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Odd thoughts on books and knowledge

judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin

It hit me the other night that that the novel is such a modern invention. There were very few examples of novels before 1800... and most were written after 1900. For 100 years or so, the novel (followed by film) was the driving force in western culture. Authors became celebrities. The pursuit of writing "The Great American Novel" was among the highest of achievements. It was not for all of human history... then it was.. and now seems to be fading away again. When we look at the leaders of thought and culture pre 1850 or so, we find men who actually could and did know everything that was knowable at the time. They were great generalists with huge libraries full of science, math, religion, philosophy, history, etc... but very little fiction. As literacy and leisure time expanded, fiction found a larger audience. This was also the time of an explosion in knowledge of science and technology. Now no one can know all that is known. But, we have everything knowable available via the internet. Yet, knowledge is becoming more specialized. The person who is an expert on one subject only, the specialist, as encouraged in university education is "the expert" the modern intellectual hero. Yet, the specialist is seldom a great man or woman... seldom the great cultural influencer that our generalist, more broadly educated ancestors were. Meanwhile, functional literacy is declining. Fewer people, even high school and college graduates, can actually comprehend and retain what they read. I do not know the end result, but I am very concerned that we may be entering an era of primitivism.... a regression, albeit with all the modern trappings of technology and "stuff".... a lot of chatter with little meaning or understanding... increased aggression and disassociation from those things that encourage a higher nature and human development.

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Comments

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,508 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Don't forget that there were verbal stories before the written ones; unlike modern novels, most were supposed to teach you something.

    People used to spend their idle time learning things, like those of us at TGN. I am an oddball in my family because I still am seeking knowledge.

    Functional literacy is indeed getting scarcer. The result can be angry people trying to destroy what they don't understand.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin
    edited August 2020

    I agree. I should clarify that I did not mean to imply that aggression is negative in and of itself - it has its proper place. Timidity is no virtue when one is under physical assault or has the duty to defend others. You said it better "destroy what they don't understand." It is a two edged sword, that those who do not know the meaning of why they should defend, will also fail to defend.... mistaking cowardice for virtue or reason.

  • I think that if or when the internet goes down, those of us with actual books will become ever more important. Even if I don't have a particular skill myself, I have books to teach me how to do things.

    I've always loved to learn, just for the fun of it. Makes us oddballs in today's culture, I guess. But someone has to keep the old skills alive.

  • I have to say that I love fiction, too. Storytelling is so central to passing on knowledge. And I think any reading is better than no reading at all. I try to read at least a book a week, and enjoy almost all types of books, except for romance and science fiction. Which are pretty much the same thing, in my experience.

    I think I've learned a lot about how people who are not like me think by joining book clubs and reading books that I would not have chosen for myself. I've realized that I really do think differently than what the current culture says I should. That's valuable information to have. It helped me realize that there are people who think so far from how I think that there's really no use trying to explain myself, let alone bring them around to my way of thinking. That keeps me from engaging on social media, and therefore I can maintain my own balance and sanity.

  • Yes, so few ladies and gentlemen around these days. I blame the invention of "Reality TV". When you sit and watch this garbage night after night, I think you lose all sense of what normal is.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,508 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I do love a great escapist novel, especially in these times. Even then, I prefer stories that pull me into a different profession or way of life.

    I used to watch a lot of television during my working years, yet find myself impatient with most of it now. My best guess is I was so exhausted from working that I wanted to turn my brain off.

    I also am impatient with a lot of novels and never finish them. Too many books, too little time.

    @Mary Linda Bittle Romance and science fiction are the same thing? Is this a personal observation about life in general? (I can read a few romances and I like at least half of science fiction. I can give you a few science fiction references if you're interested --beyond Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.)

  • @shllnzl I'm just jaded about the whole romance thing. LOL. All those happily ever after stories seem to me to be the worst kind of science fiction.

    I did enjoy The Martian, both the book and the movie. And I liked The Girl With All The Gifts. Have always liked The Lord of the Rings, too.

    Do drop some of your favorites. Others will benefit, too!

  • toreytorey Posts: 2,771 admin

    I love books. My mother became a librarian when I was about 8 but even before that, we always had books. We read to my daughters every night so they were reading long before they attended school. By the time they reached grade 8, they were both reading at a university level. But I'm sure that it was due to our input (and their interest) that made the difference. I see many of their friends and acquaintances who struggle with reading and other basic skills. It is quite frightening to see the lack of knowledge, wisdom (even young wisdom) or common sense in many of today's university graduates.

    I do read fiction but its got to have some "meat" to it. I like historical fiction cause there is usually something to learn about history within the story. And stories set in other countries so I can pick up local lore. But I have difficulty finding the time to read a novel, right now. I do so much reading of technical manuals and medical books. And of course, my well worn and well loved cookbooks.

    I have always thought of myself as a little odd, as a lifetime learner. It was refreshing to find so many like-minded people here on TGN.

