This is one of those books that I just don't connect with. There are several books that I have seen on classic lists that I just wonder and wonder about. This is one of them for me (along with Robinson Crusoe). I have read both of them a couple of times and still don't connect. But I have learned a couple of more things from the rereading of this book. I do have to say that I need Mentoring the Classics (TJEd.org) to help me through seeing this better. I don't know that I understand the author's point. However, I looked up several of the poems to find what they were referring to and took more notes. Maybe there is more to this then I think. Maybe because I am not from the culture it was written in I am missing out on the clues that I need to figure it out.
I still have not watched the movie, so maybe I will have more to say afterward. Molly was introduced to several family cultures:
1. Her father's home
2. The Cumnor Family / The Towers
3. Hamley Hall
4. Her home after the marriage to Claire Kirkpatrick
5. The Miss Brownings
She manages to make friends with them and and live peaceably with them all yet is the most influenced by Mrs. Hamley and Roger. These 2 invited her into their lives and helped her through her challenges. Here she was invited to grow and develop her mind and heart.
This is a very different experience from her step-sister Cynthia who is sent away to school at a young age and is not invited into any family culture until Mr. Gibson marries her mother. Imagine how things would have been different for Cynthia if she had been invited into a home and encouraged to develop her mind and heart the way that Molly had.
No wonder Cynthia had so many struggles and yet look at all the good things about Cynthia's character! We know nothing about her time away but I wonder if there was a mentor or two in her past. Hopefully, the school she was sent to was not like the school that Jane Eyre was sent to but I think there must have been a mentor or two there to help Cynthia. Yet how sad that Cynthia did not have a family culture that would help her as she struggled through growing up.
Molly and Cynthia both have the opportunity to take these experiences they have had to build their own family cultures. I wonder what they will choose to include.
This book as been on my "someday" list for a long time and now I can say I have read the book.
Spent a lot of time with the internet regarding translations and decided to go for the Anthony Briggs translation for two reasons: 1. All in English 2. The names of the characters are consistent through the book.
There are a lot of resources out there to help support your reading of this book. But to me the most important resources is one that helps me see why the book is important and should be kept and read. I am going to post one of them because I think it has helped be see more of why it is a great book.
The CodeX Cantina Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh5kUrqGWlI
Overall when I closed the book my first thoughts were that these characters seemed either spoiled or innocent with no real mentoring involved. They were left to themselves to figure out life. Hmmm kind of applies to today.
As I ponder War & Peace one of my thoughts is that I don't want to identify with Pierre. I don't want to feel as lost and confused as he seems to be. In all his attempts to find peace, he could not find it until the epilogue. Yet that is probably what did happen and does happen with many of us. We have many experiences that knock us around and reject us when all we want to do is be accepted and do something with our lives. How different Pierre would be if there was a mentor who could help save him from himself. A mentor who could have helped him process his wants and weaknesses directing him toward peace and solving the war within him. As much as I don't want to identify with Pierre, I have walked that same path for quite a bit of my life.
I do believe classics can be that mentor in some ways but know that classics alone is the long hard way. I have had to re-read and re-read some books to figure out what they were saying to me. Some I have been re-reading since my teen years and it took discussion with others that have read that book to get what I needed out of it. Reading is a great start but reading alone may not help many of us. After all, Pierre had a Western education yet it did not help him find the peace he was looking for. I know people who have read a lot of books but they did not know how to let the books change them and didn't have people around them that helped them through the process. When I first started trying to get a leadership education my finances were very tight and I was not in or near a TJEd community. I had to really dig to begin to understand what a classic could offer me. Many times I didn't gain as much as I hoped (or expected). Things started changing when I worked to form a community where I could discuss ideas and make commitments to others. I don't have an in-person community but luckily technology helped and allows me to connect with others that are willing to commit time and energy to understanding classics.
