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The lore of life

Everyone, from time immemorial, engages creatively in forming themselves and learning liberally. We recount stories and relate myths. We sing, dance, and make music. We tell jokes and sketch caricatures. Under pressure we fearfully scapegoat, anathematize, and warn of dark conspiracies. We celebrate—holidays, festivals, carnival. We memorialize the stages of life—birth, coming of age, death. Some of these in knowing ages may have a transactional overlay, but in arche and telos, origin and aim, these deeply human, spontaneously participatory, formative activities we do for their own sake.

We can and should pay close attention to all these on A Place to Study, not primarily in an antiquarian spirit, collecting and compiling the variants of them. Rather we need to attend to these as the foundation, the primordial ground of human self-formation and liberal learning, a cultural growth surging up in the human commons, fraught with spontaneous intentionality through which people shape themselves autonomously.

People find all this lore of life highly fulfilling, and at first it flourishes historically in relative isolation. But quickly its fecundity overgrows the isolation and the close juxtaposition of spontaneous traditions occasions friction and conflict, providing the setting for more disciplined forms of intentionality, which draw much of their vigor from their examination of their more spontaneous roots in life. Thus Plato called the poets to account, something we continue in our turn, not to suppress them, as crude readings of Plato suggest, but to examine our spontaneous intentions through them to understand how to modulate their conflicts and to coordinate them meaningfully as we pursue our proper purposes.

    • Make this paragraph clearer and then expand the items in the list as a lead-in to the pages for each.**