Stopping and Thinking is important


“So why is reading books any better than reading tweets or wall posts? Well, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading. But a book has two advantages over a tweet. First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself.

Second, most books are old. This is not a disadvantage: this is precisely what makes them valuable. They stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today. Even if they merely reflect the conventional wisdom of their own day, they say something different from what you hear all the time. But the great books, the ones you find on a syllabus, the ones people have continued to read, don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day. They say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought. They were revolutionary in their own time, and they are still revolutionary today. And when I say “revolutionary,” I am deliberately evoking the American Revolution, because it was a result of precisely this kind of independent thinking. Without solitude—the solitude of Adams and Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison and Thomas Paine—there would be no America.”

-From a speech titled Solitude and Leadership
(given at a West Point plebe class).

–also the patriotism strung throughout the last line reminds me distinctly of dear Bryan Weynand. I’m sure he’s smiling as he reads this. :)


1 Comment

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One response to “Stopping and Thinking is important

  1. Bryan Weynand

    Where did you find this?

    I like it, good stuff. And you correct predicted that I would smile while reading it. Though he errs in crediting Hamilton with the others… America would be better if Hamilton never came here, and there was almost no America because of Alexander Hamilton, forget the idea of no America without him.

    His comments about old books are excellent, he exposes several problems with out current society. 1) We think we understand the world too completely and can accomplish anything, without challenging our view 2) We have a shallow knowledge because we don’t think independently; really we just receive information rapidly without really processing or assessing it. Which reminds me that I need to get you that article from NR about the effect of television. I’ll bring a hard copy if I come this weekend!

    The American Revolution was lead by men whose education came almost exclusively from reading old books. They used those books to develop an understanding of how the world works and how human nature works, and then designed a government based on that. Not reading old books anymore is a problem….

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