Saturday, September 10, 2016

WHY am I studying the Trivium?

By following the same course of eduction that produced the great thinkers of history and all my favorite writers up until the 20th century, I put down my roots in the same soil they grew from - drink deep of the same nutritional matrix. All those writers I've been rhapsodizing about - with all their eloquence, power and clarity - I now walk the same paths they did.  But mine is an abbreviated version of the full classical curriculum - without Latin or Greek, and of necessity I'm not absorbing all the same literature they did. Though I will be getting quite a bit of that (and most of it free thanks to Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and Google Books!)

My reading into the classical Liberal Arts has convinced me that it was their education that forged the common links between all those thinkers - the artists, the authors, the natural scientists and philosophers, the poets, the statesmen and the critics. They all received the same training, all read the same classic works of the great Western tradition. And really that might be the main key to it all - the literature.

Reading the greatest works of the Western canon is not at all like reading the majority of today's books - much of it documents the authors' very honest struggles with the deepest and most profound ideas to ever grace human thought. And no, they didn't always get it right, but sometimes their failures make for some great comic relief. It seems authors and artists of all stripes have stopped even attempting to navigate those hallowed waters over the last century or so, doesn't it? Today instead we get an endless parade of very minor issues, and a whole lot of extremely divisive political posturing that actually blocks any real attempt to deal with the issues themselves. As a culture we seem to have grown too small to deal with the great ideas and the great problems. Too small, too self-fixated, too materialistic. And make no mistake - WE'VE BEEN TRAINED INTO IT!

And trained out of dealing with the big ideas. Out of the ability to understand ideas without passing premature judgement on them - to consider them critically and with great clarity, and then to formulate an intelligent response and deliver it powerfully and persuasively. Aka Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

Pre 20th century rhetoric is at the same time more rational and more poetic than our own stripped-down plainspeak, which is materialistic and utilitarian and for many of us is on about a valley girl level or a Bill & Ted level.

I want to tune in to the Great Conversation of the classical Western tradition! Ponder the deep thoughts of Homer, Aristotle, Plato - Shakespeare, Leibniz and Spinoza. Spending some time immersed in those deep waters, if you've prepared yourself to understand what's being said, you can't help but emerge wiser or at least thinking intelligently about much more important issues. 

No comments:

Post a Comment