of beach sand. The sum of Navigation is in that. You may magnify it or decorate as you will: you do not add to the wonder of it. Lengthen it into hatchet-like edge of iron,—strengthen it with complex tracery of ribs of oak,—carve it and gild it till a column of light moves beneath it on the sea,—you have made no more of it than it was at first. That rude simplicity of bent plank, that can breast its way through the death that is in the deep sea, has in it the soul of shipping. Beyond this, we may have more work, more men, more money; we cannot have more miracle.
...No other work of human hands ever gained so much. Steam-engines and telegraphs indeed help us to fetch, and carry, and talk; they lift weights for us, and bring messages, with less trouble than would have been needed otherwise; this saving of trouble, however, does not constitute a new faculty, it only enhances the powers we already possess. But in that bow of the boat is the gift of another world. Without it, what prison wall would be so strong as that "white and wailing fringe" of sea. What maimed creatures were we all, chained to our rocks, Andromeda-like, or wandering by the endless shores; wasting our incommunicable strength, and pining in hopeless watch of unconquerable waves? The nails that fasten together the planks of the boat's bow are the rivets of the fellowship of the world. Their iron does more than draw lightning out of heaven, it leads love round the earth.

That, I think, is as good as an encomium can get. The lesson? If you want to explain why something is good, be as specific as you possibly can — say something about it that could not be said of anything else.

VI - Writing


Some words rhyme, like fountain and mountain. Other words don't, like river and dangerous. But some words share similar sounds, like sunlight and soulful. This is called "assonance" when it is vowels that are repeated and "consonance" when it is consonants. When words almost rhyme, and when they are placed at the end of consecutive lines of poetry, they are called (unsurprisingly) half-rhymes.

Here is an example from the First World War poet Wilfred Owen, who used them frequently:

Think how it wakes the seeds
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?

The great Irish poet W.B. Yeats was also fond of half-rhymes:

A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;

Half-rhymes are among the subtlest, most wonderful literary tools in the English language. They tie lines of poetry together in a peculiarly elusive way, providing us more structure than blank verse but giving us a greater sense of freedom than true rhymes. Often you will read a series of half-rhymes without even noticing them, and only upon looking back and wondering why you enjoyed a certain poem discover their half-hidden presence.

VII - The Seventh Plinth

Last week I gave you a big question:

What is the ultimate purpose of education?

Your answers were eloquent and insightful. Once again, therefore, the seventh plinth is yours:

Zeba C

On the surface, education appears to be about exams and results and access to higher education. There has been a move to monetise and be utilitarian about education. Having worked in several different countries and types of school, having taken three different qualifications at three universities and flirted with doctoral work at a fourth, I feel that education comes in many forms and we are not great in our various societies at any of these.
First, there is the academic stuff - but we have lost sight of the importance of knowledge acquired for solace, for enrichment, for the sheer delight of knowing. I particularly love Nuccio Ordine’s meditation The Usefulness of the Useless, based on an essay by Abraham Flexner and feel that these two men address the critical importance of valuing education without explicit purpose particularly well.
Second, there is the social stuff - what became clear from the global shutdown of 2020/2021 is that we humans learn better when we are in groups, that acquiring and deploying knowledge is a social pursuit - there are times when solitary thought is valuable and even critical to the development of new knowledge and ideas, but ultimately, being with other people enhances both our ability to acquire knowledge and to manage ourselves to achieve balance, deepen our experience and expand our perspective.
Finally, there is the concept of what we need as individuals and societies to thrive. One of the most basic aspects of this is the critical importance of education of women, for example. For example, societies where women are educated to and beyond secondary level are healthier, better regulated, higher-functioning.
Both as individuals and as participants in society, we need to aspire to know as much as we can about the best ideas and knowledge on offer because this is the pathway to both personal contentment and fairer, better systems of governance and management.
As humans, whose lives are brief as candle flame, and yet with the capacity to sow joy and/or mayhem, education is the means by which we make our lives radiant and significant.

Jonathan R

Education is humanity’s invention for ensuring the survival of our species. Most living things are born with instincts. As an example, a spider knows how to weave webs and does not need to be taught. Human babies, however, would not survive without the care and attention of their parents and the constant education. Adults would not live as long either were it not for education. After all, it is through education that we have made remarkable strides in medicine. One generation passes on its knowledge to the next. With the help of technological innovation, only possible through education, the progress becomes exponential.

Ian D

Education is a gift to be gratefully received. Education lifts us from ignorance, broadens our horizons, grants insights to those who desire them and is a creator of genius. Those who cannot be educated or who cannot self-educate must find alternative honest preoccupations.

