Dr. Nathan T. Morton
Don't Be an Idiot - 3 Preventive Measures
Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Francis Bacon agrees with the author of Genesis that “God Almighty first planted a garden;” and with Voltaire that we must cultivate our back yards. – Will Durant
The Noblest Art is Reading.
Read many books and keep the best 2 or 3 on each topic of interest to read and re-read regularly. This will deepen and organize your understanding of particular topics. My favorite book on the history of philosophy is The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant. The best book I have on personal spiritual life is A.W. Tozer's Pursuit of God etc. I have read those and the others, multiple times.
Read outside your sphere of interest. Read broadly, but read well. If we only interact with those authors inside our echo chamber we will ultimately become reconciled to our own mediocrity. Will Durant wrote, “Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt—particularly to doubt one’s cherished beliefs, one’s dogmas, and one’s axioms.” Test your epistemology by reading those with whom you disagree.
Read the old authors. Don’t just read the newest books on a given topic, you need to consume those great reads which guided the conversation in the past. As C.S. Lewis said, “If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight, you will often not see the real bearing of what is said.” In fact, if you had to choose between reading either the old or the new, choose the old. The pressures of our present world prevent us from producing the kind of intellects that existed in earlier generations. There will never be another Augustine.
Use Kindle App. Kindle has developed a great system for organizing digital reading. First, the app allows you to use a four colored system to organize your highlights into categorized flash cards. [I use red to highlight ‘profound thoughts,’ orange to note ‘quotes,’ blue as ‘historic events/dates’ and yellow as ‘general.’] Second, the kindle app allows you to insert a note at any point in the text. Third you can see popular highlights. [A feature which seems to indicate that most people only read the first fifth of most books.] Fourth, the search feature allows you to find points of interest within an author’s work, even if you don’t plan on reading the entire volume.
If you read a digital book and find it to be great, buy the hard copy. There is something intangibly wonderful about interacting with a physical book.
A little learning inclines one toward pride and arrogant self-dependence. Deep learning brings one to humble faith.
2. File and Organize
Perhaps the greatest revolution could be the discipline of self.
Use a system of action, and scheduling. Put effort into finding a system that works well for you and is always accessible with the least amount of caretaking. I use the TimePage by Moleskine Studio It is on my devices and interfaces easily with my online calendar. I’ve tried a few others but this one works best for me. A craftsman is only as good as his tools. [Hint: make ‘to do’ list but don’t just list things in order to have a longer list. A two ‘to do’ list day is a good day.]
Discipline and organize your online/digital life. Work to develop a scheme for saving articles, writings, and graphics so that you can easily reference them later. You do not need anything as extensive as MS Access. Instead, think of categories inside of categories and organize accordingly. For example, in my cloud account I have a file labeled ‘Israel’ and in that file are multiple folders one of which is labeled ‘Hezekiah’s Tunnel.’ In that folder are six folders, two for my study abroad trips labeled 2013, 2015 as well as four others labeled, research, archeology, blogs, and biblical. You see, categories inside of categories.
Make use of your journals. Regularly read through your journals and duplicate the important information and thoughts into your organized digital file system.
We should work to organize our learning, not for the sake of learning, but to acquire the skills needed to be better people.
3. Think, write, and talk - in that order.
Nothing is so dull as logic, and nothing is so important-Will Durant
Think. Herd mentality produces herd oppression. In ancient Athens the disintegrating individualism so weakened Athens that the city was left prey to the Spartans. It is no wonder that there is chaos when there is so little independent thought. Crowds decide and act in haste and ignorance, and then repent in leisure amidst the rubble of their revolution.
Journal. Presently I have 3 journals. I prefer Moleskine journals, but there are cheaper options out there. The first one I currently use to record my thoughts from reading After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre as well notes from other research on emotivism and related topics. The second I use to record my thoughts and research on my study of Colossians and it is divided into three sections: textual, academic, and devotional. The third journal is my prayer list and quiet time journal.
Writing is one of life’s greatest schoolmasters. It is said of Savonarola that his writing “showed his learning, his prudence, and his intellectual powers.” Write! Don’t wait until everything is perfect before you publish your writing in some public format. Tai T’ung issued his History of Chinese Writing with these words, “Were I to await perfection, my book would never be finished.”
Talk with other learners. The old saying is true, “Small minds talk about people, great minds talk about ideas.” When you talk with other learners and listen to them you not only absorb the new information they have learned, unconsciously you learn how they process information thereby expanding your own capacity of logic and thinking. There is no substitute for good conversation. Machiavelli, when he was told that strangers had been buried in his father’s tomb along with his father replied, “Let them be, for my father was a great lover of conversation, and the more there are to keep him company, the better pleased he will be.”