Ken Myers, Friend of Classical Education, Recovering from Heart Attack

Many readers of this blog know Ken Myers–a remarkable reader, interviewer and thinker.  His audio journal, Mars Hill Audio has been a form of sustenance to thousands of thoughtful Christians in the U.S.  He is also an advocate of the renewal of classical, Christian education and speaks frequently at classical schools (just recently he was at the Geneva School of Orlando) and conferences.  Last November I had the pleasure of interviewing him at his studio in Virgina.

Ken suffered a significant heart attack two days ago, but apparently has also experienced a miraculous recovery.  After an induced coma and three shock treatments, he has emerged eating, joking and laughing with nurses and family.  See Matthew Lee Anderson’s blog for an email excerpt from a family member describing Ken’s condition: Mere Orthodoxy: Matthew Lee Anderson

Please pray for Ken’s continued recovery.


Hallelujah: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen has been writing songs for over forty years. He is universally recognized as one of the great song writers of our time, having explored a variety of genres with an almost facile genius. Raised in a Messianic Jewish home, he has always explored religious themes and much of his music reflects his immersion in and reflection on the Old Testament. Despite becoming a Buddhist Zen monk for five years, Cohen remains an observant Jew.

Not only is Cohen a song writer and singer, he is also a published poet and novelist. I have always thought that song writers should study poetry (poetry really is song) and that the great song writers were in fact poets. Could Cohen be Cohen without his study and practice of poetry?

As just one example of Cohen’s gift, I cite his song Hallelujah, written in 1984 and recorded by over 50 artists. The song is marriage between lyric and melody, with each serving the other. The lyrics evoke several Old Testament themes, sometimes merging them (David, Bathsheba, Samson, Delilah all appear) while bringing them into the present by means of direct address. There is a “you” in this poem that makes us all in someway share in the tragedies and triumphs of David, Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah. Especially moving is the last line of the second stanza: “And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.” It seems that Bathsheba and Delilah–both abused and tragic women– still receive the blessing, the Hallelujah, that while cold and broken, is passed on from generation to generation, a promise given in the midst of so much human suffering. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” Job said.

As I listen to “Hallelujah” I find myself present along with these forebears–they become like brothers and sisters to me. I also become the “you,” the person addressed, and the singer, who cries “Hallelujah,” Hebrew for “praise Yahweh.” How can all this be at once? Only because Cohen is a great poet.

I think that Cohen and his poetry and music will make for a interesting unity study in classical schools. He presents much to discuss, debate and enjoy.

Well if 50 artists have recorded “Hallelujah,” why not one more?. Here is my version, done, as it were, by compulsion. See the full text of the song below.

Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen sung by Christopher Perrin

Leonard Cohen

I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music do ya
It goes like this the fourth the fifth
the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe I’ve been here before
I know this room I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s real and going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
I remember when I moved in you
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there’s a better bow
Then all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone while I drew you
Its not a cry you can hear at night
Its not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to ya?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Ken Myers on Classical Education: Interviewing the Interviewer

This November (2010), I had a chance to spend about two hours interviewing Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio.  Ken is the author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes and the host of the Mars Hill Audio Journal.  The academically-inclined admire and envy Ken, because he gets paid to read books and interview authors.  He is certainly one the most well-read cultural critics in the country, and always offers insightful commentary on the large issues facing the church and the nation—issues like the function and impact of media and technology on church and society, or the significance and role of art, literature and music in human society and worship, to name a few.  Every two months Ken releases a 90-minute CD (or mp3 file) that features Ken’s interviews (conversations really) with about six contemporary authors.  To date, Mars Hill Audio has released 104 such CDs.

Ken is also a student of education, and while insisting he is not an educational theorist, his wide reading and ongoing reflection have made him an advocate of classical Christian education.  Over the last several years, he has spoken at several conferences for classical Christian educators and even visited some classical schools. My interview with Ken was fascinating.  He was able to connect the renewal of classical Christian education to a number of other cultural trends from the shaping of a human soul to embodied learning to the disorder of modern education.  I have broken down the interview into several segments by topic, which average about 10 minutes in length.  Classical educators and leaders will particularly enjoy his comments on the forming of the soul, embodied learning and community.  Click on any of the links below to listen to various sections of the interview.

Ken Myers Cultural Assimilation

Ken Myers Engaging Creation

Ken Myers Forming the Soul

Ken Myers Embodied Learning

Ken Myers Community

Ken Myers Human Flourishing

Ken Myers Books for Educators

Ken Myers Seeing a Classical School

Ken Myers Concerns for CC Leaders

Ken Myers A Disordered Education

Ken Myers Are the Lib Arts Useless

Ken Myers History of Mars Hill Audio

Ken Myers His Education

The Trivial Trivium… or The Trivium at The Crossroads

For a while now I have been amused at the contrast between the two words “trivium” and “trivial.” Now I am an ardent advocate of the renewal of “Trivium-Based Education” and consider such a renewal greatly needed and far from trivial. So in what sense could the trivium be trivial? How could one of these words be so serious and the other so…well, trivial?

Our word “trivium” is taken directly from the Latin word trivium which means the place “where three roads meet.” The word trivium is made from two other Latin words: tres (three) and via (road, way). The word trivium was employed by some medieval educators to describe the education rooted in the study of the three verbal arts of grammar, logic in rhetoric. The trivium described the “three fold way” consisting of the arts of grammar, logic and rhetoric. So the trivium is the path to mastering language and cultivating one’s humanity. That’s pretty serious. Our word “trivial” (and “trivia”) derives from a related Latin word–the adjective trivialis, which means “of the crossroads.” In Roman towns, crossroads where very busy streets where a lot of people gathered, making what was there, or what happened there, common. So gradually, what was “trivial” became that which was common, familiar and well-known.

In contemporary education, we surely cannot say that the trivium is common, familiar and well-known. Certainly trivum-based education is not on every street corner, not in this sense at the crossroads. But could the trivium be at the crossroads in another sense? For a crossroads also represents a decision that must be made. One must make one turn or another, take one path or another. As classical schools continue to grow and multiply, other schools will be presented with a choice: Should we adopt a classical curriculum and pedagogy? Many Christian schools are observing the growth of classical schools and asking themselves, if the classical approach would be a road worth taking. Several have said yes, a trend I am certainly watching carefully.

Classical schools themselves often find themselves at their own crossroads: Do we start a high school? Do we dilute the classical curriculum in order to attract more students? Do we help start another classical school in a city down the road?

Maybe you are at a crossroads. Will you educate your own children classically? Will you become an educator at a classical school or co-op? Will you give your talent and time to a classical school board? Start a new classical school? Let me know, I have been down that road before.