Tuesday 3 November 2015

Teaching Truth to Our Children

Truth is never violent, and there may be many clamorous ones at hand to drown her voice. 
It rests with us to choose whom we shall hear. 

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason

I'm continuing with our slow reading of Charlotte Mason's Volume 4 and we just read the chapter on Truth: Justice in Word where she mentions this painting by Botticelli.

The Calumny of Apelles by Sandro Botticelli c.1474

Calumny - from the Latin, calumnia: slander. 
A false charge or misrepresentation.
Synonyms: defamation, libel, backbiting, deception, trickery, subterfuge, malicious charge.

The young lady in the centre foreground of the painting wearing a lovely blue garment over a white robe, which reveals a black garment underneath, is Calumny. She drags Innocence by the hair while on either side she is flanked by two beautiful women, Insidiousness and Envy. They whisper to Calumny, arrange her hair, and make her lies appear like Truth.
Treachery holds Calumny's wrist as he stretches out his hand to the King upon his throne to demand a hearing.

The King's ears are like those of a donkey as he has foolishly been overcome with false information. Suspicion and Prejudice are at his side whispering and he is oblivious to all other voices.

The naked Truth is far off to the edge of the painting with her eyes turned away from the evil spectacle, her hand raised to heaven in appeal.
Between Truth and Innocence the figure of Remorse stands.
The painting has as its background a beautifully decorated gallery or loggia, a place of leisure and opulence and not of industry and simplicity.

Charlotte Mason points out that the demons of Calumny, Insidiousness, Envy and Prejudice are not ugly in Botticelli's portrayal, but beautiful. 
Our children are growing up surrounded by a cult of beauty. Beauty sells. It's everywhere and is often false, but Beauty appeals regardless of whether it is true or not. 
Botticelli's painting shows Calumny or Slander with an outward show of Beauty, but who is in reality, a menacing force inexorably dragging her tortured victim to ruin.

'We should none of us offend if sin came to us looking hateful.'

In teaching Truth to our children they need to know that Falsehood and her relatives come to us in pleasant places and in devious ways. They misrepresent and we deceive ourselves when we listen to them:

'every sin of deceit disables us from uttering truth.'

As we see in The Calumny of Appelles, the Truth can be driven away but nevertheless she is always there. We need to be still enough to hear and obey her voice.

A Simple Rule:

It is not only by calumnious talk that Truth is wounded. Calumnious hearing or calumnious reading may do her to death; and a simple rule will help us to discern what manner of speaking and reading is calumnious. Truth is never violent; and the newspaper or magazine or book, the party or the public speech, which makes strong and bitter charges against the other side, we may be sure is, for the moment, calumnious; and, if we steep ourselves in such speaking or reading, the punishment that will come upon us is that we shall become incapable of discerning Truth and shall rejoice in evil speaking.

'Truth is never violent.'

Brandy linked a very interesting article on outrage and shaming not long ago and I thought of it when I read this section in Ourselves. 

When tempted to join the mob and to shame, it’s really important for us to shift our eyes away from our computer screens and hand-held devices, and to turn our eyes toward the mirror instead. It’s important to get to the bottom of why we, too, enjoy the caricature and the labeling...

We can be infected by someone else's outrage. We take sides and become 'violent' when we don't even know the whole truth. As the above article shows, outrage and shaming can ruin a person's reputation overnight. It also points out that the roots of outrage stem from shame itself.
One reason I rarely watch the news is because of the violent pursuit by the media, in the name of Truth, of those who have been shamed. 
The Truth is always here but the raucous voices of the mob drown her out.

Truth is never violent, and there may be many clamorous ones at hand to drown her voice. It rests with us to choose whom we shall hear.


A whisper woke the air,   
    A soft, light tone, and low,   
    Yet barbed with shame and woe.   
Ah! might it only perish there,   
    Nor farther go!           

But no! a quick and eager ear   
    Caught up the little, meaning sound;   
Another voice has breathed it clear;   
    And so it wandered round   
From ear to lip, from lip to ear,           
Until it reached a gentle heart   
That throbbed from all the world apart,   
    And that—it broke!

by Frances Sargent Osgood (1811–1850)

Linking up with Finishing Strong


Cleo said...

Wow, what a great post, Carol! I so wish I'd done Charlotte Mason homeschooling methods with my daughter, but by the time I discovered them, it was a little too late. Your posts make me want to re-school myself using her methods. This art study was excellent. Thanks for sharing it and your thoughts!

Karen in KY said...

This was a beautiful post, Carol. Thanks for writing it, sharing it with us.

Carol said...

Thank you! I think you'd enjoy 'Ourselves.' I wish I had read it when I was in my teens but I still get a lot from her ideas reading them now as an adult.

Carol said...

Thanks for making the effort to say so, Karen.

Annie KIate said...

Thank you so much for this, Carol. It puts into words what I've always felt about the shaming that can sometimes go on in the name of Truth. What a blessing it was to read this!

Carol said...

Kind words, as always :)

The Forever Joyful Homeschool said...

Great to point out the fleeting nature of beauty. "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." God's truth matters!

Karen in KY said...

I've continued thinking about this, and wanted to add that Botticelli, though under the influence of the Medici family and Neoplatonic thought early in his career, ended up following Savonarola, a figure who is either lauded or hated, depending on who you read. This particular image is often discussed as a turning point in Sandro's career. There was an exhibition a few years ago that traced his steps from Neoplatonic darling of the Medici to weeping participant in the Bonfire of the Vanities. Another little tidbit: interestingly, in his famous School of Athens, Raphael painted himself as Apelles on the far right, looking out at the viewer. I've also been thinking a lot abut shaming and outrage - I haven't participated in the former, but I did blog in recent weeks about the horrific murder of one of our state's law enforcement officers. It was in the form of a letter to Pres. Obama, and I think it tapped into a lot of people's outrage regarding the attack on LEO's in America. It's very difficult to refrain from being sharply critical of those whose feet run to mayhem and murder. But I really appreciate what you wrote here, and also what the pastor in Nashville wrote about outrage and shaming. It's a beast. And I do think that if we can keep our minds and thoughts on that which is pure, lovely, true, and good, etc. (Phil. 4:8) we are less likely to moan and groan and point fingers in outrage. Although I still am deeply saddened - outraged? - by this vitriolic hatred of LEO's in our country...yet another Kentucky LEO died yesterday after being shot by a criminal...anyway, I'm not sure any of that has anything to do with this post you so excellently wrote! Just wanted to say I think it's great, and it's given me a lot to think about. As you might surmise from my wandering comment. :)

Carol said...

Very interesting, Karen. CM mentions Savanorola and that this painting was done 'in a passion of grief and righteous anger' at his martyrdom. Perhaps what you feel regarding the shootings is more akin to grief. I don't think we can be human and not feel this way about such things. I can think of a couple of instances here in Australia where certain crimes provoked huge general outrage but the response of the families directly affected was to work on the justice system to change sentencing laws so that there would be 'truth' in sentencing. Appreciate you coming back & sharing your thoughts!

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

This is such a timely reminder to teach our children to be cautious about jumping into the fray before they have all the facts. It's too easy to fall pray to the slander and lies. Thank you, Carol!