My finances are still limited but I know that it's critical for me to be in a community (or 2) to keep myself growing and understanding. I know that all things come at the right time in the right way but how I wish there were more options available to help my growth when I was attempting to do a leadership education in my home. Hopefully, at least I provided a better starting place for my family because of what I did attempt. My children will be hopefully picking up at around the same level as Pierre and Natasha's children are instead of where Pierre and Natasha started or their parents.
However, in our world, there seems to be is a lack of people who have a 'basic understanding of natural law and the mores of principled behavior'. We have a lot of people who are just looking to attend the next soiree just like in the story. Or looking for the next war so that they can feel alive and able to achieve honor and glory.
More than ever we need to be able to understand what education is truly about and understand how to find our place in the world in a what that makes the world a better place.
Montaigne has a lot to say especially about customs. He starts this essay by stating that "custom is a violent and treacherous schoolmistress". He continues on using words like tyrannic and furious. Then states "We see her, at every turn, forcing and violating the rules of nature: 'Custom is the best master of all things' (Pliny). In the next paragraph he states that "custom stupefies our senses".
That is a very strong opinion. Do you agree? disagree? Why?
I have to believe that customs have good and bad teachings within them. We can unfortunately make many decisions based on our customs instead of stepping back and asking is the idea right or wrong, is the idea true or false. We make judgements all day long just based on our custom or traditions.
For example, I recently went to Italy. A fabulous experience. And I experienced how I was making judgements based on my traditions, in particular my eating traditions. Italy enjoys seafood (raw and cooked) way more then I am accustomed to. I found that because I don't eat seafood often, when I went to restaurants I didn't choose seafood options. All based on my customs and expectations. Such a small thing yet I limited my choices each time because of my customs.
This experience made me wonder what judgments I have made that are wrong but based on customs or traditions in my life. I wondered about how I was not able to see options because of my customs or see things incorrectly for the same reason. Am I just obeying ideas without understanding or questioning ideas?
So many things to think about. I am so happy that I have continued to pursue a leadership-style education just because it challenges my traditions and customs and expands my thinking. In another essay Montaigne wrote "Human understanding is marvelously enlightened by daily conversations with men, for we are, otherwise, compressed and heaped up in ourselves, and have our sight limited to the length of our own noses."
I agree with this statement. Discussion has been a huge part of my learning. I really hope that my sight is not so limited that it does not extend past the end of my nose.
I have had this on my list to read for a while. I find it different then what I expected. As a good friend recommended it is a book that you need to read in short segments hunting for the gold nuggets. Here is one that caused me to ponder and think about.
Either pain affects the body (which is the body's problem) or it affects the soul. But the soul can choose not to be affected, preserving its own serenity, its own tranquility. All our decisions, urges, desires, aversions lie within. No evil can touch them.
I have been pondering what pain (emotional, mental, physical) have I allowed to touch my soul?
There are many books that are similar to this book (The Lion Tracker's Guide to Life by B. Varty). I can think of the Alchemist, The Dream Giver, Grandfather (Brown) and A Hero of A Thousand Faces. Louis L' Amour books and many Science Fiction books follow some of these themes. All are really sharing ideas about how to live life by finding your unique path and working through all the challenges that are along the path.
This story is unique in that it is told as the narrator looks to track a lion and shares the lessons he has learned from his mentors but you can see many of the ideas from each of the other books in his storytelling.
Overall big idea: Along our journey we have many experiences that can change our lives if we are willing to take the risks necessary to take the journey.
In 2015-2016 Scholar Moms read and discussed this book. That was my second read of the book. I learned so much from reading and discussing this book but I was not sure that I considered this a classic for me. The book did stay on my self because I was not yet certain about this book. I have looked at it several times chewing on my thoughts. Is this a book that I should keep as a classic for my family? This week I listened to a discussion on this book by The Pelican Society (https://www.pelicansociety.com/) that has helped me decide. One of the discussion points that was brought up was that Fitzgerald wrote a book showing what happens to society in a world without God and left with only tradition. Reading the story with that idea in mind changes everything for me. This book has now become a powerful idea that is relevant to me and my world today.