Tony O

It is helpful to go to the book of Proverbs, where we see proverbs for Solomon or by him, as well as from other contributors.
Here, four words are used throughout which are very enlightening – instruction/discipline (same word in Hebrew), knowledge, understanding and wisdom. These, actually, are progressive.
Instruction/Discipline is Administration of truth
Knowledge is Accumulation of Truth:
Understanding is mental Arrangement of Truth:
Wisdom is Application of Truth.
The sad reality of this world is that there is so much education, not all of it truth and not enough application of that which is.

Peter M

The ultimate purpose of education is entertainment: to expand those areas of human experience - physical and abstract - in which the individual can find amusement, distraction, consolation or enlightenment. It is usually brought about by a combination of directed instruction and independent enquiry.

Nathan B

I embrace Aristotle‘s perspective on education. In “Politics,” he asks: “Should the useful in life, or should virtue, or should the higher knowledge be the aim of our training?” Plato viewed the cultivation of the soul through virtue as the aim of Athenian education while Isocrates advocated for utilitarian skills and practical knowledge. Aristotle managed to blend the two and balance the personal (development of the soul), professional (employable trade skills) and political (civic engagement). In this way, one might (theoretically) live justly, work ably and govern wisely.
I still see this tension at play today. I teach at a technical college and a liberal arts university. While both are wonderful schools, the liberal arts university does a better job of embodying Aristotle’s holistic approach to education.

Deborah G

The ultimate goal of education is that students learn how to think, not what to think. As a former teacher, my most earnest wish for students was that they become able to express themselves well and thoughtfully.

Saba G

I've given this a lot of thought, especially since I started exploring subjects that both interest me and align with my place in society and my future goals. As an immigrant, I knew early on that I wanted to build my life in a different country, within a different community. This made me see education as a tool for achieving versatility and adaptability. I chose to study Political Science because it seemed like the most universally applicable field—politics plays a role in everything, everywhere.

As I gained a deeper understanding of the geopolitical landscape, I realized that education's true value is in ensuring personal freedom. It's intriguing to see how education not only supports democracy but also reinforces core democratic values like equality and personal liberty. Education is the cornerstone upon which human rights rest, and it empowers those who must continually fight to defend their freedoms and their equality.


Education is the transference of rational conclusions by rational means. It is not merely the transference of the conclusions, but also showing how you arrived at those conclusions so that the one who is receiving that knowledge can reproduce the steps and understand what to do with them and make use of them. Education is a slow process. It is impossible to become "instant smart."
Education is not to be confused with training. Reading, writing and arithmetic are skills acquired by training. Those skills can help one to become educated, but those skills are not education by themselves.
Also, not everyone is capable of being educated. There is no such thing as universal education. In order to be educated one must possess the rare ability to take previously unrelated knowledge and put it together so that it makes sense. The conclusions one derives must be infallibly corroborable 100% of the time, with zero exceptions.

The purpose of education, therefore, is to understand absolutely right concepts from those who have derived them, and then positively and productively apply those concepts to the real world in order to add new knowledge and new property, thereby enabling mankind to cope with the externalities of a hostile, natural universe; and the internalities of his own stupidity, namely, politics and religion.

Jane L

To be curious about everything
To never stop asking questions
To be able to seek and evaluate sources
To take delight in the world and its people
To be a good citizen.

Petra G

My instinctual guess is one of economics. When the populace is educated, people can get jobs in various sectors that require education and therefore may pay better, thus spending more money and getting the economy moving. This answer bores me and makes me feel as if all this money and time I'm putting into tertiary education is a waste of time. MY ultimate purpose of education is that education is my purpose. I study English and Linguistics, and I'm planning to continue with literature and writing for a PhD. I'm incredibly privileged to study for passion, and I desperately hope that everyone can study for passion rather than need. Learning gives me joy. It gives me the will to keep going. I aim to one day teach at a university too, so I can spread this passion to others.

Sam A

The theme on the motto of my primary school says "Knowledge is Light". I'm of the opinion that the ultimate goal of education is to rid the mind of ignorance, like the bible says "light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehend it not"... whether gotten formerly or informerly, education illuminates the mind of the individual and dispels the darkness of ignorance.

Sarah E

I think the purpose should be so much more than it currently is. It appears to currently be mostly a form of childcare, as well as a way to teach young people to be quiet and to conform. I think it’s purpose should be to inspire in our young people a certainty about what they are most passionate about and where that could lead them in terms of a life of purpose and how that would dovetail with enough money for a comfortable life. We shouldn’t be so quick to box people in or cut short their dreams.

Nikolay T

I think the ultimate goal of education is to teach people one of the most-powerful and empowering life skills of all: the ability to self-teach.

Ashim D

Education is the biological imperative to pass down material that cannot be stored in genes—likely because it has an external or contextual component. Still, it is just as important to evolution as genetic material in that it provides the next generation starter material off which to grow.

