Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Great Conversation Challenge

It started after watching Julie and Julia on d.v.d. I watched with the boys..and thought. "hey..I want to do that. I want to set a goal for myself, and see if I can meet it." I thought of cooking..but knew that would never happen. How about..well..what do I want to do?" I have spent way too much time on facebook and blogging, lately. I do realize this.

I remember fondly how I used to binge read. I would set a goal to read all the books in certain sections of various libraries..and usually succeed over a summer. I started this nonsense when I was 9. In high school I made a bet with David Cortez that I could read every book in the library before him. We both got half-way through and then realized that the other half we had read before high school. (Except the scary books..I wouldn't read scary books because I was a wimp) I enjoyed the books. I enjoyed the challenge of a self-imposed deadline.

When I graduated from college the first thing I thought was Great. Now no-one can ever tell me what I have to read again...and I meant it. But it wasn't long before I felt the need to work through a list of some-sort.

When I started the pastoral ministry program (which I started for spiritual..not academic reasons) I was surprised when I realized I was really looking forward to reading for a class again. I thought I would be more challenged (academically speaking) in this ministry program..and I have been some semesters. .I have learned much about spirituality in general, church history, visitations, homiletics, etc. and I am grateful for the sense of community and friendships developed. But, I still find a part of me craving the thoughts/ideas running around my brain from others far more intelligent than myself. The thoughts of thinkers both secular and from various faith backgrounds that span the centuries.I miss the pleasure of those "aha" moments. Those moments when you get a glimmer of another understanding of human nature you would never think of on your own.

So I look at my shelves and see The Great Conversation and all the other 53 volumes of the Great Books collection. The entire collection, still sitting. I started this series a couple summers ago. I asked my parents for their set. When my father retired from Trinity, my parents gave me the set that was in his study at home. They needed the shelf-space in order to make room for other books. They gave me the set with the understanding I would share the books with my mom whenever she wanted. I was so excited. I read book 1. I read 1/2 through the designated Year 1 readings in a summer..and then I just stopped.

I become excited at the prospect of reading the entire set..but UGH in 10 years? If I don't do it in less than 2 years..I will probably never do it. My attention span is just not that long. I mention my latest desire and predicament over dinner. Michael says he just started reading them straight through..he ignored the reading list. Now there's a thought!

The boys become curious (very temporarily) as to what we are talking about. We discuss the leaders of Western Thought. We discuss the critiques of limiting this "discussion" to Western Thought by primarily white men.. but remind them that it is still important to know these thinkers...simply not limit oneself to them. There is a lot to be learned from Shakespeare, Dante, Locke, Plato, Socrates, etc...

The boys eyes begin to glaze and they quickly become much more interested in how Big B kept sausage casings warm in a friends garage. (It involved a self-rigged candle-warmer thingy). Michael says he has read books 1-5, so if I will "catch up" with him..we can read and discuss together. Then with a big grin he says, "yes..we can discuss the books over dinner." The boys look panicked for a second and quickly change the subject. They claim they are non-readers and by the way how do you make a chicken coop? Brian and Michael point out the different styles of reading everyone in the house prefer...and then we let it rest. The boys are familiar with more of these thinkers than many of their peers. We don't want to turn my challenge to myself into something they learn to fear. Besides, they have been really cooperative in our new dinner-cooking arrangement.

After dinner I look at the shelves. I have read some of these of most. I decided to take Michael up on his offer. I hope to have the first 5 books read by March(2 of them are pretty much lists of other works)..and all 52 by Sept. 2011.

Anyone want to join me?


Sardine Mama said...

I'll join you. I have an incomplete set. Tell me specifically what to read. Also? I want to climb Everest.

Sardine Mama said...

OK - our set starts with Homer (book 4) so we're ordering the first one now. When shall we discuss? Ellie wants in.

grillledcheesechic said...

OOh..we could read and discuss and end with a trip up Everest? Wouldn't THAT be cool! Okay. I'm just rereading Book 1 The Great Conversation right now. and Skimming the The Great Ideas 1 and 2. The boys and I spent a lot of time on book 4 Homer (last year). Austen is also curious..wonder if I can get Cody to play with us? When does your first book come in? We could discuss over pizza on a Friday night?..maybe once a month? Alternate..your place, our place.