Nullam iam dictum

So I have my last final of my undergraduate career tomorrow morning and should be studying now, but I wanted to get some thoughts out first. One of my favorite quotes lately is from Terence and goes, “Nullam iam dictum quod non sit dictun prius.” (No (thing) now is said that has not been said earlier). For all of our innovative thinking and cool new thoughts, all we’re really doing is recycling old ideas. C.S. Lewis had a great argument for reading old books (who himself was a medieval scholar). He argued that we should read old books not simply because they are old, but that they afford us a different perspective through which we can understand current problems. Old thought may be just as wrong about ideas as we are today, but chances are they are wrong about different things. We are not able to truly get a good understanding of the current problems they are in the midst of – old thinkers can help us where we may be currently wrong.

I think oftentimes we lose sight of historical study by simply viewing it as something we need to do because the people in charge think we have too (this can apply to all of a liberal arts education as well) We should be approaching our studies, whether part of liberal arts or directly tailored to providing skills we may use in our chosen careers, as vastly applicable to our lives here in creation. My wife’s master’s thesis, which she very eloquently presented today, was on attempting to get undergraduate students to more fully appreciate the importance of a liberal arts education. What a task in this modern world all about the here and now, simply wanting what’s “applicable” to me – a passion that upon its undertaking may ironically not be educating students with what is of actual importance. Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not knocking on tech schools, specific job training, or any of the like. I am frustrated with the mentality that says, “I don’t really need to know what’s going on outside my own little bubble” (whether that be world news, history, etc.).

This goes beyond our “studies” as well. As the Church, it seems to me that if we even took a small amount of our time to study Church history with all its heresies, traditions, and creeds, not only would we have a better understanding of how we have gotten to this current day, but we would be far less likely to fall into modern heresies which more often than not are the same old wolves dressed in a new sheep’s clothing.

If it is true that there really is nothing new under the sun, then why are we fooled by the same things time and time again? Study history. Don’t study it to pass your next test or to know some cool fact to impress people. Study it because it is relevant to life in the present. Study a random subject you know nothing about. Not because you’re bored (although it would be a great way to break that boredom), but because it gives you the chance to better understand this world God has placed us in to tend and cultivate.

P.S. my final tomorrow is in anatomy – if you’re ever in need of something that you could never come to a truly comprehensive understanding of (historically, current understandings/thought), try any number of subjects, you’ll never be able to fit it all in your head, that’s not the point, but knowledge builds, and you’ll get better as time goes – anatomy/physiology/medicine included.

~ by veniatregnum on May 8, 2008.

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