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A Cord of Three

I suppose that the trivium is such a powerful tool because it is rooted in the natural and the supernatural: The Trinity. Three is the essence of the metaphysical. I once heard someone say that if you asked a math genius their favorite number it would be divisible by 3. This is how I know I am not a math genius.

When you stumble upon a cord of three it is a good idea to pay attention.

Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric.

Truth, Goodness, Beauty.

Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding.

This week I have been pondering an old favorite trio of Biblical truth:

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Michah 6:8)

What is good? This is good:

  1. To do justly
  2. To love mercy
  3. To walk humbly with God

If I had the beautiful mind of Dorothy L. Sayers, I would write an essay on those three tools. What if? What if the grammar stage was lined up to justice, the logic stage to mercy, and the rhetoric stage to humility before God? Right away my mind starts trying to rearrange things and then I begin to see that this rearranging would be a mistake. Grammar is, in a metaphysical way, justice. If I thought of logic as mercy rather than justice I might finally begin to understand it and the idea of rhetoric as humility before God would almost eliminate the dangers so inherent in the practiced art.

Yesterday my baby turned 13. No more little boys for me. In one sense you could say no more grammar stage, but in a more correct sense you could say that the trivium will continue to be embodied in our school each day.

Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric.

Truth, Goodness, Beauty.

Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding.

Justice, Mercy, Humility.

A cord of one is easily broken, but not a cord of three. No need to untwine the strands. We need justice, mercy, and humility before God every day no matter what stage of life and I suspect it is the same with grammar, logic and rhetoric. They go together.

If I dissected my own educational journey it would probably be rhetoric, grammar, logic. Ok, I admit it; I am still waiting to enter the logic stage. I didn’t even hit the formative grammar stage until I was 40. It took about 30 years of voracious reading and gradual enlightening for me to see the need for the forms of grammar. Now that I think of it, I did get some logic. I loved teaching my children to read and the more of them I taught, the more I began to understand the logic of phonics and the more I understood the more I loved the English language. I rarely teach a child that a word is a rule-breaker; rather, I look for the rule.

As I plan for our next school year, I am going to keep the ideals of justice, mercy, and humility before God ever in front of me and see what happens. In fact, I am not going to wait for next year. Today is the day. Today I know what God requires of me. Today I know what is good. Today I don’t need one strand. Justice without mercy and humility is weak but a strand of three is not quickly broken. Today I am going to practice the trivium with my children, all three strands.

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