Friday, October 1, 2010
Yes, that's me bringing some wood to the campfire; my tomahawk is carried on my belt. Having a pioneer mentality, being a male with a Ph. D. in a hard physical science makes my having many, many "rough edges" no surprise. In the domain of culture, I admit freely to having none until recent years. The only bit that I had was due to a course requirement in the humanities at Harvard College. I fulfilled that one by taking a famous course [Humanities 3] in Greek literature by Prof. John Finley. That distribution requirement did work, though, as it exposed me to a crack of light from a universe of culture that I would have otherwise never recognized existed. War.
How does a guy smooth out his rough edges? Read. Learn. How?
Courses in the humanities by the Teaching Company help: see http://www.teach12.com/. My current course is "Classics of British Literature". There are plenty of good courses on music, art, philosophy and literature available from them.
Read BOOKS. The Internet is a culture wasteland - you don't know what you are seeing unless from a reliable source. Classic books provide reliable places to learn culture, places that have endured decades, centuries or millenia.
Read good literary magazines. I expanded my magazine universe over the past two years and can recommend two: Lapham's Quarterly and The Paris Review. The former provides great writing from classical and even recent authors on gathered on particular subjects - the current issue is titled, "The City". The Paris Review offers good selections of current fiction and poetry. You need someone to select good material for you, or you will waste huge amounts of time with junk. The editors of these two quarterly journals do a good job, in my "humble" opinion ;)
Learn a foreign language - at least to be "literate" in it. Fluency is very, very hard to achieve as an adult, but literacy is doable and gives you the cultural exposure you need. I suggest Italian or French or both. Both have much great original literature in the language and are often used in English writing in snippets.
If you devote an hour a day to this program, in a couple years you'll have enough culture to not seem to be a troglodyte or a barbarian.
Word of the Day
"Belletristic" - adjective [$1000]; "Belletrist" - noun [$1000] and "belles-lettres" - substantive, plural [$10]
Belles-lettres means elegant or polite literature or literary studies.
Belletristic means of or pertaining to belles-lettres.
Belletrist means one devoted to belles-lettres.Sentence: Being a wee bit literate in Italian or French helps one read belletristic English language writings, as quite often quotes or epigrams in those languages appea