Eggshells

There is a special type of Chinese porcelain (eggshell porcelain or 暗花) that would be inscribed before firing so reveal its inscription only when held up to the light. Such porcelain is paper thin; the secret message not unlike a watermark.
How many such inscriptions do we bear, waiting for the appropriate stage lights to shine upon us? And to say stage lights is an archaic call back to the traditional scenery of prose.
I imagined one such light shone this morning when I read a very honest article by a writing teacher, "Live First, Write Later". We live in an age Rousseau would approve of insofar as we may acknowledge that some (read: minority of) students don't need overtly disciplined teaching. But of course this is because the curriculum is not as replete with the kind of extraneous learning students had the liberty of criticising as it was before (e.g. the tripos viz. certain early physicists - who used that maths and were also literate in ancient tongues and corresponding worldviews).
The eggshell is the human soul, now seemingly prided above the pursuit of subject matter and on view to anyone with a computer and especially to those developing their stalking abilities, as if that were the same thing as researching a matter. Research implies having at least rudimentary critical apparatus.
My 阿嬷, whose job-title also once meant Queen Mother of the West, had a middle name meaning Egg; we children used to call her Egg Yolk, affectionately. Somehow, I have ended up with a dozen memories of eggs from childhood, including those I was forced to eat if I was to go to school. We also had eggshell bowls. There was no running in our house.
I wake to the older memory of Castor and Pollux, born from an egg or eggs, and their eggshell caps, often depicted beneath stars, the eggshell, reminiscent of the crescent moon. I see such tender, celestial lines as explaining the favourable winds they bestowed on travellers after their own journey with Jason, and helpers to those in crisis - aside from their constellation, the breaking of their sacral eggs.



And indeed, how many times can a person be broken. Ever rising anew from these eggshells, treated like art, bearing inscriptions and fired. Knowing human fallibility, too, we might ask in a sentimentally educated way, why we need formal learning if we are all broken and remade again, and whether it is true that this eggshell mosaic respects not age but experience, where experience is connected to the practical application of φρόνησις.
The author of "Live First" suggests one answer is in the staying power of seniors. I propose another answer inherent to his article: honesty and dialogue about such things. A third answer might also be 教學相長, which means 'to teach is to learn' - or docendo discimus, 'if we are learning, we teach'. From our eggshells comes the hope of reaching something more permanent - a furniture in the mind, where the cosmos that we strive to imitate shines above us as stars.
The Yale Report of 1828, written just as ancient Greek and Latin were declared 'dead,' proclaims: "The two great points to be gained in intellectual culture, are the discipline and the furniture of the mind; expanding its powers, and storing it with knowledge. The former of these is, perhaps, the more important of the two. A commanding object, therefore, in a collegiate course, should be, to call into daily and vigorous exercise the faculties of the student. Those branches of study should be prescribed, and those modes of instruction adopted, which are best calculated to teach the art of fixing the attention, directing the train of thought, analyzing a subject proposed for investigation; following, with accurate discrimination, the course of argument; balancing nicely the evidence presented to the judgment; awakening, elevating, and controlling the imagination; arranging, with skill, the treasures which memory gathers; rousing and guiding the powers of genius."
To furnish "the student with those elementary ideas which are found in the literature of modern times". Out of the eggshell, the eggshell porcelain, with its secret message.



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