The intermediate and advanced branches of the District Y Latin Family are trying an experiment today. We’ll be doing what I now call a “cultural exploration,” where each pair or group of three focuses on a different aspect or set of resources about the cultural focus of the Tres Columnae Project Lectio we’ve just started reading. For the intermediate group, the focus is travel and transportation as the Valerius family (and their cousins the Caelii) make the long trip from Herculaneum to Mediolanum in Lectio XV. For the advanced group, the focus is on bathing and bath complexes as Lucius and Caius prepare to visit the thermae in Lectio XXIII. Since everyone has a different piece of the puzzle, we’ll be listening closely to each other as we make the presentations … and then, of course, we’ll be listening closely and looking closely as we explore the next few stories, seeking examples of the cultural products, practices, and perspectives we just discovered.
Listening closely can be tiring! I’ve been listening closely to the Latin Family this week, paying attention to what they say and what they imply as we move past the mid-point of the first quarter of the year. That’s probably why I was tired this morning!
I’m not sure I listened that closely at Former School; after all, I had been there “forever,” and I “just knew” the rhythm of the year and the questions that would arise. And at Former School, cultural explorations were much less structured for intermediate and advanced classes. We’d have (or make our own version of) a “Products, Practices, and Perspectives Diagram,” and we’d find credible, authoritative-seeming sources about the cultural topic, then share our diagrams with each other. But at Former School, almost every Latin Family member had been with me “from the beginning.” We’d learned how to find credible sources and how to make the diagrams when we were still beginners … and I suppose we had listened closely to each other then, even though I wasn’t always consciously aware of it.
Listening closely is different, possibly harder, when you’re listening at a distance. You don’t get the non-verbal messages as clearly even if the video feed is functioning well. It calls for a different kind of listening, a different form of concentration and focus.
The District Y Latin Family is remarkably capable, but when I listen closely, I remember that they don’t know every process yet. And the beginning Latin Family members at District Y are significantly younger than their counterparts at Former School. Even after we learn the process, we’ll probably still need more structure and guidance than our older counterparts at Former School did.
I’m still thinking about the Monday Evening Book Group conversation, about how I listened closely and heard the message behind the angry, discouraged messages people were sending about our book. “Do we want to move on to another book?” I asked, and in the moment of asking, I realized I was open to moving on or to pushing through. We decided to keep going, at least for a while, and oddly enough, it was B, who really hasn’t liked the book at all, who suggested we read at least one more section. She’d found some good stuff in the next few pages, and she also had realized something important. “We don’t have to follow his logic,” she said. “We can just pick out the parts that are meaningful and talk about those.¨
That’s what the Monday Evening Book Group “normally” or “usually” does! But B and several others are relatively new to the group. Somehow, with different members, we needed to explore different structures, just as the different configurations and histories of the Latin Family at District Q and District Y have called for different structures there. It’s only by listening closely, with your heart as well as your ears, that you can perceive the need for those different structures, and it’s only by listening closely that you can figure out what the new structures should be.
Of course that’s exactly what our current book is about. I love the serendipity and the feeling of Not A Coincidence.
In just a few minutes, it will be time to try out our new, different structure. I look forward to finding out how it works! And I wonder what other new insights and discoveries await as we listen closely and respond in the days and weeks ahead.