Quarterly report: Motto of the Work

Last quarter I wondered if I was learning anything, and decided that I wasn't, much. This quarter I realize that much of what I have gleaned can be summed up this way: "The fundamental things apply/As time goes by."

(Digression: the bridge of that song has a lyric touch I've always appreciated: "Moonlight and love songs, never out of date/Hearts full of passion, jealousy and hate/Woman needs man, and man must have his mate..." Murderous darkness gets slipped in there, in the moonlight!)

Note that this is not exactly the same thing as "There is nothing new under the sun," because, of course, our material circumstances are radically different from even that anonymous grad student or, more likely, Collier's employee who had the thankless task of compiling this reading guide. And having new physical and mental furniture around changes the thinking we do in them, no question. But Socrates can still go out like a champ, and Adam Smith can super-dryly note what we do for cash, and Harvey can, like a tinkerer, still put his saliva-y finger on a pigeon's dying heart, and it's still interesting and relevant and reassuring, for they did all these things without air conditioning, which is getting really expensive.

Whether, as a practical matter, this means we should be making Our Youth Read More Great Books is a different question, because I'm convinced I'm reading them wrong; I suspect myself of using them to confirm what I already believe. Besides, when I've read works in this project that I remember reading in school, I despair of the usefulness of making our youth read anything at all.

It's still fun, though. My feeling of accomplishment at getting halfway home still outweighs, a little, my feeling of dread at only being halfway home.

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