20 September 2008

Why Read the Classics?

This is a wonderful passage from the book BEGIN HERE, by Jacques Barzun.

But why, after all, learn to read differently by tackling the classics? The answer is simple: in order to live in a wider world. Wider than what? Wider than the one that comes through the routine of our material lives and through the paper and the factual magazines—Psychology Today, House and Garden, Sports Illustrated; wider also than friends’ and neighbors’ plans and gossip; wider especially than one’s business or profession. For nothing is more narrowing than one’s own shop, and it grows ever more so as one bends the mind and energies to succeed. This is particularly true today, when each profession has become a cluster of specialties continually subdividing. A lawyer is not a jurist, he is a tax lawyer, or a dab at trusts and estates. The work itself is a struggle with a mass of jargon, conventions, and numbers that have no meaning outside the specialty. The whole modern world moves among systems and abstractions superimposed on reality, a vast make-believe, though its results are real enough in one’s life if one does not know and follow these ever-shifting rules of the game.

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.