Saturday, January 28, 2006


Tracy Lee Simmons accompanied me this morning in the kitchen as I prepared Chicken a la King for the weekend meal.

Simmons is author of the book Climbing Parnassus and was the recipient of the 2005 Paideia prize at the CiRCE Institute annual conference. I listened to the first conference CD this morning. This notebook full of CDs has been around for a few months, but time hasn't. Since I finished listening to The Teaching Company's Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine
series this week, these CiRCE CDs were next on schedule. [By the way, the Doctors lectures were fascinating. Excellent. I hope to share some thoughts about these one day.]

The address that I listened to was Simmons' acceptance of the Paideia prize. It is so inspiring, but I'll only share a few bits from the end of his speech. (Emphasis mine.)
"Greatness must start small, at home, and within our soul."

John Adams once wrote in his journal, "I must judge for myself. But how can I judge? How can any man judge, unless his mind be opened and enlarged by reading."

"Maybe we cannot change the entire world, but we can change our small corner of it where the changes are more likely to last."

"Human nature may be corrupt but can be ennobled. However depraved, it is not completely irredeemable, at least for earthly purposes. Always some good may yet come from one who wills it."

"We need to encourage a kind of divine discontent within ourselves. Self-esteem can be hazardous not only becuase it can deceive, but mainly becuase it gives us license to rest, to lie down, to stop growing, to cease to expect more from ourselves. Self-satisfaction is a recipe for catastrophe."

"Modern education teaches us to take, not to give. It would teach us to rest when we should rise, and to be restless and acquisitive when we should be cultivating contentment."

"We need not condemn modern schools with vociferous, smug self-righteousness which is neither fair, nor decent, and may portray something dark in us, not in them. It is enough for us to wish them well and hope that their students may get the best that those schools can offer. Then we should turn around and walk our own way. We need not be proud or haughty. We need only to see clearly and to act."

"The one thing classical education gives us is a compass."
Interestingly enough, I realized that I am scheduled to begin reading Climbing Parnassus on Monday. It is that odd "synthesis" of the reading, thinking, and learning that so often happens in life, described so aptly, and also enjoyed by the autodidact at Mental Multivitamin.

Those "wow" moments are treasures. It's almost like climbing a mountain amidst the thick trees and undergrowth, not really sure of where you are going, just knowing that you are ascending, you are progressing to somewhere. And all of a sudden there is a break in the trees allowing you to glimpse for miles.

You can see how far you have progressed.

And you also realize how very much further it is to the top of our personal Parnassus.


Sarah said...

That reminds me a bit of Wendell Berry--have you read anything by him? One of his major contributions is the idea that living well, doing right in your small corner of the world is far more valuable and transformative than some big, global effort to save the world.

Carol in Oregon said...

You have articulated a lovely part of the reader's life. The synthesis is truly a joy. I dearly love to learn a new word or new concept and then run across it soon after.