Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Are we having fun yet?

I was reading the Introduction of the 'Gateway to the Great Books' series, published in 1963 by Encyclopaedia Brtannica, Inc.
A wonderful friend from church gave me the Great Books of the Western World, when she moved out of state and she also gave me the Gateway to the Great Books and some other fun stuff. Anyway, I've been a little lost as to what to have my boys do for homeschooling. I don't want to use a pre-packaged curriculum, because that's too "conveyor-belt," but without a plan there is no order. Anyway, I thought, why not use this great series that's just sitting here?!

So, I picked up Volume 1 last night, oh it's "A Letter to the Reader,' not yet the Introduction. Anyway, it has some great things written here, that I'd like to share with the world (even if only 3 people read it, Thanks followers!)

It talks about people's objections to reading Great Books: "Too hard," "No time," "Too dull," "What good is it?"

It says they (the Editors) have no interest in manufacturing furniture to decorate my living room. These are a pretty set, (or rather they were before a couple of the bindings got bit by a dog.) Anyway, it goes on to say that we now have a
"...Fun Society, molded and supported by Technology, Affluence, and Advertising. The question now is not, 'Are you doing anything worthwhile, anything interesting or important?' The question is, 'Are you having any fun?' With all the gadgets, the aim of which is to provide comfort or amusement, and all the affluence that has made it possible to buy them, and all the advertising that urges us to do so, fun has become something bought with money, supplied by gadgets, and endorsed by advertising. If we aren't doing something that involves these elements and meets these requirements, we can't be having any fun.
Reading, which does not involve these elements or meet these rquirements, therefore cannot be any fun..."

It just makes me laugh how far technology has come since this was written 60's. We are probably way more inundated with advertising and our gadgets have gotten a lot cooler, and cheaper with our affluence (even with the recession).

The next paragraph says, "Today two objects consume our time: work and distraction. The same forces that have reduced the work of most men have increased their distractions. These distractions have now got to such a point that in addition to reorienting the culture and our attitude toward life they have made it almost impossible for us to keep our minds on something for more than half an hour. The uninterrupted half hour is a rare occurrrence. But the important thing is that keeping the mind on something for more than half an hour is an effort, and, if we are making an effort, we are not having any fun. Fun is identified with distraction - and the absence of any strain on the mind, or even on the body. The popularity of spectator sports, where thousands of people sit more or less inert and watch a few exhaust...in combat, shows we are not much more more disposed to get fun from physical than from mental exertion."

That makes me think of people participating in fun (like watching t.v. or watching sports, or even being at an amusement park) like the people in the field of poppies in The Wizard of Oz, just laying down, going to sleep. And that reminds me of the quote from Joe Versus the Volcano where Patricia says, "My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement."

The next paragraph talks about how reading takes effort and literacy rates.
He goes on to say,
"Perhaps I ought to tell you that I am not against fun. My quarrel is not with fun but with the current conception of it and of its role among the aims of life. My quarrel with the currrent conception of fun involves me in a quarrel about what it means to be human, what a human society is, and what is good for - or even interesting to - a human being and a human society. I am afraid I shall also have to make a few remarks about current conceptions of education and of leisure....
The trouble with fun is that it is boring. It is simply not possible to spend more than a certain number of hours, days, weeks, or years having fun. And when the fatigued funster looks back over what he has done, he can only sigh and recognize, too late, his stupidity.
Why is this so? Why must it be so? It is because of the kind of animals people are. It is against nature for a man to devote himself to occupations little different from those which might be enjoyed by a pig, a pigeon, or even a whale... Man is distinguished from the other animals by his mind, and the infinite capacity and variety thereof. As nobody can deny fun is important to man, so nobody can expect a uniform diet of fun (or bananas, or lettuce) to satisfy him.
Recreation, play, or fun is important. The reduction of drudgery and the opportunity for rest and relaxation it affords are among the greatest of the blessings technology has conferred on modern man. In my lifetime, the working week has been cut by a third and the working life has been shortened at both ends by the prohibition of child labor, the prolongation of education, and the provisions for retirement. But the time thus set free has been transferred, with almost mathematical exactitude, to the television set."

The next page and a half talk about how humans want to "know" or "understand" and how "...the most enduring human pleasure comes from discovery, [or learning], of possible worlds. It is delightful; and it is not too hard. Effort is required, but not much."

I believe it is an article by Adler that says, "Welcome to the pain of learning."


Scorchi said...

That is really interesting. It is so true that the general population today sees having fun as the end-all of their reason for living.

For sure our YM/YW don't have ANY desire to do anything that isn't FUN.

Debbie said...

thanks for that. i'll have to read it a couple more times and maybe have a few more comments then. :) also, congratulations on expecting a new little one! i am sad that i am so far away from you that i didn't even know. you are so wonderful, and the world will be better just having another one of yours in it. miss you bunches.

SillySlang said...

Thanks Debbie, you're so sweet. I miss you, too.

The Bec-ster said...

Awesome Trina...I want to read this too! I Wish we lived near each other!!!