“And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.” Bret Stephens.
Having reverence for books, wisdom and knowledge is vital.
Controversial article? Jews are often smart. Tell me something I don’t know. This was an idea I thought about and discussed with my father almost 50 years ago. He said, and I think his approach has great wisdom, that the Jews had an ancient tradition of literacy (the most ancient in the world) and a great reverence for books, wisdom, and knowledge. Other peoples who similarly have developed or maintained a strong tradition of academic discipline and curiosity have excelled as well: we see this among many peoples but especially the ancient Greeks, Enlightenment Scots, Chinese and others. I consider myself an intellectual and I suppose I am. But both my father and I benefitted from having an education that was partially Jewish through our many Jewish teachers and professors. Next to the Jews, I would say many of my best teachers were Jesuits or Jesuit-educated professors. My grandparents were talented and hard-working people with little formal education not even finishing grade school and going to work as early as age eight. So my grandfather was (apparently) a talented linguist (he could communicate in Hindi, English, Punjabi and some French (as well as his native Gaelic and Scots) but he could not read most of these languages or write them. He was, however, an avid reader of newspapers and periodically and fascinated by geography, maps and atlases. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball traditions and stories (he must have heard thousands of games on the radio and seen hundreds in person) and he remembered dates, names of battles, regiments etc. He also loved music and enjoyed Rachmaninoff, John McCormack whom he saw perform in person. But I don’t think he ever read an entire book in his life. So he knew something about music, poetry and songs but almost nothing about literature. He was very knowledgeable about Socialism and Marxism because he flirted with Socialism/Marxism and therefore Communism as a young man. He escaped the influence of the Red Clyde, however, and by the time I knew him he was a staunch anti-Communist. From my grandfather I developed a love of Scottish songs, military music and baseball. From my parents I was instilled with a reverence for books, music, languages and higher culture. I was aware it was a great privilege to be able to go to school and to afford to buy books and do some travel. Too often people are narrowly educated and stop thinking and reading into adulthood. One problem of education today is that it has become so easy to get (like a supply of freshwater) that young people take for granted the highly subsidized leisure time they have to study and improve their minds. As a teacher, I see the biggest difference between students is one of concentration and discipline and reverence for schooling and education. If one does not have good discipline and respect for education then one will not progress very far. I can’t understand how some people think they can learn a subject in depth without listening and without reading and studying.