Through Books We Can Indeed Time Travel

I often ponder time travel and think it would be so very wonderful to travel through time. To talk to people in the past and in the future. Not to change things but to better understand things. I recently concluded that you can indeed travel through time, at least to the past by simply reading. I decided that I would travel back and speak to De Montaigne and this is what I would ask:

 

Dear Mr. De Montaigne,

I recently read your essays and found them fascinating. In particular, I was fascinated with your essay on cruelty that concentrated on virtue. Sadly, schoolchildren face cruel comments daily. Children commit suicide over these cruel comments; they no longer just shed tears. As a teacher of the learning disabled,   I have seen my students afflicted with terrible pain by the words of other students. You wrote, “one who out of natural mildness and good-nature […] but another who, provoked and stung to anger by insult, takes up the weapons of reason against his furious desire for revenge,” These words rang true to me. I see this daily the struggle to remain calm and unaffected by the cruel words. How true when a child, “after a hard battle finally masters it, is undoubtedly doing a great deal more”. It takes far more thought and virtue to resist the urge to strike back and fight. The saddest for all is the child who loses all virtue and kills himself.

With deep thought I reflected on your comment that we call, “God good, mighty, liberal, and just but do not call Him virtuous:  His workings are all natural and effortless”. You wrote that to be virtuous one needs an adversary. Is not Satan the adversary to God? After further reflection, I see your point that God’s work is “natural and effortless”, therefore, we think of Him as good rather than virtuous. God is not in constant battle. It is society that battles with cruelty and either rises above it or falls to it not God. I would be interested in your thoughts on God’s teachings as portrayed in the Old Testament an, eye for an eye, as opposed to The New Testament’s love your enemies.

As you commented on Metellus, when substantiating your point, “that virtue refuses facility as a companion” and “virtue demands a harsh and thorny road; it desires external difficulties […]”; this clearly is indicative of the point you made at the beginning of your essay. Do I understand correctly, to be virtuous there must be internal or external strife? The execution of Socrates occurred when he challenged the Athenians’ justice. Socrates did not just accept the status quo; he valiantly opposed it. Is this true virtue? When Galileo wrote and published the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World System, the Catholic Church tried him for heresy. I believe that he admitted to making a mistake in order to receive a lighter sentence. To me, this makes Galileo’s actions not virtuous since he did not did not stand up for his beliefs.

You wrote in your essay on presumption, which also touched on virtue that “truth is the fundamental part of virtue” and “what we say should be what we think”. Again, I am reminded of Socrates that despite his inevitable execution he did not back down. This too supports what you write in your essay on cruelty. The truth is not always easy to speak; there are often severe consequences when we stand up for what we know is the truth.

Sir, I am left with many questions and thoughts. I would love to know what your thoughts are on this subject. Would you be so kinds as to share your opinions? What really is virtue? Is the person who is of good character virtuous? It would seem not as they are naturally good. Is virtue the key to human happiness? Is virtue knowledge as Plato wrote? As I delve deeper into reading your essays, I am confident that I will find the answers to these questions and more. I end this conversation as an avid learner and reader.

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Humanity and the class of 2013

I graduated from a master’s program that focused on “The Great Books Philosophy” from American Military University. I love classical literature and have read classical literature since I was a child. When people ask, why did I choose such a major and I did choose this, as I have a master’s in Liberal studies in Reading and English from Fort Hays State University. I answer quite simply to learn and teach about humanity. Humanity has become secondary in our lives with the advent of technology. I love technology and have worked in the technology field for over 15 years. I have an undergraduate degree in Robotics and I have taught computer repair and electronics. Technology is essential in our lives. However, there is a down side; we are losing sight of virtue, critical thinking skills, and compassion. Schools focus on common core and standards, which in themselves are great but they do not focus on developing character or empathy.

These qualities are important to me as a person, a student, and an educator. I am a teacher at Vincennes Lincoln High School, an adjunct instructor at both Vincennes University and Frontier Community College. I want my students to read literature not just for enjoyment or knowledge but to take away lessons about kindness and justice. “Virtue rejects facility to be her companion. She requires a craggy, rough and thorny way” (Michel de Montaigne). I know this to be true, life is difficult and sometimes filled with heartache, but life is also wonderful and full are special moments. I have experienced both great sorrow and great joy. As education moves away from teaching about humanity society loses something and our children will graduate without the benefit of these important lessons.

The class of 2013 will be soon be leaving their educational institutions and going out into the world. They will face challenges that they may not be prepared to face. Have we let these students down in some way? Have we taught children to embrace the challenges with grace and dignity? Have we stressed that we do not always get what we want and that no is sometimes the right answer? Have we taught our children to be empathetic to other people and to the world around them? In the words of George Bernard – “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of humanity.”

I challenge the class of 2013 to seek out challenges, face difficulties with grace, and to care about the people and the world around them. I also challenge them to read the classics think about the lessons they are learning. Life is amazing and there is so much more out there than students learn in school and it is up to each individual to keep learning.