Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Old Books

I had saved this quote and found it floating in the stack of papers that sit by my computer awaiting the sorting process. Thankfully, I now have this blog so I have somewhere to put these miscellaneous thoughts and quotes!

"There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books....Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old....

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones....

We all need books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.

And that means the old books. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century....lies where we have never suspected it...None of us can fully escape this blindness...The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books."

C. S. Lewis

This puts me in mind of the "politically correct" version of history that our young people are being force fed today. When you read the words of George Washington, Columbus and even Abraham Lincoln you get a different picture than what is currently being set forth. For example, with the Civil War you may not realize that there is such a complexity of issues if you don't read the old books. There is an adage that "the victors write the history books" and the other side is not easily discovered if you don't dig back into the past. Whether you end up agreeing with one side or the other is not as important as realizing there was another side that has arguments worth considering.

Also, this thought hit home when writing this post on virtuous maidens. If you only read modern books you will not discover the "blindness" of our modern mindset. You could easily assume that the dating-and-rejection-of-fatherly-protection way of thinking is the way it always has been. You will not realize the inroads that have been made by feminism and the destruction that has come along with them if you don't read the old books.

Even very popular Christian leaders promote modern ideas, maybe unwittingly, by advising parents to just be patient, it is normal for teenagers to withdraw and find their own way in the world. They say to just give them unconditional love and they will come back. Just like the terrible two's doctrine. Parents are taught to expect tantrums and utter selfishness from their toddlers. Many find it astonishing that small children can be taught to sit still for hours and quietly entertain themselves...they think the idea of Children's Church is a new one. Those of us who have rejected these new ideas know how rare we must be when we go into public and are consistently stopped and praised for our children's behavior. The elderly often speak to us as if we take them back to another time when it was common for children to NOT be running through the restaurant. On the other hand, we are met with a shocked "how do you do it?" attitude from the younger set. Once my sister took her family out to eat and had their meal paid for by an older couple who were strangers that had observed their well-behaved family. More than infusing me with pride, it made me sad that we were so noticeable. I felt sure in older times we would have been considered nothing remarkable.

All of these thoughts and many, many more become evident when you read the old books.

1 comment:

Rob said...

I enjoy reading through your blog. By the way, if you are interested in talking about a link exchange with me at, please let me know.