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The Age of Martha: A Call to Contemplative Learning in a Frenzied Culture


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T. S. Eliot characterizes modern life as having “neither plentitude nor vacancy,” and goes on to say that our lives are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” The truth is that the world is perennially too much with us. We’re always in danger of getting and spending and giving our hearts away, of trading our glimpses of Proteus rising from the sea for glimpses of the latest social-media craze. We have grown so used to our distractions that we have nearly forgotten what leisure is, that divine and gratuitous part of human existence that ennobles life and causes us to pause and reflect, pray and praise, fast as well as feast.

This is why the Scriptures give us the story of Mary and Martha. We can be like Mary, who chose to be still and present for the most important thing. Or we can be like Martha, who chose instead to worry about earthly things and was admonished for her unwillingness to rest. Now, however, it seems there is almost no choice left at all, and we have nearly forgotten what it means for our souls to give attention. Even in our schools and churches—which should be the seats of contemplation—there is little place for the free and “useless” delight of the Transcendent and Divine.

In this work, Devin O’Donnell seeks to frame a philosophy of academics rooted in leisure, one that sees school as scholé in principle and practice. If we are to be faithful with the inheritance of a liberal arts tradition, then we must return to seeing leisure as a guiding light in our educational efforts.

“Those convinced of the primacy of contemplation owe yet another debt of gratitude to Classical Academic Press for this newest book, devoted to the cultivation of the devout mind. Besides a robust critique of what is currently confused with higher education, The Age of Martha offers useful counsel regarding more recent concerns, such as the cautious use of available electronic aids. This work is recommended without reserve, especially for parents and educators.” —Patrick Henry Reardon, Senior Editor, Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity

To learn more, read Devin O’Donnell’s blog post, “Learning Like Mary in the Age of Martha,” here.

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Devin O’Donnell

Devin O’Donnell was born and raised on the foggy coasts of central California. The spell of antiquity came upon him early, and he was enamored of old things from his boyhood. But his education in the public schools almost drove it out of him. He cut his pedagogical teeth teaching literature and Latin to high school students in 2004. A few years later, he and his wife joined some crazy families and founded a classical Christian school. Having spent over 15 years in the classroom, he is now the headmaster of St. Abraham’s Classical Christian Academy located in Santa Cruz, California. He holds an MA in the humanities. In 2015 he served as research editor for the Bible publishing project Bibliotheca. His fiction has been published in journals and anthologies, and he has written for the CiRCE Institute and Classis. His love for beauty, music, and bookish things is matched by his love for surfing, oceanic landscapes, and English Premier League soccer. He married up, and he and his wife have 4 adventurous children who love stories, the ocean, and good feasts.

ISBN: 9781600513824
Width: 5.5in
Height: 8.5in
Pages: 216
Version: 1.0