Poetic Housekeeping: Housekeeping in the Poetic Mode

posted in: extra 10

Awhile back our online book club read Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor. In it, he posited a three-stage development of and three-prong aspect of poetic – that is, not logically deduced – knowledge. He called the final stage “connatural,” which was a difficult term to grasp, but to make it simpler and parallel, I will use the word “internalized.” So, the three stages and aspects of non-rationally-attained knowledge are intuitive, intentional, and internalized.
Applied to homemaking and housekeeping, the final stage of internalized knowledge is a dance; we dance the dance of our routines because it makes us happy and satisfied. We simply couldn’t leave the dishes undone at night or the bed unmade in the morning, because it would be jarring and incongruous with who we are.

What tripped me up most is that poetic knowledge, according to Taylor, is the starting point, not the end point. He says we do not begin with rational analysis and end up at the poetic mode. However, I think that is precisely the route I have been trying to take all these years:

  • Read the homemaking books.
  • Read the cleaning books.
  • Write up schedules and routines and lists.
  • Think it all through.
  • Think, think, think.
  • List, list, list.

poetic homemaking

Then supposedly I would work those systems and those habits until reaching the unconscious stage, the poetic “oneness with order” that is the fruit of all the analysis and effort. This has been my mode. And even though I’ve never worked the systems and the lists and the habits to the point of internalizing them, I have always considered this a fault of my will and personality, not a fault with the approach.

And it’s not that it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It just hasn’t taken me as far as I thought it all promised me it would.
It’s slowly dawning on me, however. The threads are coming together: synchronicity at work.

First, Taylor lays out the three levels of poetic knowledge: first intuitive, then intentional, and finally that grows and matures and blossoms into “connatural” or internalized. So, we will use that as our outline and I will attempt to weave the threads that I have seen.

The Stages of Poetic Housekeeping

10 Responses

  1. Willa
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie,

    I loved your thoughts on “poetic housekeeping” because I struggle with many of the same issues as you do.

    I think you are right about “connatural” being something the same as “internalized” but from what I understand, the word also implies actually SKIPPING the reasoning or learning process. I couldn’t find the actual quote, but Cardinal Newman in one of his homilies talks about how a simple but just man can actually have opinions whose wisdom and truth would put many learned men to shame. The idea is that living close to God, a person can basically fly past the normal stages of learning. That wouldn’t mean they would become physicists to rival Stephen Hawking, because that kind of learning is based on study and specialized information, I suppose it’s more like the way in the Bible that human wisdom is contrasted with the wisdom of the righteous man.

    Thinking about your post, I wonder if I tend to read those organization books sort of like I might follow around someone as an apprentice — to sort of acquire their habits and way of thinking. That might be like what Circe Institute calls Mimetic Learning. THat would probably explain why even though I “know” how to keep house, I still read and reread those kinds of books.

    I think the best way to learn “connaturally” is by becoming a better person, ie a “just man”, closer to Our Lord and participating in His life… SO you are on the way by those indirect means.

    Sorry to write a comment that’s almost a post! Something I’ve been thinking about a lot, and I loved the way you tied together poetic with housekeeping.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I love your comments, Willa! Never apologize for being too long. :)

      I agree about the apprentice aspect of the housekeeping books; that’s a good way to put it. Especially since it is usually the “pep talk” portions I return to rather than the more instructional bits.

      My latest stage (or perhaps I should say my last growth stage; I’m in decline now during pregnancy!) has definitely been one of focusing more on “learning to love what ought to be loved.”

  2. Brandy @ Afterthoughts
    | Reply

    Sigh. Willa, that comment makes me miss you! I always loved having you in book club!

    Mystie, I have wondered what impact literature might have on something like housekeeping, and if it might have a good one, what books would be best.

    I do think that the “ultimate housekeepers” are simply being themselves rather than acting out a set of rules. The question is how one becomes that sort of person…

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I wrote a bit about literature being what woke me up from approaching it purely logically (which was leading me further and further down the road of “it doesn’t actually matter”) in My Journey. For me, the books were Mansfield Park by Jane Austen & Bleak House by Dickens. I do think they contain strikingly applicable characters and situations, but they were also [providentially] what I was reading at the time I was struggling with the issue.

      Yes, that is the real question, isn’t it? :)

      • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
        | Reply

        I’m willing to read those and see if I can be redeemed. :)

        With my recent health struggles, a lot of my former triumphs have all but disintegrated….

    • Willa
      | Reply

      I miss our discussions, too, Brandy!

      I am sorry to hear about your health issues and will be praying.

      Yes, that’s exactly what I wonder too — “how one becomes that sort of person” —

      I am somewhat guessing that God enjoys some diversity in the details of housekeeping. At least, in other things He seems to cultivate variety rather than uniformity.

      I am also guessing that the essence is hospitality; everything else is secondary.

      But those are general principles and I know it doesn’t help with the longing for specific examples and methods.

      • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
        | Reply

        Ooh! I like this Willa: “the essence is hospitality; everything else is secondary.” Of course, the former is a major weakness for me. I have a big mental block when it comes to large groups. This doesn’t mean we aren’t hospitable, but no matter how many times we do it, it still feels “hard” to me, if that makes sense.

        I’ve decided that Mystie’s next food eBook should cover two things: (1) meals for crowds and (2) meals for delivery. If she could include specifics on delivery CONTAINERS that would be great. I still can’t figure out how to deliver soup, even when people seem to actually need soup. I do it, but I feel like I always make a mess!

        • Mystie Winckler
          | Reply

          Duly noted. :) Containers are tricky. I don’t know how your logistics are, but sometimes I take soup in one of my pots, then transfer it into one of theirs when I drop it off.

        • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
          | Reply

          So far that is the best I have come up with, also. I could tell you the story of how once upon a time one of those soup kettles overturned in the back of my Suburban. It wasn’t pretty! I keep thinking there has to be a better way (beyond freezing soup in a bag and heating it up later at their house)…

  3. Mystie Winckler
    | Reply

    I hope you get your health stuff corrected and your energy back. My former triumphs, too, are mostly disappeared. I’m hoping they will come back to me with less work when we’re back in form again.

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