Don’t be a Nodder: Painting, Poem, and Periagoge

On Saturday I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City with a group of wonderful students with whom I am currently attending the Witherspoon Institute‘s First Principles seminar.

Although it was my first time to the Met, being there reminded me of attending “Museum School” as a child. For one full week in Grade 3, my class and I had daylong visits to the Glenbow Museum where we explored art, artifacts, exhibits, historical documents, and international collections. We were given journals and encouraged to be curious and careful observers. The goal was to be still and observe with a sense of wonder, reflectively considering the “5Ws” – who, what, when, where, and why. We were encouraged to not try to observe everything, but rather to observe a few things well. We were educated to not race throughout the museum saying superficially, “That’s nice” and “That’s interesting.” In short, the most memorable lesson of Museum School was: “Don’t be a nodder.”

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Poem: Only the gods are wise

Only the gods are wise
The living imitations we ought not idolize
Refracted lights that shine quite dim
Emptiness overflows unto the brim

Seeking hungrily new knowledge
We eagerly provide a stage
The crowd is quickly hushed
So to listen to some sage

But the guru has no answers
And leaves no lasting impression
What was long anticipated
Becomes hardly worth a mention

What then is this philosophizing for?
We seem not to get too far
All these public intellectuals
And their speeches seem bizarre

Only the gods are wise
And our philosophizing is mere play
We must decide to live the questions;
They are not going away.

Amanda Achtman
May 4, 2013
Vancouver, BC