Potpourri: Reading, Commonplacing & Leisure
The view at the end of an impromtu bush walk
Over the Easter period I've been soaking up all the loveliness I've found in this complilation of literature: 'Between Midnight and Dawn.' I love poetry and there are some poignant pieces in this book, old and new, and although I'm not usually drawn to contemporary poems but there were some that hit me hard. And this one - Oh my! This made me catch my breath! 'Preparing for Joy: Waiting to be Filled'
I've come to the end of The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas, which I'll write about in more detail later. What an epic this is! All the way through I kept thinking of the biblical admonition, 'Vengeance is Mine!' says the Lord.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, as though a redhot iron were piercing his heart. During the last hour his own crime had alone been presented to his mind; now another object, not less terrible, suddenly presented itself. His wife! He had just acted the inexorable judge with her, he had condemned her to death, and she, crushed by remorse, struck with terror, covered with the shame inspired by the eloquence of his irreproachable virtue, -- she, a poor, weak woman, without help or the power of defending herself against his absolute and supreme will...
"Ah," he exclaimed, "that woman became criminal only from associating with me! I carried the infection of crime with me, and she has caught it as she would the typhus fever, the cholera, the plague!
Wildflowers in bloom
How do we decide what is good or evil? The usual answer is that we decide by conscience...an autonomous faculty like a sense cannot be argued with; you cannot argue a man into seeing green if he sees blue. But the conscience can be altered by argument...Conscience, then, means the whole man engaged in a particular subject matter.
Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
I was looking forward to reading this book as part of my ongoing science education but I've been a little disappointed so far. I'd describe the author's writing as 'breezy' which annoys me, as well as his gossipy style and the inclusion of slang in places. Oliver Sacks and even James Watson were more literary in their style of writing, whilst still being humorous and entertaining. Kean's attempts at both feels forced - but I should reserve my judgement until I've read more of the book, I suppose.
He does have some helpful suggestions such as looking at a blank periodic table without all the clutter before introducing it to students, and his comparison of the structure or 'geography' of the periodic table to a castle made of bricks - each brick being an element, which if taken out of its position would result in the castle tumbling down, was a helpful one.
Norms & Nobility by David Hicks
Continuing my SLOW read of this book. This book is expensive but you could spend years chewing on the ideas expressed by the author. I gave up trying to keep up with the AmblesideOnline Forum discussion on this book which started at the beginning of this year, but am progressing at a snail's pace on my own regardless. One idea that seems to be popping up in various places for me is that of utilitarianism. One of our boys is in the first year of a Liberal Arts degree and he is constantly asked, "What does that qualify you for?"
Dr. Johnson recognized the temptation to make education a preparation for the practical life either by concentrating exclusively on science or by turning all studies into sciences. Predictably, as science took a technological turn and as education began preparing students for work rather than for leisure, for the factory rather than for the parlor, the school itself came to resemble the factory, losing its idiosyncratic, intimate, and moral character...
In its utilitarian haste, the state often peddles preparation for the practical life to our young as the glittering door to the life of pleasure; but by encouraging this selfish approach to learning, the state sows a bitter fruit against that day when the community depends on its younger members to perform charitable acts and to consider arguments above selfish interests.
A Game of Risk