Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer – Susan’s Newsletter August 2011

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Susan’s Newsletter August 28, 2011
   The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
   “A Book” poem by Edgar Guest (I LOVE this one!)

Good morning!!!  What a perfect morning!  60 degrees, windows open, cats and babies asleep (dare I jinx that?!?!)  Did I mention annoying flies?  Might as well bring in that reality, too!  I found a new favorite poem this week – a book on a mantlepiece talking to his/her owner in the room, offering her “jewels of wisdom and treasures” – wisdom, truth, faith, travel.  Is there a book that looks down on you in your home, speaking the words of this poem?  Following the poem I will write out of a book that gives me motivation to continue to try to read and have quiet times to think in my day.  The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.  This book comes down off the shelf, motivates me, then goes back on the shelf.  I seem to go back into times where I have no goals for self-contemplation and reading, then, when I find how disillusioning that lifestyle is, I pull this book down again…one book on my shelf that offers me guidance for reading, for how to read, what to read, reasons for reading and thought.  Seeing self-education as a lifetime goal, one that seems to easily slide, but if a lifetime goal, can be brought down again and again to give me encouragement to start over again.  I hear so often in the store, “Susan, you love to read, you have time to read…”  Then the following statements of, “I don’t have time to read,” or, “I don’t like to read.”  I answer those only by giving encouragement to not state that to yourself.  Instead change your thinking to, “My life is so short, a gift from God…how can I use the gift of life to please my Creator?  How can I develop my mind, learning from those generations before me, then giving me the ability to train my own mind and those I am with…continually longing for growth, filling my “chasms of time” wisely?”  One chance.  Life.  One epitaph to write.  One epitaph to write tonight on our moments today.  How will we fill the “chasms of time”?
 
A Book by Edgar Guest (1881-1959)
 
“Now” – said a good book unto me –
“Open my pages and you shall see
Jewels of wisdom and treasures fine,
Gold and silver in every line,
And you may claim them if you but will
Open my pages and take your fill.
 
“Open my pages and run them o’er,
Take what you choose of my golden store.
Be you greedy, I shall not care –
All that you seize I shall gladly spare;
There is never a lock on my treasure doors,
Come – here are my jewels, make them yours!
 
“I am just a book on your mantel shelf,
But I can be part of your living self;
If only you’ll travel my pages through,
Then I will travel the world with you.
As two wines blended make better wine,
Blend your mind with these truths of mine.
 
“I’ll make you fitter to talk with men,
I’ll touch with silver the lines with pen,
I’ll lead you nearer the truth you seek,
I’ll strengthen you when your faith grows weak –
This place on your shelf is a prison cell,
Let me come into your mind to dwell!”
 
Another writing that has challenged me comes from Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Educated Mind.  This book is how to self-educate ourselves in our adult years when we are busy with “life” and challenges of daily routines.  Here is an excerpt titled, “When to read?”
 
We all struggle multiple jobs, housework, bill paying, paperwork, children and family, and dozens of smaller distractions: meals, groceries, e-mail, the ever-present lure of late-night television.  The struggle to keep to a self-imposed schedule of reading is often lost in those moments after dinner when the children are in bed, the dishes done, and we think, “I’ve been working all day.  I just need to vegetate for a few minutes before I try to use my brain.”  And three hours later we’ve watched an hour of TV, signed on to check what e-mails might have come in, glanced at a favorite Web site, put a load in the laundry, and wiped off the kitchen sink. 
 
…I suggest that the biggest difference between modern media and the long-enduring book is the way in which TV and the Internet manage to infiltrate themselves into spare moments and promptly swallow up those “chasms of time.” …High language about the life of the mind has to yield, at some point, to practical plans for self-cultivation.  The mastery of grammar, writing, logic, analysis, and argumentation depends on the single uncomplicated act of carving out a space within which they can exist.  The first task of self-education is not the reading of Plato, but the finding of twenty minutes in which you can devote yourself to thought, rather than to activity.
 
She then goes into steps for scheduling regular reading time (she wrote this book with young children in her home!)  Here is just a taste of where she leads…
    1.  Morning is better than evening.
    2.  Start short.  30 minutes first thing in the morning, or shorter, to learn the act of concentrating without making your own distractions.
    3.  Don’t schedule yourself for study every day of the week.
    4.  Never check your e-mail right before you start reading.  There is something in the format of e-mail that pulls the mind away from the contemplative, relaxed frame so important for good reading.
    5.  Guard your reading time.  We do those things which are rewarding to us, and immediate gratification always seems more rewarding than slow progress toward a long-term goal.  Resist other satisfactions or duties that encroach on your reading time.
    6.  Take the first step now.  Schedule four weekly reading periods of 30 min. each…
 
Phew!  We figured out in our home last week that if we use two hours more productively per day – after 10 years we will have an extra 7300 hours of time we didn’t waste given to us.  That is almost one full year. 
 
Have a great week – no matter your personal circumstances, never forget that we are promised a peace that passes anyone else’s understanding, and just one drop to our knees or a glance to the heavens will give us this peace.  Look into the eyes of those you see, notice the smallest gifts given from God today.  If life seems too difficult – sometimes to me the main relief is to help someone else, or to give myself the gift of no goals.  Hope.  A word we’ll no longer need in heaven that we can continually grasp now regardless of what we have in our life.  Thanks for letting me enter your Thursday again.  And, thank you more than you’ll ever know for your business and your ideas for the store.  There is no way we’d have this little shop without you continually coming in when you need your gifts.  Our used bookstore continues to grow – anytime you want to go through books, we’ll take them for you!  Let’s go take on this day – our gift.  Susan



 
Latin for this week:
conscientia – conscience, knowledge
verum, veritas – truth
scientia – knowledge


Works Cited:
Bauer, Susan Wise.  The Well-Educated Mind.  New York.  W.W. Norton & Company.  2003.