Saturday, March 22, 2014

Great Books and memory

  I am enrolled in another online course through Hillsdale College, Great Books.  Hillsdale is a small (student body of about 1400) independent, co-educational, residential liberal arts college in southern Michigan founded in 1844 and does not accept  any governmental funds.  It is an institution we have long supported and one that is included in our estate legacy.  It has been too long ago that I last read and studied these.  Quite intense and thought provoking,  started with Homer's  Iliad and The Odyssey.  Similar to the History and Constitutional courses I have taken at Hillsdale this one on literature beginning with the classic ancients is occupying much of my previously free time to read, listen to the lectures, ponder, review the discussions, etc with a new session each week.  I am enjoying this depth immensely. 

My bucket list for retirement included to pursue and reengage in educational courses in history and literature of which I have always been fond.  While in my professional career days there was little time for such.   The course in the Holocaust that I took at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse in the fall was  another  stimulating activity.  Thanks to the ease of online study I can partake in much more.  It  invokes my discipline to keep up weekly.  

Today I am  pondering on what will happen to our culture as we no longer teach, learn nor appreciate history and literature.  There seems to be a subversion of the basics, and a resultant ability to discern.  In the lecture on The Odyssey, Professor Whalen spoke of  Mnemosyne, Greek goddess of memory, the mother of the  nine Muses and how memory is a gift that distinguishes us from other animals.  Memory facilitates reasoning, and may be a basic foundation of civilization.   Mnemosyne is unknown to many of the so called educated in the current generations, I am sure a mention of her would evoke a blank stare from our adult grandchildren and their parents, perhaps along with the blankness a grimace of  "this means nothing to me....I live in California."    

What happens when a culture, a people, an individual no longer has memory?  Consider dementia and the dreaded Alzheimer's,  how once memory is gone only barrenness remains.  Robbed of memory the individual deteriorates.  I equate that to what is happening today as deliberate indoctrination replaces education, an ability to reason to discern begins to vanish.   Reasoning the high light of humanness  dims.  Humanities are disdained, few appreciate history and ever fewer have any awareness of the importance of ancient literature, of classics and  the need to acquire wisdom to make judgments.  So much is instant, online, finger strokes, Facebook where I too spend time is the substitute of many for personal interaction,  discussions.  So our western culture is  beginning to fall apart to lose value, today  sects of immigrants and others are  urged to retain their own languages, their own cultures, not to assimilate, not to adopt ours.  Could anything be more dreadful? 

This of course is a welcome diversion for me as we are in a holding pattern while Jerry has physical therapy sessions and continues with medications to be determined if he will heal and avoid back surgery on the nerve that is pinched by two vertebrae in his spine.  This means I do his chores and mine as well as continuing  my physical fitness agenda a the Y.  Spring is emerging here as well,  There were two robins in our back yard and the other day I saw a flock of geese flying north in formation.  We still have plenty of  snirt, dirty snow, to melt but green grass in visible once again in our lawns.  


  1. Pat, I agree that the loss of memory is the greatest personal tragedy I could imagine, squal to the loss of sight. I
    It is a sadness that so many people connect almost entirely online via various social media and not through more personal forms of communication like personal correspondence, face to face visits or even a phone call. Seems that instant communication has become the norm these days. I enjoy blogging, but fear that, at times, it too becomes too consuming.
    Hope that Jerry will be getting some much needed relief from back pain through the therapy sessions.

  2. I don't know what I'd do if I lost my memory, although I guess when we do, we don't have memory of it all anyway, so then how would we know what to miss! Yikes, see I just can't find any good in not having my memory. At times I feel I remember more things than I should, and yet how can you ever put a limit on any of it? An excellent post, see how you've inspired my thoughts!