I started listening to this book because of a podcast. The presenter mentioned that to him our world has followed the path of Brave New World more than 1984. I had this book on my list for a while, but this comment really intrigued me and I had an audio of the book so was listening to it as was doing some things around the house. At first, I was not sure if I fully agree with the podcast presenter yet but can see his point. Until the end of the book you hear so much about a society that focuses on technology advancements and pleasure seeking. I had to step back before I saw how the underlying idea was not the technology focus but the education focus. To me both books teach about education and were we get out education. The media plays a huge role in what we know and so does the education or training we receive. My thought right now is that if our education is not toward scholarship and statesmanship than media can have a larger influence in our lives, so the podcast presenter point has a lot of merit.
As I finished listening this, I decided to do a little research into the names of some of the characters because thought I did not recognize all the names I did recognize some and thought the author might be intentional about his choices. I was browsing through SparkNotes and noticed something that really changed the book for me. The section on the allusion was very impactful. I had picked up on some of them but there were others that I missed but the part that was impactful was the listing out of the quotes and their allusion to Shakespeare's works. It was very interesting to see which plays were referenced and which plays were not. I had just finished studying two of the plays mentioned. One of the plays was my first deep dive into the storyline (Troilus and Cressida). Because I understood that play better the allusions become very impactful. Knowing and connecting the allusions brought so much more depth to the points. In my mind it shifted the main take-aways for me from the focus to pleasure and technology to the role of education. At the end of this book there is a conversation about education (chapter 16) that really rang true to me. I had to re-read the last couple of chapters. As I was thinking about the conversations in the book and Shakespeare's alliterations, I looked through a note I had for my next plan of study where I had posted this idea: Shakespeare focused on emotional success (or lack of it) while having faith in intuition and principles when compared to Aristotle whose faith was placed in evidence and experts while focusing on material success (I believe this idea came from Oliver DeMille but am not certain). The idea had intrigued me, and I wanted to study it out some more. After listening to this book, this idea does seem to line up with my take-aways from Brave New World. The story becomes so much richer because of my experience with Shakespeare. Had I not recognized that my education was missing so many things as I was raising my family I would never have read much Shakespeare. I wanted better for my family which lead me on a new journey with Thomas Jefferson Education (tjed.org and LEMI). Because of that journey a podcast presenter expressed an idea that I did not ignore and wanted to investigate which has me pondering yet again the importance of how of reading and discussing great books and ideas changes everything.
To me, this is a fun book to read. I loved learning more about the Lakota people and traditions. Along with that, I was challenged to compare my ideas of what a leader looks like. As I was reading the book, I could see the author’s idea of what a good leader looked like, then pause and reflect on what I would add or change. I saw the power of having a position in society and being trained for that position through close mentorship. Each person having a role in the community is the start of all leadership. I learned how important it was to have others reflect back on what they see in us as a guide to helping us develop our confidence.
Another principle the author shared was how important it was to pick the members of your team. If we want to achieve a great goal we have to make sure we have the skills we need and also that we need to search for those that will support and help us achieve that great goal. Support and willingness alone are not enough. It is a start but not enough. We need to learn to scout out or become acutely aware of those around us as we move forward on our paths. The challenges (or enemies) along the way help us to increase our strength and attention. If we look at the world through faulty ideas or incorrect ideas then it can lead to our failure.
In judging other leaders, there are many challenges when we do not have a close community. How can you tell if someone is a good leader? One of the things that we can look for is generosity. You cannot fake it when a generous leader lives among you and with you. In a large system, we fall back on the agendas and causes but a true leader will shine through as they are generous with all that they have. There is in the true leader no attempt to increase fear or take from others in any way.
This book might be overlooked as a great leadership book because it does not feel very ‘meaty’ however I think it has some things to say to you if you take the time to reflect on the stories that were told and what they mean to you.
Abigail Adams Academy is created by moms for those seeking their own education.