Monday, April 17, 2006

We've been on a family trip to Kentucky to see Grandma Yost for her 95th birthday (note, I originally put that at 96th, my bad -- ed.).

May you have many more, Mildred Yost.

To wind down after two days on the road (with three kids in the car) I watched “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” I didn’t see it in the theatres though I had wanted to, but with family and schedule I had to choose between seeing it by myself, or seeing “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with my oldest son, Nigel. Nigel won. I think I made out as well, as the Narnia stories are wonderful and the film was very true to the original story. So tonight I watched the DVD of Harry Potter, and my first response was that it was time to re-read the books.


For the fifth time.

And that got me thinking.

We have become so used to the overflow of riches that we have in the West. I don’t mean money or goods, though we have those.
We have an amazing amount of knowledge and literature at our very fingertips. Sometimes we make fun of the ‘fans’ who devour popular books and endlessly debate minor points or pick out flaws that the author missed. ‘Trekkies’ are laughed at. HP is ‘just for kids.’ Pick a popular subject, and you can easily find those who will ridicule its followers. I can even remember reading a Dilbert strip where Dogbert chastises Dilbert for rereading a novel; after all, he knew how it was going to end.

Abraham Lincoln grew up owning, reading and rereading maybe a dozen books. Longfellow’s library was in movable cases, and there were so few that all of them were grabbed up and safely removed from a house he lived in when that house caught fire. The known library of Leonardo may have been two dozen books, or less.

Historically, people have read and reread the same bits of non-fiction and literature over and over again. People committed whole books to memory not because they were so much smarter than you and I, but because they read the ink off of the pages.

The bards of old memorized the Iliad and the Odyssey not just because they were the best literature, but maybe because they were the only literature available.

I don’t think we should laugh at the people who wear funny costumes, go to ‘Sci-Fi’ conventions and flash a Vulcan peace sign or sport a lightning bolt on their foreheads. They are a lot closer to the spirit of the ancient poets than we are.

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