In this post, I will attempt to answer a question I have been struggling with for some time and I shared with someone last week. "One of my desires for my time now is to study classics and great literature, to study on my own, and to learn how to think. Is there any real profit in that? I would love to study through a university, but don't have the time or finances now and I'm not sure if it would even prepare me to do something meaningful. Is it just a selfish ambition or will it be something that I can actually some day use to make a difference. Is it okay or is it not?"
This desire was birthed in me a year and a half ago when I read A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille. Since then, I unfortunately haven't had the time I would like to devote to that ambition and I have begun to wonder if there's even a point. Would it result in me doing anything meaningful? Shouldn't I rather be active in feeding the poor, helping orphans, or freeing slaves? Is it a God-honouring desire or is it a mere waste of time on temporary things?
No. No, it's not a waste of time. I owe that conclusion to the wisdom of many individuals. I have read many articles on the issues of reading and education, received encouragement from friends, and have concluded that learning is a worthwhile pursuit. I appreciated the articles Alex and Brett Harris posted over at the Rebelution on John Piper's book Think, which I definitely intend to read. In their two posts on the book, they discuss the importance and benefit of reading and thinking hard things.
I was blessed awhile ago by what a young man shared with me. It was the idea that you can only teach your children what you know. Even if your ambition is to be a mother, you will only be able to pass on to them what you already know. He suggested that the parts of education that we don't "use" but that we remember are the ones that build us up the most.
I have also considered a few other ideas in reaching my conclusion. Classics or the great books are often referred to as the Western canon. These are the writings that have been most influential in shaping Western culture. Among them are works that have endured for hundreds, some over a thousand years. Think about that for a minute. There are people in our day who devote themselves to studying what people wrote hundreds of years ago. If their writings have been so influential and endured for so long that students in universities still study them today, I think I might to know what they had to say!
One of my desires has been to be a writer. In order to write well, you must first be able to read and think well. This can be achieved by reading literature. Also, a lot of what I write now is a result of reading. It has given my writing greater purpose. Thus, the reading and study of classics is helping me to hone my writing skills and brings me closer to achieving my goals.
I recently wrote a number of posts on Jane Eyre, a classic work of fiction. Through my study of the book, I have thought through some difficult issues. Classics often build moral character and offers excellent words of wisdom pertaining to various areas of life. They challenge the way we think and cause us to evaluate what we believe. These are just a few benefits.
I don't know where this desire will go. I don't know if I will ever have the opportunity to study and discuss these works at a college. But I intend to say no to ignorance and to learn what I can where I am. The resources available to me are numerous. And I think I can stop exploring. There's enough books I want to read to keep me busy for a lifetime.