Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Intellectual Life as an Intellectual Labor, Introduction

This month a book club I participate in is reading A.G. Sertillanges' book, The Intellectual Life. The book is a lengthy meditation on and preparation for the life given by the book's title. I've read it once before and was excited by many of its insights, but I've not made much conscious use of them (I do hope some profitable unconscious effects have been produced!). This time around I'm attempting to be more intentional in my approach. The remaining post is an outline of that intention.

Phase I: Tilling & Sowing

In the first phase of reading The Intellectual Life, I'll be writing meditative summaries of the book's chapters after reading each one. Sertillanges' book is very well organized and lends itself to easy summary. The ease is dangerous, however, since it would be deceptive to think that one has profited by summarizing the points of each chapter and its sections. Sertillanges' language is so simple that it gives the appearance of ease, where great difficulty is actually present. Thus, I've added the task of "meditative" to my summaries; allowing room for my thoughts to analogize, apply, question, and so forth, and put all of that into written words. I'll then type the meditative summaries on this blog, critically reviewed and potentially substantively altered.

Phase II: Watering & Weeding

If it can be done, I am hoping to draw in a couple of the other men from book club to develop some specific applications of Sertillanges' book in some aspect of our own lives, whether as part of our individual development, or as a part of our vocations (several of us are teachers, who are paid to pursue an intellectual life, in my opinion). The very first chapter of Sertillanges' book emphasizes the necessity of community both as a necessary part of the intellectual vocation as a productive art (giving it life & health), as well as a recipient of the intellectual vocation's produce (partaking of its fruit). Phase II will be harder to accomplish, but will certainly make the fruit of higher quality and of greater quantity.

Phase III: Harvesting & Feasting

Should the work reach completing, there should be some fruits to be enjoyed and shared with others. There are some vague ideas in my mind of what fruit might result (curricular changes, pedagogical changes, articles written, lectures given, seminars conducted, etc.) but there will be plenty of room for surprise, especially if some non-teachers are able to join in the labor.

Phase IV: Composting & Reproducing

In the wake of our feasting, I hope the leftovers will lead into future activities of like kind, whether they involve repeating The Intellectual Life, or moving on to a different book, or developing an analogous project with some other medium or means of application. This is the vaguest and least imaginable phase, since it is so dependent upon the labors that have only just begun. However, I hope to look back upon this beginning in a few months, or a year, or more, and find that it was not wholly in vain.

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