What we're reading (January edition)...

Happy New Year! We hope that all of our ILS families and friends enjoyed a wonderful and relaxing Christmas break, and while we all enjoyed the time celebrating the season with family and friends, we are also so excited to be back at school and see all the smiling faces back in the classrooms!

We are ringing in the new year with a brand new edition of "What we're reading..." for January! As we do each month, we’ve gathered a collection of articles that we’ve found to be interesting or thought-provoking recently, and we hope you enjoy reading these as well.

What have you read lately that you think we, or other ILS families, may find interesting? Please keep sharing links and articles for us to enjoy!

When was the last time you stood in silent awe before something created? I mean a silence with no plans, no sizing up, no using? A silent admiration of clouds, ants, squirrels, crystals, microchips, or skyscrapers. Are there any whole classes of creatures that no longer inspire wonder in you or never did? If so, what blunts that astonishment? What murdered that wonder?

These are essential questions for any teacher to consider, since wonder is central to—perhaps the central energy of—education. Addressing these questions requires us to consider three issues: what wonder is and should be, the connection between wonder and what it means to be a Christian scholar, and those forces in our culture that cripple or kill wonder—those influences that we scholars and teachers need to guard against.
— Bret Saunders, "Wonder, Thunder, and the Christian Scholar"

“O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” [Acts 13:10]. Thus spoke St. Paul to the sorcerer Elymas. Do you ever wonder if Paul would say that to us? “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?”

That word straight is the heart of John the Baptist’s identity. John the Baptist was the last and greatest prophet. His mission was foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord.”’”

What does that mean?

How is the way of the Lord made straight?

We start with what is crooked in our lives. What in your heart and mind is crooked, corrupt, perverted? St. Paul identified some of that with the sorcerer. Deceit; fraud; enemy of righteousness. Whom have you deceived? Are you a fraud?
— - Pastor Christopher Esget, "Fourth Sunday of Advent"

In ancient Egypt there lived a wise king named Thamus. One day he was visited by a clever god called Theuth.

Theuth was an inventor of many useful things: arithmetic and geometry; astronomy and dice. But his greatest discovery, so he believed, “was the use of letters.” And it was this invention that Theuth was most eager to share with King Thamus.

The art of writing, Theuth said, “will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit.”

But Thamus rebuffed him. “O most ingenious Theuth,” he said, “the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them.”

The king continued: “For this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember themselves.”

Written words, Thamus concluded, “give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things but will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.”

Welcome to Facebook.
— Bret Stephens, "How Plato Foresaw Facebook's Folly"

‘Tis the season to make promises, that you may or may not keep. We call them New Year’s Resolutions. These are traditions in which people resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior in order to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their lives.

A quick internet search reveals the top percentages for 2018 New Year’s resolutions included 53% of respondents resolved to save more money, 45% resolved to lose weight, 24% resolved to travel more, 23% resolved to read more, 22% resolved to learn a new hobby, 16% resolved to quit smoking and 15% resolved to find love. If you are anything like me, you probably noticed that people either made multiple resolutions or we have many more than 100% of respondents. Regardless, it is interesting that in the face of all of these resolutions we conversely find that personal debt, obesity, lack of reading and the like continue to expand.

Another “study” shows that 46% of people keep their resolution past February (it’s hard to say no to those Valentine’s Day chocolates!) and 26% keep their resolutions until June. For what it’s worth, I have been on a personal winning streak for more than 10 years keeping my annual resolution to not make any resolutions.

The point is this: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said those words when He asked His disciples to wait and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. Like the disciples then, we disciples of Christ now desire to do what the Master bids, but we fail, over and over again. We try for a season, but we fall back into the habits of the old and sinful self. We fail over and over again to tame the sin in our hearts, to guard the doors of our lips and to act like the children of God.
— Pastor Craig Donofrio, "Resolutions and Forgiveness"

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. In this episode, Mark is joined by Robert Jackson of Great Hearts Academies to discuss classical education.
— "Recovering the Moral Imagination"

Beginning well, therefore, ought to be a chief concern not only of the writer, but of the man. An essay whose first sentence is good is an essay with more scope for goodness; a day whose first decisions are good is a day with more potential for goodness; a year whose first acts are good is a year more prone towards goodness; a life whose first years are good is a life more ripe for goodness.

And that is why perhaps our actions throughout the first days of a new year are more important than the resolutions made New Year’s Eve. Resolutions are as helpful as an itinerary for the journey; but it is the first steps that start the journey, that set its direction and its pace.

As a new year, and a new semester, begin, take heart that neither hangs in the balance of the resolutions you forgot to make or already failed to keep. What you think, what you speak, what you do in each humble January day set the warp and woof of the months to come and the life they weave.
— Lindsey Bringham Knott "On Beginning Well"

At the end of each semester, I inevitably have one or two well-meaning students who are still unsure why they were asked to devote so much time and care to reading, annotating, and discussing archaic Greek literature. They enjoyed reading Homer. They liked our conversations in class, but, at the end of the course, lacking theoretical reasons, they still worry about why they spent so much time on pagan, non-Christian authors. Over the past few semesters, I have thought about how to best answer that question: Why read old (pagan) books? To do so, I would like to begin with an image from a myth.

At the beginning of his Timaeus, Plato retells the well-known myth of Atlantis. There was, once upon a time, a flourishing civilization, which excelled in the arts and sciences. They built a beautiful city, which blended perfectly into its natural environs. But one day, the city was lost. An earthquake caused it to be buried under an ocean of water. And there, at the floor of the ocean, this magnificent civilization rests, in silence.

I like the image of the luxuriously wealthy city at the bottom of the ocean because the metaphor of archaeology brilliantly captures the goals of a student of the humanities. What if, along with the physical ruins of buildings, there were certain ideas, certain ways of life, certain ways of thinking which have been buried under the rubble of time? What if some truth from antiquity, which used to be obvious to everyone else, had only begun to seem bizarre to modern man? As everyone knows, Hesiod’s Theogony is a very bizarre piece of writing by our standards. But what if the truth is, it is not so much this book which is weird, but we who have become strange? What if we moderns are the ones out of step with everyone else, not the ancients who are backwards and behind the times, but we who are out of tune? It is for this reason, with these questions in mind, that I encourage my students, every time they bump into a passage (or book) particularly strange and bizarre, to slow down, re-read, and think more deeply. You might have hit a cultural blind spot.
— Jason Baxter, "Why Read Old (Pagan) Books?"