Day by Day 65
I. Caleb’s Categorical Imperative
Tick, tock. Someone is waking up, this is the sounding of a talking clock.
This is the Divine Clock of the Cosmos. Every ancient kept quiet and attentive, theirs ears to the glass and listening to the steady moving hands. Every now and then an ancient – let’s say Ptolemy – stepped back from the Clock, nodded his head in enthusiasm, and scribbled something in Greek on a tablet. He would write about the music he heard, the music of the spheres, the tones and measured rhythms of matter and force.
He constructed categories for his discoveries of this ordered Cosmos, like a library for a vast collection. Regardless of the discoveries’ consistency with our observations, there was an aweful beauty to his fabrications. They worked, ordered and measured like the Clock he observed.
Of course now, we are quite skeptical of categories. We prefer to leave ideas and people unlabeled. We prefer Truth without a face or form. We prefer to act fluidly, naturally. If something is true, we think, then we will possess it intrinsically and act without having to consider it beforehand.
This is how we approach all skills too, including thought, conversation, writing, rhetoric, parenting, and vacuuming. We believe – almost exclusively – in natural and uncategorized skill. The more natural someone believes or acts, the more skilled they are. We believe in the myth of exclusive natural talent.
We have thrown away the old Clock model. We think it is too unnatural, too factory-made, too metallic.
What we do not recognize, however, is that categories are necessary to act naturally. The ancients believed in constructing categories for wisdom and knowledge, but only so that the end result might be an effortless possession of skill. They recognized that the foundations of this Divine Clock are categories and, because of its masterful construction, moves flawlessly. Naturally.
An ancient master of oration, for example, would have so deeply embodied the five canons of rhetoric, that he would be acutely aware of the exceptions, qualifications, and fluidity of them. Because of this acute awareness, the categories would in some sense cease existing. He would be them and no longer need them. Yet, the foundations would be the categories he used to learn.
This is my imperative; it is necessary to construct categories. There is no place to store our wisdom and knowledge if we refuse to build even a single bookshelf.
II. The Skill of an Image of God
People seem to fit uncomfortably into categories. Unless someone is either hyper-ironic or blind to themselves, people do not like being labeled.
Every now and then, there might be a situation when a friend asks, “So, what do you think of John?” And you fumble in your words for awhile, unsure of what to say. You finally tell her, “Well, I like John, but he’s kind of…hm.”
Profund. To the depths of the ocean.
There is not a simple three-step process to determine how to accurately describe someone, but categories are an excellent tool for precise clarification.
We broadly place people into two groups, the intelligent or the skilled. We are all too frequently crude and unfair in our descriptions of others. If we cannot be honest and true in our judgments of others, we ought not to speak. That is why it is so essential to see the image of God in someone before we see the image of the Fallen Man.
The choice of description between intelligence and skill is unremarkable. It assumes that those who use their brains are unlikely to use their hands and vice versa. The brain and hand are connected; intelligence and skill cannot exist separate from one another. In order to better understand and express the glory of human ability, it is wise to borrow from the ancients.
If rhetoric is the art of a good man speaking well, then rhetoric is not only confined to the giving of speeches. It can be expanded to the life of a man. Rhetoric is the art of a good man living well. The five canons of rhetoric apply to life. How does a man live a persuasive life? A persuasive life is one lived by a man of strong convictions who seeks to prove the truth of his beliefs by living a good life.
The five canons of rhetoric do apply to life, but are specifically applicable to the varying intelligences that people have. The five canons of rhetoric do not apply to the deeper tools – or intelligences – of persuasion, the ones beyond human skill.
All people cannot help but live out their convictions. Therefore, all people attempt to live persuasive lives. There are five different skills of the persuasive life, five essential intelligences that are used to convince an unbelieving party that their beliefs are true. Because all people are made in the image of God, all people possess intelligence, but there is not one kind of intelligence. These different categories of intelligence are ultimately different categories of skill. Because they are different categories of skill, they can be learned.
III. The Prophet
The Prophet speaks in riddles, skilled in invention. He has the mind of a craftsman. He does not think quickly, but methodically. He works on original ideas for long periods of time behind his eyes and does not have a surface intelligence. If someone asks him a question, he will likely stumble over his words because any external interaction is a distraction from his mental processes.
The Prophet is the most skilled at original thoughts. He may not have a fantastic memory or be quick, but he can eloquently recount his own ideas.
He is most likely to be a writer and have a commonplace of clever thoughts or witticisms that he can draw from in social situations.
IV. The Adviser
The Adviser organizes, skilled in arrangement. He has a firm grasp on the principles and broad ideas that govern human action. He is not likely to have many original thoughts, but he has a mind of perfect organization. He is likely an extremely copious person who soaks in the thoughts of others and hangs them together on a line. Details elude him, but structures and contours do not.
For example, if someone asks him about the movement of history, various -isms, or an ethical situation, he could respond quickly with something of value. He gives good advice, because he can apply large principles to detailed situations.
Since he knows and remembers the bigger picture, he is able to connect things quickly. Metaphor and poetry are close to his heart. He delights in organizing thoughts and preserving clarity. He sees everything.
V. The King
The King demonstrates and represents, skilled in style. He knows how to make things appear natural and attractive. In a word, he is socially intelligent. He is aware of the immediate wants and needs of people. Therefore, his primary skill is identifying and drawing people in, whether it is through eloquent speech, evocative dress, or simply in the way he carries himself. He has a cultivated image.
His intelligence lies in a very different place than the other intelligences. His social intelligence is not merely sophistry. He knows the importance of others’ opinions and knows that words are not the only way to convey meaning.
He knows what sort of words are appropriate when, whether he uses a grand, middle, or plain style, but words are less important to him than presentation. When he has drawn the masses in, he knows how to sustain a healthy and prolonged relationship with them. He is a natural leader.
VI. The Judge
The Judge remembers and determines, skilled in memory. He recalls details quickly and, long past everyone has forgotten, remembers. The overarching structure is above him, but he is in tune with the sensitive balance of situations. The Judge holds a set of scales and he knows which scale is a particle of dust off from the other.
Because of this acute awareness of balance and detail, he can determine truth that requires observation.
He lives in the world of the microcosmos, one few see. He forgets nothing.
VII. The Priest
The Priest recounts and delights, skilled in delivery. He captivates people with his delight of the thoughts of others. He delights in things and, through his delight, knows how to make others delight.
He likely has few original thoughts nor is he able to remember or think quickly. He, however, is instinctively curious and passionate for ideas that he can share. Whether it is something mundane or grand, he makes others interested. He is capable of making a listener hang on to his every word. He is a natural teacher.
VIII. The Follower
We are disciples of the God who possesses all intelligences. No one can match Him and He wants us to be like Him. We pursue intelligence, not through the acquisition of abstract knowledge, but through skill.
Intelligence is a skill, so we can cultivate it. It is not entirely founded on natural ability. If someone can learn, they can learn to be intelligent in some way. We are called to grow, progress, fill, multiply, and learn. Some are called to cultivate intelligence. Through these skills, we can live persuasive lives.
We are to persuade the world that Christ has died and risen and, therefore, that we are able to live well. The five canons of intelligence only apply to the use of our skills for persuasion.
There is a deeper way in which we persuade others that only the Holy Spirit bestows; faith, the source of love. He is the only one who allows us to forget ourselves and become perfect images of God. And a life infused with the Holy Spirit is the most persuasive argument for the truth of the Gospel.
If the Cosmos is any Clock, it is a cuckoo clock. And we are to dance and sing with it…
Maybe that was too much.