A Book is an open door, part two

vintage john martins big bookMatthew Arnold defined culture as a knowledge of the best that has been done and said by man—but the one who opens that door must have more than that knowledge. It is not enough to cram away facts in the corners of your brain. These facts must have a direct bearing upon your life. To have knowledge of the best that has been written, you must not only read a great poem but you must allow the thought or fancy to sink into and become part of your personality; of the best that has been done you must not only have knowledge of the courage and wisdom of the early Americans who broke the yoke of Great Britain, but you must apply their courage and wisdom to your daily life; of the best that has been said you must not only read one of Abraham Lincoln’s great speeches, but absorb the quiet spirituality of the man who uttered them, and allow his personality to become part of yours.{…}

Farcical moving-picture shows and talking-machine rag-time surely have their place, but can they enter the soul of man as can “the best that has been written, done and said”? The plays of Euripides and the words of Marcus Aurelius have for many centuries given deeper understandings and wider horizons to a multitude of readers, and it is probable that the intensity with which they have acted upon the individual is commensurate with the length of time that they have acted upon the mass. We do not believe that this can be said of the time-killing “movie” or the rag-time song of yesterday.
Let us enter the world of living through the world of books. It is from the printed page that we can best equip ourselves for a rich life of value to ourselves, our family and our neighbors. If you do not believe it, read some book that the world has acknowledged great. Having read it, live it in your eternal self, and you will have passed through the Open Door.
An Open Door, Robert Sturgis Ingersoll, from the book Open That Door! available free at Gutenberg

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