What to read?

What to read? If you are going to add to the (real) Western tradition, how do you get started and figure out what to read, and so on (whether at the outset or in media res)?

One answer is with standardized curricula. Big books that one plods through, set out at the beginning. The idea here is that an expert already knows how best for you to approach an aspect of Western tradition.

Obviously, experts are useful in this area. However, I think the Christian perspective can add something to this. Discernment.

Just as Christianity is in part habitually asking God for guidance, listening for that guidance, and acting upon it (and improving one’s ability to do these things – collectively known as the practice of ‘discernment’), one can apply this habit to reading, exploring, and building upon Western Civilization.

This can apply to all of education (and has points of contact with ‘free learning’ or ‘unschooling’ movements), where a focus on developing a relationship with God and listening to what He is guiding you to explore is what fuels the educational flame, instead of curricula that are often set by bureaucrats.

Within the Christian practice of discernment, there are various tools available to figure out how to move forward with one’s education. For examples, keep a lookout for things that catch a certain element of fascination within you – that ‘call’ to you. Similarly, keep a lookout for non-chance coincidences where a certain idea or element recurs or strikes you in a significant way. And so on.

This isn’t to say curricula set up for exploring the classical Western tradition (say), or for learning a language, and so on, aren’t useful. Of course they are! It is to say that one should, from a Christian perspective, all the same be listening for prompts from God. It turns out that navigating the terrain of education is a very complex task, one which ought to (from the Christian perspective) be made more effective by working with prompts from God.

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