14 October 2005

...More on reading old books

Many of us have only read old or classic books as students because we had to. If you were like me you did not get much out of the experience, putting little into it and having little interest. But as we get older, that attitude often changes. We come to realize that what amounts to contemporary arrogance—exalting the new and trendy while thumbing our noses at the old and the forgotten—stifles the ability to discern good ideas from bad or truth from error. We come to a point of realizing just how much we do not know after all. Then we begin to discover and mine the treasures from the past. Much of that treasure comes in the form of old books. As Gene Edward Veith has written, “For those of us stranded in the modern age, the old styles can cut through the fog of our culture and communicate truths that will seem refreshingly new.” Reading old books provides for a larger perspective of the time in which we live. Understanding the worldviews, cultures and assumptions of the past help us to understand our own times. It can awaken us from an irresponsible slumber, temper our tendency to pursue that which is popular or correct the error in our thinking. It also replaces a passive consumption of ideas with active and critical thinking. So be encouraged to read anew the old books. Broaden your understanding of the present through the lens of the past. Take up and read!