Gaia is the word for "unity-of-life-processes". The experiment here is to unify the various threads of voice and sense of self together into an undivided unity. Spirituality, economics, politics, science and ordinary life interleaved.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I love the Gateway to the Great Books of the Western World

Imagine having the perfect uncle.

Not only does he introduce you to the world at large, but he is a relentless adventurer. He travels far and wide in search of brilliant trophies.

Your perfect uncle (or aunt) knows all the best stories. He knows all the best places to go.

But more than that, imagine he is of the highest discretion and so only speaks to lead you out into further adventures of your own. Imagine his tact and forebearance allow you to explore exactly what you need to at your own pace and depth.

This is what the Gateway to the Great Books are.

"The works in that set [the Great Books] have a certain magnitude, but they also occupy a unique place in the formation and development of Western Culture. Each of them represents a primary, original, and fundamental contribution to man's understanding of the universe and of himself. It has been said of them that they are books which never have to be written again, that they are inexhaustibly rereadable, that they are always contemporary, and that they are at once the most intelligible books (because so lucidly written) and the most rewarding to understand (because they deal with the most profound and important subjects). It has also been said of them that they are the repository and reservoir of the relatively small number of great ideas which man has forged in his efforts to understand the world and his place in it; and that they are over everyone's head all of the time, which gives them the inexhaustible power to elevate all of us who will make the effort to lift our minds by reaching up to the ideas they contain."

The above sustained and sublime piece of prose is from the Introduction to the Gateway to the Great Books. From the prose style I believe it may be written by Hutchins, but it doesn't say.

I read and reread this paragraph with wonder. The Great Books are larger than my comprehension. And it is the Gateway to the Great Books that have enlarged my sensibility bit by bit so that I can appreciate the truth of these words.

For the last 18 months I have been taking a liberal arts degree through the Gateway to the Great Books. I am just over half way and feel my sense of myself, the world, other humans, nature, and God has been profoundly deepened by this study. It has been liberating. Becoming an autodidact has been empowering. And sharing what I have learnt has been enriching.

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