By Brian Freitag
I recently dragged and situated a very large bookshelf into my home. I mean a REALLY LARGE BOOKSHELF with a looming presence for which I had to use an old Egyptian technique to win the moving battle. I sprinkled sand over my garage floor out the large entrance onto my cement walkway outside to the back entrance of my home. This way I could slide the shelf upon large cardboard pieces from my garage, through the doorway and over the walkway upon the thin layer of sand acting like a tiny carpet of ball bearings.
This is also a technique used in the Middle East and Mexico to create a simple spinning banding-wheel for creating clay pottery with a wheel above a layer of sand on another wheel. More information than you wanted to know, you are likely thinking. Will abundant Michigan sand ever make anything easier for me, you might cry out loud?
We can learn very useful things in looking at people, cultures, thought, mistakes, good choices, and techniques from the past. As my cats investigated and perched on my new bookshelf, peering down at me like gargoyles while my very large dogs looking up enviously from floor level, it came to me how reading Literary Classics can really make an individual change and grow.
Author Italo Calvino wrote, “The classics are books that exert a peculiar influence, both when they refuse to be eradicated from the mind and when they conceal themselves in the folds of memory, camouflaging themselves as the collective or individual unconscious.”
I believe the impact of reading Literary Classics exerts acknowledged and unacknowledged influence on our society. I think the great books also have something to say about our own age. Their wisdom does not die with their generation.
For a warning of the dangers of totalitarianism, read Orwell’s 1984. For insight into the dangers of legalism, read The Scarlet Letter. To better understand friendship, read Wind in the Willows. For the complexity of sacrifice, Ender’s Game. For the pervasiveness of sin, East of Eden. For the importance of steadfast virtue, Persuasion. For the indispensability of courage, The Iliad.
Classical literature also allows us to better understand ourselves. That is why copious reading often leads to greater amounts of empathy. It enables us to better understand the universal aspects of the human experience instead of being always stuck in our own heads. Classical Literature allows us to take a deep, deep dive into the lives, worldviews, and mindsets of people we’ve never met, visit the places we’ve never been, and understand the times we’ll never directly experience.
Our forays into literature allow us to better understand the “signs of the times” what is happening in our world today and hazard guesses as to why. Oddly, my classical experience with moving coincides with a display of Legends and Classics in Graphic Novel format at the library right now. These wonderfully illustrated classics bring a story to life in a uniquely visual manner which is appealing to youth and adults alike.
We welcome you to drop by the library with your children and check out these classics, which might appeal to you all in a very different manner for the visual emphasis and graphic design. Take care, read well and deeply. Choose wisely. And lastly, enjoy!