This week’s journey of discovery finds me reading “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. It’s one of those books you wish you had known about much earlier in life, but, take heart, you can still pass it on to your kids or grandkids. It will never go out of style because -one of the most remarkable things -is that our brains will continue to grow right up to the time of our death!
An 85-year-old grandfather was rushed to the hospital with no memory and brain damage.
The doctor asked him a series of questions:
“Do you know where you are?”
“I’m at Rex Hospital.”
“What city are you in?”
“Do you know who I am?”
the old grandfather then turned to the nurse and said, “I hope he doesn’t ask me any more questions.” “Why?” she asked. “Because I READ all of those answers on his badge.”
Unlike other animals, we Homo- Sapiens have a mind that, if exercised and stretched by reading and inserting new knowledge and challenges, it continues to grow - changing our minds about things, and investigating and discovering. While our bodies will peak out around the age of thirty, and then begin their decline, our minds don’t necessarily have to, if we challenge them with reading material that is above our heads. Unlike popular videos of today that stimulate our brains and make us think, the actual neuroprocessors involved in thinking are unique to reading.
TMI Or too much information is not what I am talking about. People today seem to know how to Google information, but what is absent is wisdom, the ability to connect the dots brought on by critical thinking that comes from reading books that are complex, as found in”The Great Books,” which are listed in “How to Read a Book.” Many of the books listed will be over your head, but that is the way you stretch your mind, and, just like muscles, unless you work them and stretch them, they will stop working. It is surmised that many retirees die soon after retirement because their brains are no longer challenged.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, and only allowed to take 10 books with you, which would they be? A classic question- but worth a very deep look. Here is a suggestion. Each of those 10 books should make you wiser, more deeply aware of the great and enduring truths of human life. While planning your journey to this imaginary deserted island, make sure it’s not a book that you could outgrow, because once you read one of those books, you will find it dissappointing upon returning to it, because you have outgrown it. The book has not changed, you have.
But, if the book belongs to the highest class (the very small number of books filled with inexhaustible ideas) you discover upon returning to that book, it seems to have grown with you. You see whole new things that you did not see before. How can a book grow as you grow? It’s impossible of course once a book is written and published, it does not change, but now even though you have become wiser and more knowledgeable, it can lift you again and again and will go on doing so until you die.
An excerpt from “A Walk in the Woods” with Robert Redford as Bill Bryson and Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz:
Stephen: “you’re really smart, how did you get so smart?”
Bill: “well you see, there are these things for smart people, called books.”
One of the most remarkable things about the great books is that they help us find the resources within ourselves to live a good human life.
For a list of Great books go to SuzanneCruz.com and click on- Resources for your Journey.