    @LaurieLovesLearning There is sooooo much fluff out there in everything! Most of it just to make profit for someone. My most recent profit: I found groves of wild hazelnut trees, loaded with hazelnuts. Way better than fluff profit! Can hardly wait for the harvest in a few weeks!

    @judsoncarroll4 An era of primitivism. I may start using that statement. Most people are so lost without their "smart" phone and I can see regression to a primitive state if that connection were to fail.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,508 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Mary Linda Bittle Science Fiction/Fantasy books worth reading:

    All books by Isaac Asimov.

    Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard (no Scientology)

    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (lots of books in this series)

    Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (series)

    Dragons of Pern series by Anne McCafferey

    Startide Rising by David Brin (start of the Uplift series)

    Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (all of his novels cover science issues/morality)

    Old Man's War by John Scalzi

    Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

    There are many, many more titles and authors but I consider these to be some of the best.

    Obviously, I have read many novels in my day; escapist reading is meditation to me. I also have a whole collection of mysteries that feature animals. (Okay, maybe only half of my book collection are non-fiction.)

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin

    It is nice that this topic has turned into a list of book recommendations. It is good to read! My musings on the 40 year cycles of history provide personal insight, but are not of much practical use. I'll know soon whether or not my suppositions are correct. I am planning accordingly either way and hoping for the best. That is easier done with a good book than the tv news.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,508 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 I always disliked those dystopian novels of the future where life was dreary and unpleasant. It does not please me to see the news and projected futures that mimic the conditions of those depressing novels.

    It does seem that the human race tries to destroy progress and itself on a 40-50 year cycle.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin

    I posted a huge article on that a few months ago. But, there is little doubt in my mind that history repeats in approximately 40 year cycles - you can predict wars, economic trends, political movements, social changes.... etc.

  • Megan VenturellaMegan Venturella Posts: 402 ✭✭✭✭

    Our culture has been so dumbed down in so many ways that it must be intentional. We are bombarded with information without having the framework or tools to sift through it and determine for ourselves what is worth our time and attention. A high school education is pretty meaningless- sometimes a college education as well- because we go through courses to get grades and bypass the real learning. I homeschool and I have to rethink constantly what I really want my children to know. If we graduated high school with a basic understanding of government, biology, chemistry, health, highlights of great literature, etc, I think we as people would be unstoppable. I took all the classes required and plenty of extras, but it wasn’t until I was an adult with real interests of my own that I started to learn anything. We substitute grocery store food for the real stuff grown at home. We look at Instagram instead of reading a book and learning about anything in depth. Strange times if you ask me.

    I couldn’t even say if I stuck at all with the topic here, sorry! LOL

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,508 ✭✭✭✭✭

    There is a down side to all this knowledge: we are able to recognize the patterns of bad things happening. The big question is how to work to improve our outcome?

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 802 ✭✭✭✭

    And therein lies the rub @shllnzl I think we just have to keep trying for what is right and true and never let our voices be silenced. We may not be in a position to effect major changes but if we can have a positive effect in our little corner it radiates out and with time it may become a major change. We cannot always judge the future by looking at the past.

  • JannajoJannajo Ms. Pointe-Claire, QuebecPosts: 173 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2020

    My kindle books num ber in the hundreds- I hope they do not start 'eliminating' them any time soon-these r strange days! As for libraries, they r closed-mostly!...but, my local one did phone me aaking for 2 Blaise Pascal books I have, they were preparing a bill!

    However, we have a service for seniors and I told them, 'I am witing for the person to pick them up (though I only live 2 blocks away).

    NOTE FROM ADMIN: Offensive content that was not relevant to this conversation has been removed.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,771 admin

    @seeker.nancy - Central Texas "We cannot always judge the future by looking at the past." But, most often you can. We have often talked about how history classes in public schools are all about dates & names of events, but often the why...the detail of what led up to it, is not taught or it is skimmed over. Both my husband & I did not learn the lessons that could be gleaned from history in our schools, really just the dates.

    People don't change much throughout history and if they are not willing to learn nor listen, as a group, this greater group (even nations) tends to repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin
    edited August 2020

    NOTE FROM ADMIN: Content removed due to referencing a now banned member's (Jannajo's) inappropriate comments, which have been removed. The content is no longer relevant to this conversation.

    Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

  • CorneliusCornelius Posts: 307 ✭✭✭

    It sounds like your main problem is the Google effect (meaning we forget information that is easily found online via a search engine). I think people have just become too reliant on getting the answer instantly that they don't care to think about it deeper or even remember it for that matter.

    https://effectiviology.com/the-google-effect-and-digital-amnesia/

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 579 ✭✭✭✭

    I was speaking with a young friend of mine recently, we were discussing school curriculum. She is well read but that is from parental encouragement not school. I was surprised when she said she had never been taught cursive writing. She bought a course with her own dime and taught herself. As we talked further another young person said that some schools are not teaching writing at all just typing and keyboard skills. I recognize that we all need to accomplish that for the world we live in, but what on earth will happen if the grid goes down and they have to communicate? The idea that actually writing is an unnecessary skill seems bizarre to me. Although tonight is not a good thinking night for me and my friend Spell Checker is getting a workout. LOL. I used to work for a publishing company and we periodically shared our booklists with each other and mine was considered to be wacky. I have everything on there from Skippy Jon Jones to Jane Austen. I like variety.

