Weekend Reading: the power of patience, the moral imagination, and lemon pigs

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. The Power of Patience: Teaching students the value of deceleration and immersive attention (Harvard Magazine)

What this exercise shows students is that just because you have looked at something doesn’t mean that you have seen it. Just because something is available instantly to vision does not mean that it is available instantly to consciousness. Or, in slightly more general terms: access is not synonymous with learning. What turns access into learning is time and strategic patience.

2. Awakening the Moral Imagination: Teaching Virtues through Fairy Tales (reprinted at CatholicEducation.org)

Mere instruction in morality is not sufficient to nurture the virtues. It might even backfire, especially when the presentation is heavily exhortative and the pupil’s will is coerced. Instead, a compelling vision of the goodness of goodness itself needs to be presented in a way that is attractive and stirs the imagination. A good moral education addresses both the cognitive and affective dimensions of human nature. Stories are an irreplaceable medium of this kind of moral education. This is the education of character.

The Greek word for character literally means an impression. Moral character is an impression stamped upon the self. Character is defined by its orientation, consistency, and constancy. Today we often equate freedom with morality and goodness. But this is naive because freedom is transcendent and the precondition of choice itself. Depending upon his character, an individual will be drawn toward either goodness or wickedness. Moral and immoral behavior is freedom enacted either for good or for ill.

The great fairy tales and children’s fantasy stories attractively depict character and virtue. In these stories the virtues glimmer as if in a looking glass, and wickedness and deception are unmasked of their pretensions to goodness and truth. These stories make us face the unvarnished truth about ourselves while compelling us to consider what kind of people we want to be.

3. Lemon Pigs Are the World’s Newest New Year’s Tradition (Atlas Obscura)

Pallai’s followers agreed, and soon she was deluged with dozens of lemon pig photos, cobbled together from fruit bowls and holiday detritus. The photo’s accompanying instructions are simple. Four toothpicks make up the pig’s legs, while small slices in the lemon peel create its mouth and ears. Two cloves are the eyes. The curly tail is fashioned from crushed up foil, and a glistening penny is inserted into the piggy’s mouth, presumably symbolizing the hoped-for luck. Even the lemonless joined in on the fun. Mandarin pigs and lime pigs joined the herd of citrus swine. An onion, as it turns out, makes a reasonable piglike shape, while a banana really does not. (“Sorry for the horror,” its creator wrote.)

But there is no actual tradition of making lemon pigs to ring in the new year. Instead, the lemon pig has a stranger backstory. And a certain appeal that seems to result in them trending about once every 50 years.