I have started to read Cicero "On the Good Life." I've had the book for several months, but we have been in a busy season of transition, and perhaps more importantly, I have been reading too many other things to begin.
As I picked up the book this morning to read a little more of it today, I said to myself, "I really need to focus and get this done." But then a split second later, I realized that attitude is all wrong.
I said to myself, "No. That was the way I used to think about learning..." when I was in modern school. Each subject was studied for a grade, for a diploma or a degree, for an accomplishment, as an end, and then, at some point, I was supposed to be totally done with that subject. And, far too often, that model of education fostered the idea that I was also done with learning altogether or worse, that if I wanted to be a learner again, I needed to go back to school in order to do it. How silly!
My view of education is totally changing now that we are practicing the Classical model and homeschooling. No, this book and others like it are not just projects to be finished just as soon as possible, so that I can move on with my life and from now on say, "I've read Cicero." to satisfy my pride or impress others. No, this is the sort of book that I should probably read again, and go back to in reference, and contemplate for decades. I should build a relationship with this book and books like it. It should be more of a habit, less of an accomplishment.
In that way, reading good books like Cicero is similar to a having a healthy diet. I am a part-time health coach so I live this and see it all the time. We all know that we should not think, "I just need to focus and get this healthy diet over with, so I can go back to my regular life. I just need to lose all this weight, so I can hurry up and go back to eating doughnuts." That's an erroneous attitude and mindset that will fail anyone in an attempt at weight loss and weight maintenance.
And like an education is supposed to be an ongoing journey and a life-long relationship with good books and ideas, a diet is an ongoing journey and life-long relationship with healthy foods. It isn't something you finish. It is something you constantly contemplate and experiment with. It's a lifestyle. Andrew Kern says the same thing about Classical education; "Classical education is not an end. It's a life."
We approach far too many things in life with that "Okay. I just have to get this done, so I can move on." attitude. (And now I wonder if we do that because of the way we were educated.) We miss the point!
I suppose there are some books or media or even some foods that we should just binge upon. I think it depends on the quality. Downtown Abbey is great fun, but it's not something to contemplate for years like the great books such as Cicero or C.S. Lewis or even more, The Gospel or John or Galatians. I may buy ice cream once or twice a year for a special occasion. We will eat it up quickly and it's great fun, but we don't keep it around. We do, however, keep foods like asparagus, almond milk, and protein powder in the kitchen all the time. They bring us life, so those are foods that are worthy to keep around.
So in the same way that I eat healthy foods, I continue my journey with good books like Cicero, in no big hurry, because learning is not something I ever want to be done with or something that I ever want to have gotten over. No, learning is a life I want to live and be living.