A half finished thought

I have this weird wish to inflict books that I have liked on other people. This is a not very logical wish. Why should people like what I like? And more to the point, what difference does it make if other people have read what I have read?

I think that one of the wellsprings of this desire springs from a desire to communicate. Nothing makes communication easier then a shared body of literature that both parties have read. One only has to make a sly allusion or a half mangled quote and instantly a complex idea has been communicated with little effort. This is a great boon to those of us who are not very good at verbal communication.

Sadly, we seem to be losing our understanding of how valuable a shared body of literature can be. Part of this is because nobody reads anymore. But even those who do read and those who are supposedly teaching people how to read no longer even think of literature as something that helps one understand and communicate with others. Instead, reading has come to be a totally narcissistic act. We read and we are taught to read totally to benefit ourselves.

It was not always thus. To be classically educated meant to be familiar with the classical literature. To be familiar with classical literature was to facilitate communication with others who were classically educated. This in turn enabled the classically educated man to develop a broad range of knowledge and develop strong critical thinking skills that put most people educated in the “scientific way” (for lack of a better term) to shame.

This is because to be able to effectively communicate is a key skill to being able to learn. That is to say, if you can’t understand other people, you are not going to learn much. If you can’t communicate your ideas to other people, they are not going to be improved much.

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