John B

To help children be able to cope with work that makes a lot of money for a few. And to help children to be able work in the structural areas of society, in transport, in security, medically, in manufacture, wholesale, and retail, for the smooth functioning of society. Plus the whole area of sport.
To help children contribute to the research and development of human thought, philosophically, ie how we think, and physically, ie how things work and how we might develop new things. And to help them understand the reality and purpose of sport. To encourage children to think about understanding the implications that changes can have on society.
To help children to understand the social mores that allow friendships and communities to exist in a society that has divisions of class, and the subtleties of sexuality. To give children the current mores of society, to help them understand historical mores, and to think and value thoughts on the whys and wherefores of personal behaviour. To help children to understand where social mores come from in religion and how the mores can develop and integrate with different religions, and to help children establish social interactions to destress the tensions in society.
To help children understand how religion can impose its values on society in a multicultural environment and how it imposed its values on a historical society.
To help children understand how dictators and warmongers are driven and how they force others to support and follow them either with money or force, and how this might be overcome. To support children in their thoughts and understanding of the environment. And to give children ways of blocking out thoughts about the limitation of human life on earth.
Finally, and most importantly to encourage children to enjoy their existence and how they should be creative and achieve what interests or drives them and to make the best of their innate skills and abilities. To encourage them to understand and act upon what is important in life that supports and encourages human to human interaction.

Vera F

The ultimate purpose of education should, I believe, be to instil a sense of wonder and intellectual curiosity, so that whatever discipline one chooses, no doors are closed to investigation and discovery. Nowadays whenever and wherever I read a reference to a painting, a book, a building I knew nothing about, I can immediately go and look, thanks to the internet. Even at my age, that sense of curiosity has never left me and for that I thank the broadness of the education I received in my old-fashioned girls' grammar school in the 1950s.

Tom W

To be able to distinguish between what one shouldn't take too seriously, and what cannot be taken too seriously.


As a homeschooling mother of 6, I have a few simple guiding principles and goals for my children:
1. Read fluently, master arithmetic
2. Be familiar with the basics of all subjects. As I told my daughter regarding grammar, “You need not master it, but you must be familiar with the concepts.”
3. To have the confidence to teach themselves about almost anything at any age through life. This ties in with being familiar with broad subjects, concepts, and ideas, as I expect them to later dive deeper into subjects that interest them and master what is needed.
I have these examples in my own life: graduated from high school frustrated that I didn’t understand the 8 parts of speech well. Dug out a 5th grade workbook and went through it until I was satisfied I had a working knowledge in that area. This was the beginnings of a glimmer of understanding that people learn better when they are curious.
At the age of 34 while pregnant with my 6th child, I determined to learn to play piano (a lifelong drive bordering on frustration). I did so, and through a happy set of circumstances put myself in a sink-or-swim situation (to spur me to practice, lol) and now play at an intermediate level in church weekly. Never say “I’m too old.”
I have told my children having flunked geometry in high school, I’m looking forward to learning geometry with them as they reach the high school years - simply for the challenge of finally understanding it (I know with they help of the internet I will find someone who can explain so I will understand).
In short, I hope my children are life-long learners and well-rounded human beings with a grounded perspective of life, based on the plethora of wisdom from ancient sources such as Bible and the classics, plus the possibilities held in modern technology and science. This, to me, is the purpose of education.

Marcos F

The ultimate purpose of education is to develop one’s understanding of reality. In order to do so, education must start from the understanding of human condition, because this is inevitably the only point of view we get, and in a second step develop virtues within us, because without them one will never be able to understand the limits of our condition and maybe glimpse some aspect of reality.
Nowadays some other purposes of education are usually more remembered, like instill moral values, turn us into good and responsible (global) citizens or make us learn an ability or a job. It’s not that they are entirely wrong; it’s just that they lessen what education is or should be, because none of us can be reduced to our moral or social beings or to our occupation and career.

Question of the Week

This week's challenge, in reference to the Rhetoric section, is:

Write an encomium. It can be about anything, in any form, and any length. The only requirement is that you try to say something about your chosen subject that could not be said of anything else.

Email me your answers and I'll share them in next week's newsletter.

And that's all

Another Areopagus draws to a close; another day rolls over into dusk. At this very moment, as I write these words, I am looking up at the Stara Planina. Sheer rockfaces soaring. A forest glowing under evening sun. All around is birdsong. The doubts of the everyday begin to melt. Tranquillity.

The above words I wrote without internet; now it has returned I can finally send the Areopagus, albeit a little later than I would have liked. Alas! Until next week — adieu.


The Cultural Tutor

The Cultural Tutor

A beautiful education.

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