Awhile back our online book club read Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education by James Taylor. 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. 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.
So, we will use his three aspects of poetic knowledge as an outline as I attempt to weave the threads that I have seen.
Intentional Homemaking: Set Your Mind on Things That Are Above
In Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, Taylor described intentionality differently than I had ever thought about it. “Intentional Parenting” and other such “intentional” approaches seems to have caught on as a buzzword in some circles, and I am generally in favor of intentional living. The dictionary says intentional means doing something on purpose, deliberately, or, in the metaphysical sense, to aim your physical actions toward an abstract ideal.
Taylor, not surprisingly, focuses on the metaphysical aspect of intentionality, and points out that, from the Latin, it means a tendency toward, a stretching toward, an inclination toward the object:
it knows reality by inclination toward the object in a sympathetic manner […] still based in the senses.
So when we have an intuitive vision-goal, the next step of the poetic mode causes us to stretch ourselves toward that vision. We see what is discordant with our image-goal and seek to right it.
And here is where, though I have maintained that the lists are tools and not masters, my lists have failed. I have not sought, pursued, and remembered the end, the goal, the vision, the form, the beauty that is the point.
So, I have floundered in being the master myself, and I am a poor master. I refuse to let my lists be master, yet I have not been mastered by, gripped by, the essence of order and beauty (which are found in the nature of God, eternal and objective). The right thinking, the right vision, grips the soul, the mind, and then the hands and feet, causing one to put right what is disordered and out of place. You make right anything not consistent with the reality seen in your mind’s eye.
And as you stretch toward that ideal in your imagination, the outworking is your daily dance of housework.
There is no safeguard and no joy like that of being under orders, being possessed, controlled, continually in the service of One whom it is gladness to obey. — Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender
Again, Sandra Felton identifies visual perception as a key difference between Cleanies and Messies:
Messies don’t really “notice” how bad things are because they don’t actually focus on things visually. You might say they think nearsighted. They may have good visual acuity, but they don’t “look” at the condition of the house.
However, the Cleanies’ “goals are visual, and they become uncomfortable if something is out of place.” They see well, and they act in accordance with what they see. This is akin to Taylor’s description of poetic knowledge as “the habit of noticing what is happening here and now.” A person working at his craft in the poetic mode Taylor describes as having “not simply an alert mind but an overall alertness of keen senses.”
The poetic mode is a keen looking.
The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on all speak loudly about what you believe. “The beauty of Thy peace” shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul. –Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman