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Leading the Soul, Part 1

April 25, 2011

Why do certain images, words, or music stick? How is it that they remain continually present within the mind, or even soul? Regardless of age or time, images, words, or music will have left an impression that cannot be forgotten. They have in some way become a part of the person. They have in some ways shaped the person.

For instance, during the last couple of years, I have revisited an author that I fell in love with and read furiously in my teen years. The western novels of Louis L’Amour set me onto a life long path of reading. Though, at the time I did not realize the kind of impact these books were having on me. It was not until twenty years later reading again L’Amour that I saw in his writings those things which had left their marks. They had always been there, that is, with me, but I had grown to believe that they were simply a part of me.

Or again, I think of music and how my daughter has become a Country Music fan. My wife and I both cringe, but I remember when I was her age listening to the same songs. It is amazing that I can just start singing with my daughter a song that I have not heard for twenty years. Why? How does music do that? How is it that music can make such a deep impression that it is in some way always present?

Upon reflection, one may discover how such literary, oral, and even visual images have impressed his or her being. They have first spoken, and then left their mark. In certain ways, these rhetorical images “enchant” or “impress” the soul.

The word rhetoric bears an unfortunate connotation today. It is the general perception that rhetoric amounts to little more than a bundle of self-interests wrapped with a thin layer of truth. We quickly associate rhetoric to the salesman or politician.

However, rhetoric has not always been perceived in this light. Consider rhetoric in the sense proposed by Socrates who argued that the rhetorician must know truth if he wishes to lead the soul. That is, the duty of the rhetorician was to lead the soul toward truth, and this is why the rhetorician must know truth; he must know the object toward which he wishes to lead the pupil, but he must lead the pupil to the natural, to something real, to something outside of and beyond (transcending) his self. The goal of the rhetorician was not to package his own interests and cast them upon the crowd, but to unveil the glories of the natural and created world so that the crowd may gaze upon truth. The rhetorician sought to make visible the ideas of wisdom and virtue, truth and beauty.

Classical rhetoric leads the soul to perceive and imitate Truth.

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From → Education, Language

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