Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review Of Intellectual Devotional

This book was great fun, and I went through it in a very particular way that I would highly suggest for anyone looking for a good time. I read it through with a friend of mine, and we made a pact to each try and comment via email on each day’s reading. That means we had 730+ emails exchanged by the time we were finished. Some topics of discussion grew into debates which lasted for a week or two (my friend and I are somewhat opinionated…but VERY brilliant). Throughout the year of this, we learned a lot about the world, about each other, about ourselves, about our threshold of tolerance for people who disagree with us, and about the depth of our compulsive “get-the-last-word” syndrome. Okay…maybe it was just me. Maybe not. But probably. I resent that.

It was a very probing experience which led to new and surprising avenues of growth. At one point, as a result of my interaction with my friend, I was compelled to read a book with articles about the nature of language and communication (see my review of “Exploring Language” at; and at another point, as a result of the sheer delight I found in learning so many new things, I decided to further repair and refill my brain-leak of world history by taking on the slightly outdated, but thoroughly illuminating “Outline Of History” by H.G. Wells. Sometimes I ache to think about how my time in school could have been better and more happily spent, from elementary to graduate, in the ecstasy of enlightenment; but unfortunately academia is so career driven that most kids are too focused on grades and performance, and not enough on the enjoyment and thrill of discovery. Plus, I was too lazy and hormonally distracted. There’s that too. But it’s never too late!

The book broke the information into different subjects for each day of the week: Monday is history, Tuesday is literature, Wednesday is visual arts, Thursday is science, Friday is music, Saturday is philosophy, and Sunday is religion. Each day’s entry is written by authors who specialize in that field, and everything was checked and edited by “scholars with advanced degrees.”  Which tacitly amounts to the professor closing his book with an, “…and if there are no questions…!” As for the areas I felt most familiar with, I think it was generally a fair treatment of most topics, with some exceptions of over-generalization, personal bias, and seemingly arbitrary or needless selections here and there which possibly nudged out more pertinent content (in my humble, un-advanced-degree opinion). But as a whole I felt it was very informative and did very well to fill in gaps in my education. And it was excellent as a starting point for conversation in each area. To be sure, there will be readings that will seem completely irrelevant or laborious to cover if it is not in your area of interest—like the bore that reading about classical music became for my friend and I, even though we are relatively interested in some classical music—but we have to remember that the authors and editors are trying to get us caught up to date, even if some ideas or subjects do not seem to be as significant to people now as they used to be. Some of the art and philosophical ideas may be deemed by the reader to be absolutely detestable and useless in his repertoire for getting at the meaning of life, the universe, and everything; but as a tool to better understand one’s culture and one’s world, and to have a better foundation for conversation with people who are different from you, it is all invaluable.  

If you are one of those people who has newly experienced an awakening to learning and reading, and are thirsty for more information about the wonder and beauty in the world, then pick this up immediately and take it piecemeal. And take a friend with you on the journey—you’re going to want to talk about it.

“Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture”, here I come! After a little break of course.

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