In all of the above regards, it is not nearly enough to go about our workaday lives, ride the current wave of technological wizardry, and ingratiate superficial curiosities and pleasures through daily “kicks” of information, gossip, and messaging. — For those persons desirous of a broader and deeper awareness of our true situation, our most important responsibilities, and the authentic measures of human dignity, an education which introduces us to the centuries-old roots of present-day life as well as to the insights, arguments, and claims of our political, poetic, philosophic, and spiritual forbears is of crucial importance. It is so because an education principally focused upon the necessary and appropriately satisfying rewards of professional employment and conventions cannot speak to our deeper selves, cannot touch those dimensions of the human soul which lie in wait for a deeper wonder and a sharp-sighted clarity that goes to the heart of things. It is only fair to say, of course, that our times do accord us much in the way of opportunities, conveniences, health, and longevity. But an education that unveils to us the extraordinary reaches of human and religious aspirations enhances our humanity in ways that exceed what is merely necessary, useful, and of limited range.
Additionally – and most importantly – conflicts and differing perspectives among authors who purport to teach humankind originate and point to contemporary confusion about the purposes or ends of human life itself. Thus, an education that brings into relief this confusion and the permanent importance of getting our priorities in order is an education that is worthwhile in itself, amplifies inquiry, and can come to guide our most profound needs. At the same time, an education steeped in the great books is an education that introduces us to humanity’s recurring questions and to the most thoughtful answers of history’s most intelligent and serious statesmen, historians, scientists, poets, philosophers, and theologians. More particularly, what such an education can do is to unearth or shed light upon alternative understandings of ultimate ends and ways of life as articulated in the greatest classical, Christian, and modern authors. In a variety of fashions, we who live in the 21st century – knowingly or unknowingly — have been touched or affected by more than a few such authors and carry within us concomitant tensions. And while such tensions may not keep us awake at night, they nonetheless invite (or compel) us to seek a proper ordering of the ends and inclinations that have made their way into our souls and to seek as well for the true bases of such an ordering.