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.


Why I Read

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started reading when I was three. My grandmother in England had been a classical pianist in a symphony and taught at Cambridge University. My grandmother was an elegant woman, very refined, a connoisseur of tea, believed a child should have proper etiquette, and strive for the best education possible.

I was a military brat that moved yearly and sometimes twice yearly. I was probably not the refined little lady that my grandmother had envisioned for a granddaughter but she never let on. She spent hours teaching me how to prepare and drink the proper cup of tea and how to read. Both lessons I have never forgotten and will always be thankful to my Grandmother for taking the time and teaching me.

As soon as I could read a book without help, I was off and running and I do mean that literally. I was eagerly running to the library to find a new book to read. Reading became my best friend. When you move every year there are no friends to play or talk with, let alone visit. I was always the new kid in every school – all 22 of them.

I challenged myself to read more and more difficult books. In kindergarten, we lived in Bicknell Indiana while my Dad served in Korea. I would go to the City Hall every day and venture down to the basement, which housed the library. I read every Beatrix Potter book I could find. I loved her books; my love of Beatrix Potter grew into my live of classical literature. I adored Emily Bronte and Jane Austen. The classics teach lessons about life, decisions, humanity, history, and even about the future. From reading the classics, I understand how people lived and how we should live to be better people.

My time in Bicknell was well spent, for the first time in my life I had friends and these friends I have kept for a lifetime. As my Dad served in Vietnam or was stationed away from us, we would return home to Bicknell and these friends always embraced me. To this day I am thankful for my North Knox friends who may never relies what their kindness meant to me and still means to me to this day. When you are a military brat, you are from everywhere and nowhere. You do not really belong or fit in anywhere. It is a lonesome feeling even to this day.

As a became older I fell in love with other genres thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, and general literature. I would pick up a book and within a day or two, I would be finished. I always felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend each time I finished a book. In a way, I was saying goodbye to all the characters that lived in my head. I later became engrossed in biographies. I love to read the letters of famous people like Einstein, Newton, and Vincent van Gogh. Reading the letters is like getting to know the most intimate side of each of them.

There are many authors I follow and books that I re-read each year. One of them is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Each time I re-read a book I see something new, something I missed the last time I read the book. Books provide endless lessons to me on living life with grace. I can’t imagine not reading. I want to share my love of reading with other people that is why I became a literacy tutor and later a reading teacher. I have since earned a master’s in reading and literature. I want to teach about books, have grand conversations with students, and instill my love of reading with them. I am still trying to figure out how to share this love with students who show little interest in a book or a story when I figure it out I will tell you, until then I will keep trying.

On a Whim!

Recently a co-worker who is a teacher at the high school I teach at stated that he felt teachers that majored in a content area and not in Education wanted to teach on a whim. I did not speak up as I often keep my thoughts to myself in the work place. But I wanted to respond, I wanted to speak up and say, I am not teaching on a whim if I were the whim put me back $40,000 in school loans. I purposefully choose the classes and two degrees that I have to be a well-rounded teacher of the Language Arts.  I majored in Literature of the Humanities at American Military University. The major is built on “The Great Books” philosophy. I read many classical pieces of literature and wrote lengthy papers on each book. I completed a 50 page thesis and took an 8 hour exit exam. I received an MA degree for my hard work and effort.  I earned a MLS degree from Fort Hays State University with a concentration in teaching Reading and English. I write a 50 page research paper on teaching students with learning disabilities how to read using the latest information. In addition, I wrote a 350 page text-book based on teaching developmental reading to high school and college students. I am presently tweaking this book in hopes of pitching the book to Pearson for publication. Lastly, I earned a graduate certificate in Composition and Rhetoric from Indiana University East. I did all of this because I wanted to share my love of Reading and English with students. I also had to pass several Praxis I and II test – which required hours of study and were rather expensive.

I know I should have spoken up when my co-worker made his comment which clearly he made without knowing how difficult it is to become a teacher through alternative methods. David McCullough an accomplished writer of Historical Novels stated on 60 Minutes that some of the best teachers are teachers that major in content areas that become experts on a subject and go to the classroom ready to share that knowledge with their students. I was so impressed that Mr. McCullough shared this opinion with the audience. I wish my co-workers shared this opinion. I face many comments and low opinions from my co-workers about my not being an Education major. They have no idea that I have taken well over 40 hours in Education classes with my work on teaching Reading and Composition and Rhetoric.

Perhaps I should become more vocal in support of my co-workers that are teaching via alternative routes. Teaching on a whim – hardly! Teaching is a difficult job. I rarely see a teacher that teaches on a whim. I do see teachers that are burned out but they soon move on. Teaching can be difficult due to the push for common core with few dollars to support the transition, outdated classrooms and technology, students that are hungry and tired. Teaching takes long hours of planning, preparation, and then grading; I love to teach – I just wish all teachers could appreciate each other and show support than making unkind and not well thought out remarks.