"What binds the authors together in an intellectual community
is the great conversation in which they are engaged..." Mortimer Adler
It was a Biography Channel show about John and Abigail Adams that reminded me of a great passion of my life... that which I hadn't thought of as I used to when we were actively homeschooling (I say actively because in essence... we all educate at home whether we realize it or not). For the narrator talked about Abigail being "self taught" (or what we now call... homeschooled) through the reading of books and well able to keep up a conversation with anyone in the new country.
I was (teasingly) accused by some people that my decision to homeschool my son was to give me an excuse to purchase books. While not the real reason, it certainly was an enjoyable part of the process which many homeschooling families have been going through recently. The enjoyment of picking the books to read in the next school year.
There is a special vocabulary among readers who learn to speak the language of the bookish. We nod in secret agreement when we are told our home is very cozy and Mole-ish in character. We understand that Aslan is not a tame lion... but he is good. Others stare at us as an adult and a child search for Pooh sticks near a creek... but the two are oblivious to the others as they are in search of the sticks and perhaps a little honey.
We long for red headed kindred spirits and fully admit to being on the Tookish side of the family as we nurture a secret desire for adventure. We appreciate mother's chamomile tea (even when we have not been naughty) and think of Laura at Christmas when we place a shortbread cookie (wrapped, of course) in the heel of a stocking.
While there is something special about the literature of our childhood, the fellowship brought about by favorite authors knits adults together... both friends and strangers. I recently (this past winter) joined the sorority of women who love Goudge and Stevenson, want to attend a ham dinner cooked by Father Tim, and have many times followed Christy into the mountains.
I quote Lewis and listen to others wax poetic about authors I have yet to "meet". Their recommendations are sought after at library sales and used book stores for those out of print or skimming library shelves for that new author's best selling mystery.
Our favorite books and authors form us into who we are. Just tonight I discussed with my son the Schaeffer's interest in taking care of the environment and seeing any sword in a movie reminds me of his passion for French literature... which led to many evenings reading while he attended fencing lessons. :)
My daughter immediately understands who Edith is and the difference between Elizabeth and Elisabeth. We adore "all things Jane" (including those books made into movies to be viewed over and over).
I mentioned to a friend that I was reading my first Wendell Berry book of essays, which led to an excited recommendation of his novels. As I've been reading it, I understand so much why certain people in my life have told me, "you'll love his writing!".
When we read the classics, we join the "Great Conversation" of Western thought through centuries past. The reading of classic Christian ministers, pastors, and poets link together the generations and truly cause us to "stand on the shoulders of the giants".
A good biography can take me into the life and times of an admired historical figure as well as in the midst of a great battle or holding my breath as war is breaking out on a new front. I visit New England and feel I've walked this path before but only in books and the battlefields of Pennsylvania and Virgina bring memories of words read late into the night.
I must admit to being sad at the way children are taught in schools these days. So much is taught "for the test" that little time is given to the reading of whole books and stories to spark their imagination and develop a love of books for a lifetime.
Thankfully... hopefully... prayerfully... there is a shelf at home with precious volumes, well loved by the child and read with great theatrical voice by one who loves them. One day may they be described to another as... "well read".