Friday, July 24, 2015

Letter to my niblings: a gift of great books

Dear Matthew, Anne & Daniel

You are probably a bit disappointed with the gift you received from me this Christmas. Maybe you were expecting candy, perhaps toys. But you need not worry: on this holiday season I'm giving you what may very well be the very best material gift you'll ever receive. It is better than playthings and sweets I assure you. Can you imagine that?

Well, let's see. What you have here are a set of tomes, ten in all, labeled "Gateway to the Great Books". One may be apprehensive about receiving books, of all things, and pictureless ones at that. However, these books are quite different. By themselves, they are full of wonders. They consist of a collection of short pieces that relate to storytelling, man and society, science and philosophy. You already love storytelling, what grownups call literature,  and within the pages here you'll find some of the very best, some of which you'll want to read over and over again. You also have a family (a lovely one at that), friends and attend school, which means you already belong to groups that are larger than yourself. The volumes colored blue, deal with these and with even bigger groups. Now, man has been called an animal that asks questions. You also ask questions, we all do pretty much all the time. Some of these questions relate to why things are as they are in nature. Science is at it's heart the search for answers in this area. The volumes coded green, show how persons have sought to answer and explain them, from where we stand in the Universe (take a look at Kees Boeke's Cosmic View),  to how bugs (!) behave (Fabre, the Sacred Beetle), to what is what really happens when a candle burns (Faraday, Chemical History of a Candle). Math, which is closely related to science, is not a boring school subject, and in fact can be quite delightful. You use Google daily, do you know where that name came from? Or how big a number can get? Finally, there are other questions that cannot be answered, for all its worth, by science.  How should one behave? How do we know things? What is one's purpose? These, and more, are explored in the last volume. In a sense, we're all philosophers (lets grow a beard!)

These books not only great by themselves, but are planned as an entryway to even greater books that are out there. You already know about some of them: remember Achilles and the  war of Troy (The Iliad)? Have you ever heard of Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare)? Perhaps you've heard of a certain knight that once fought against windmills (Don Quixote).

Starting now, this books will let you make a better use of your greatest asset which is your mind. They'll also help you place things throughout your life in perspective, and strengthen your will and study habits, which in turn will pave the way in school, and to whatever goals you set for yourselves as members of society.

All these is set before you, if you'll only read them.


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