Let’s Start a Reading Guild!

August 29, 2017 at 11:02 pm

I’ve not posted in a while.  In part because I’ve had to step back from political discussion in general.  I find it incredibly irritating to constantly read about what horrible (even if it wasn’t) thing Trump did today.  In the view of the left, this includes everything from how he runs the nation to how he ties his shoes.  The level of nitpicking and negativity is astounding.  As much as I dislike Trump, there is no such thing as a balanced report on anything he does and that bothers me.  At any rate, I’ve spent the recent months working on personal improvement.  If we throw away all of the collectivist hogwash, it leaves individuals.  The world will not improve unless we, as individuals do.

Part of that personal improvement I’ve been working on is barbell strength training (Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program).  The program is based primarily on linear progression which is a strength training technique that involves adding progressively more weight at each workout. It is the best and most efficient way to increase strength.  You start off with light weights, and you continue to add more and more as the body adapts to the load and gets stronger.

As I entered into the Starting Strength world, I came into contact with a few SS coaches online.  I was pleasantly surprised that these individuals are not the ‘roid-raging gym bros that merely “pick things up and put them down”.  No, these individuals smash that stereotype into its molecular parts.  One of them is a gentleman by the name of Scott Hambrick (@scott_silverstrength on Instagram).  Scott started making posts on Instagram using the hashtag #intellectuallinearprogression in discussing some of the books he’s currently reading in his book group – books by Homer, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle among others.  Scott’s hashtag is the logical conclusion that the same technique that works for physical strength training can be applied to the training of the mind.

One of his posts really hit home with me:

I think we get so focused on the here-and-now that we forget all about what has come before.  The human race has been around for millennia and produced some of its greatest thinkers over two thousand years ago.  The ancients had incredible insights into the human condition.  Scott argues that we should be learning from them.  As Goethe alludes in his quote above, there is a huge body of human knowledge that had been built up over thousands of years.  How can we have a productive conversation about humanity, culture or politics if we remain ignorant of the insights on those topics that proceed us?  How do we avoid repeating history if we leave it’s best thinkers collecting dust on a shelf?

Following Scott’s lead, I want to start a group to read these books.  A group of dedicated individuals who will read and then meet (physically or virtually) to discuss what’s been read.  I’m not going to call it a “book club”.  A “book club” evokes images of Oprah and the latest from some “bookmill” author pumping out 50 titles a year.  No, that won’t do.  This is serious.  For that reason I think a more fitting title is a “Reading Guild”.  A guild is defined asan organization of persons with related interests, goals, etc., especially one formed for mutual aid or protection.”.  Our mutual interest and goal is the quest for knowledge and understanding, facilitated by discussions that will aid in our assimilation of the various texts studied.

The prerequisite reading: How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler.

Why? Because reading is about more than just understanding the letters on the page.  It’s about understanding the author’s meaning – truly understanding and absorbing what has been written.  This book is the how-to guide.

Then we start at the beginning and proceed from there:

The Iliad by Homer

The Odyssey by Homer

Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles

Antigone by Sophocles

Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus

Orestes by Aeschylus

Clouds by Aristophanes

The Assemblywoman by Aristophanes

…and many more.

How often will it meet?  Monthly?  Bi-weekly?  Whatever the guild decides.  How much will we read between meetings?  Up to the members of the guild.  Forming the guild is the first step.  Then we can figure out the particulars together.

It will not be easy.  But it will be worth it.  Who’s in?  Contact me.

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