Read Old Books to Think Great Thoughts

Today there is more to read than ever. Traditional and social news sites are filled with the latest buzz stories repeated ad nauseam. One is pressed to keep up. Amid the endless competition to make headlines and build traffic there is no enduring value.

When I read exclusively new material for an extended period I lose confidence. Each story seems to blend together into meaningless jargon. I feel empty and depressed. Nothing matters because whatever I learn today will be old news tomorrow. If you are someone searching for meaning in life, I am sure you have felt this way as well.

Whenever this happens, I have learned to turn back to the classics, the old enduring books that have stood the test of time and retain their luster. The common perception of old books is that they are antiquated and useless. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We believe, with our technology, that we have reinvented life. But this is not the case. The gadgets that surround us are minor details, the essence of life remains unchanged. It feels the same to be alive today as it did a thousand years ago. Look into yourself and you will know this is true. We are still lone souls confined to our thoughts, facing the same challenges.

Everything has its particular place. Old books cannot give you the weather forecast or teach you to write a javascript. But what they will teach you is how to live. They will teach you what it means to be human. They will give you a firm place to stand against the assault of constant change. The wisdom of the greatest human minds passed down through centuries is our most reliable asset.

I am not alone in this opinion. I leave you with this passage from the immortal Albert Einstein.

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best the books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely nearsighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.

There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste with a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind.

Nothing is more needed than to overcome the modernist’s snobbishness.