Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Smart Problem

Reading Surprised by Joy this morning and C. S. Lewis described a loss in the 'old thrill' of the texts and things that used to give him wonder and joy. He said the whole problem was that there came a change in seeking not the thing itself of which joy was a byproduct, but instead seeking the joy and the "thing" as a means to that joy.
Here in, lies the incredible danger in being told, often, that I am smart and talented. The unforeseen problem of being accepted to study abroad at Oxford University this summer, is that people's automatic remark is "wow. you're smart!"
The danger is that i have begun to believe them. The old pleasure was in reading for hours on end because T. S. Elliot makes me feel things I can't explain. C. S. Lewis opens up doors to rooms in my mind that I didn't know existed but, once entered, feel as if I'd been thinking about them my entire life. I cannot read Plato without suddenly feeling as if the world is a little clearer, a little better, and virtue a little more tangible.
It has slowly and imperceptibly been being replaced by the feeling that i "ought" to read big books because "I'm smart" and because "I understand" the things most people don't understand. If i really remembered my first love of knowledge i would remember that I fell in love with The Hollow Men when i understood about a fourth of it. That i cried when Sydney Carton died.
That i was not searching for the "joy'' in being smart by reading those books. I simply read them because I loved them better than anything. This is my attempt at honesty, and my search to regain my passion which is not for my own advancement, but to seek the thing itself. If going to Oxford this summer is about being smart, then it's not worth going.

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