• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Roget redux

Just about two months ago, when I hosted Poetry Friday on Peter Mark Roget‘s birthday, I celebrated the man with his entry for “poetry”.

If you didn’t get enough Roget then, you can now find online last week’s Washington Post review, and this week’s New York Times‘s review of what the latter calls “Joshua Kendall’s fine new biography”, The Man Who Made Lists: Love, Death, Madness, and the Creation of Roget’s Thesaurus (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008). From Thomas Mallon’s review in The Times:

The “categorical imperative” means something quite different, but it does sound like the right term for the self-protective psychological urge that drove Peter Mark Roget (1779-1869), creator of the Thesaurus, to classify and categorize all manner of things over a long lifetime. Madness did not just run in his family; it galloped, sped, sprinted, dashed and made haste. …

Roget himself turned out humorless and judgmental, beset with a “paranoid streak” as well as melancholy and shyness, not to mention a horror of “dirt and disorder” — the Thesaurus entry for “uncleanness” is a lollapalooza. So one can scarcely be surprised by the refuge he seems to have taken in workaholism and an assortment of small compulsions, including his “obsession with counting.” (“I every day go up at least 320 steps.”) He took particular pleasure in an ability to control the movements of the iris in his own eye.

First among his coping mechanisms stood list-making, an activity well under way by the time he was 8 years old. Peter Roget’s tallies of “beasts,” “parts of the body” and things “in the garden” proliferated and comforted, and in some small way fulfilled a “desire to bring order to the world.” Kendall, a freelance journalist, deals gently with his subject’s tendency to classify instead of experience whatever surrounded him. (Roget calls to mind, in fact, a recent New Yorker cartoon that has someone saying, “It’s not a word I can put into feelings.”) With no Thesaurus at hand, the young man generally categorized landscapes as “beautiful” or “not beautiful” and people as “ordinary” or “peculiar.”

Jonathan Yardley writes in The Post,

The compilation of lists may seem a strange way to manage life’s vagaries, but “Roget managed to stave off madness,” which ran in his family, by doing so: “As a boy, he stumbled upon a remarkable discovery — that compiling lists of words could provide solace, no matter what misfortunes might befall him. He was particularly fond of cataloguing the objects, both animate and inanimate, in his environment. As an adult, he kept returning to the classification of words and concepts. Immersion in the nuances of language could invariably both energize him and keep his persistent anxiety at bay.”

The most interesting part, I thought, was this (from The Times):

Never quite intended as a book of synonyms (Roget thought there “really was no such thing,” given the unique meaning of every word), the Thesaurus was constructed as a crystal palace of abstraction, each of whose 1,000 lists pushes a reader, often antonymically, to the next, “certainty” leading to “uncertainty” leading to “reasoning” leading to “sophistry.” The truth is that most users of the Thesaurus have never made head nor tail of the system and have just availed themselves of the index — added by Roget almost as an afterthought — to find what they are looking for.

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2 Responses

  1. I do love it when you do this sort of entry. Thank you.

  2. You’re welcome, Poppins : ). It keeps me happy til the book gets to the library system!

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