  • CorneliusCornelius Posts: 307 ✭✭✭

    @VickiP that is truly terrifying. I was in the elementary school class that they decided (I believe for my state) that cursive was no longer useful/ necessary. I think we spent 1 hour on it once. If it wasn't for my mom I would not be able to sign my name (since if its not in cursive it could be easily forged). I wish they had actually taught me since so many teachers and college professors wright in cursive. Plus writing notes by hand helps people to remember it better then typing it.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin

    I was not even taught math in public school! So yes, I believe you. There were math classes, but math was not taught. I am now re-learning algebra, beginning with the freshman curriculum as it should be taught... and much to my surprise... even being dyslexic, I' averaging around 95% on the tests!

  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 579 ✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 I was never really good at math. When I was homeschooling my kids the youngest was really having problems with algebra so we enrolled her in an adult education class to prepare her to pass a GED test. I still worked with her on it and bingo I finally GOT IT!! I don't know if school failed me or if it just required the right combination of age and education and need. As for my girl she got her GED and went on to work for a fortune 500 company her job involves many spread sheets and much math. Perseverance pays off.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,392 admin

    That is great! My freshman math teacher did not have a firm grasp on the English language. When I innocently kept asking her to repeat herself and letting her know that I could not understand her, she made an issue of my race and made me a target of ridicule and even physical abuse. So, I never learned the basics and that set me up for failure... eventually dropping out of high school, getting my GED and starting college on my own terms.

  • frogvalleyfrogvalley Posts: 517 ✭✭✭✭

    I'm tempted to jump into this discussion, but at the same time I need my floaties to keep my head above water.

    I don't like to read fiction. There, I said it. Actually, I hate it. The only time I enjoyed it and felt passionate about it was in the second grade when I was consumed by Robin Hood stories. Now that was great fiction! It inspired a 6 year old with a lifelong desire to buck the system. Not total oppositional defiance, but enough to understand that everything taught to kids is not what goes on in real life - like "be honest", but don't bother to put a nickel in the meter if there's nobody around because it'll take just a minute to run into a store. For those of us Aspies on the Autism Spectrum, getting through Milton's Paradise Lost was extremely difficult without an interpreter. What fun is that? No thank you. My first book purchase was Nickel and It's Alloys. Now that's good stuff!

    Being very bright, but totally stupid/ignorant is a total societal nightmare. Dyslexia certainly doesn't help. I have only read one fiction book (that I can remember) since graduating college nearly four decades ago. Grisham is good, but can't hold a candle to Samuel Hahnemann, Andre Saine, or Marios Hadjivassiliou. Now those are page turners.

    The world can get along without the Mona Lisa, The Nutcracker, Mozart and The Iliad. It can't get along without knowledge of how to plant a seed, how long to steep chamomile tea (too long and the effect is opposite of relaxing), how to harvest heat. Fiction and the arts have a place in our world, I'm not saying they don't, but each of us gets to like, read, discover, enjoy, investigate, eat, participate in the manner we see fit. We all make judgements about our experiences and pass that on. It's all relative. Do we really need to learn cursive? I don't know. Kind of nice, but I pay admission fees to look at historical document where cursive hadn't been created yet.

    It was always taught that Adam and Eve were "naked" as in they didn't wear clothes. In reality, the language of the original writing meant they had a clear mind. How many hours did I waste trying to make sure my son's clothes stayed on? Thinking beyond my own tribulations, how many woman were persecuted for showing a knee? How many other phrases/words were misunderstood?

    I make no apologies for not sitting in a hammock wiling away the day with the great classics (nor do I hold it against anyone who does). I'd be a better person for it, but I've only got so much brain power, a handful of minutes and too few pennies to spend. If I need to learn something, I do it and am grateful that there is the internet, book or person to teach me.

    Sorry about the missive - I didn't have time to write a short response.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,771 admin

    What's up with math teachers? I had my share of not very good ones, leading me to dislike math. I hear numbers and my mind blocks it. 🙄

    However, my 14 year old completed Trigonometry on her own & is considering doing calculus, maybe even statistics, which as both college/university level courses. I don't get it, but I am happy for her that she can understand it.

    Cursive disappeared here many years ago already. My kids will all learn it (some aren't there yet). I agree that it is important.

    Grammar is something that the govt homeschool official didn't see as important to teach. I am not sure why. I don't teach it specifically, but kids will learn structure through reading, just as they will learn reading through phonics (which, I understand disappeared long ago too), and proper spelling.

    My grandpa taught himself to read later in life. It is still possible to fill in the blanks when you are older and if you are motivated.

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