You can also read Part 1 and Part 2. 🙂 This month, my Charlotte Mason book club read Book II, Part II—The Will, chapters 3-10 of Ourselves. As with last month, I had a harder time wading through this section, I think mainly because I’m going to bed way too late these days and apparently brains need sleep to function – go figure.
Here are some quotes I liked from this month’s reading…
We do a worse hurt to ourselves when we dress … our minds in ready-made opinions; because, in so far as we do so, we lose the chance of using our Will; we act as an automaton and not as a person; and no more fulfill our function than do the sham plants used in tawdry decorations. – vol 4 pg 144
This whole section was about the “will” and what exactly that is, giving examples of how people can move through their entire lives without exercising their will. This quote stuck out for me specifically because of our current political situation and how so many people are voting for one candidate or another because they follow partisan lines without thinking for themselves or choosing on their own how they might feel about a certain topic. The “other side” is only the enemy and couldn’t possibly have a good argument for why they believe the way they do, so uphold the party at whatever cost.
“Automaton” is a great way to put it.
Life, you will say, becomes too laborious if every choice matters, and is to be made at first hand. – vol 4 pg 145
This was more comical to me than particularly profound. B and C ask me at last a half a million questions a day and I think I have some kind of disorder because I really have to think about each and every question and give an honest and accurate answer….which gets to be exhausting. A simple yes or no, though, doesn’t immediately pop out of my mouth. I actually have to decide to make it simple and just say something, anything at all.
Too laborious indeed.
It is well, however, to know what it is that we choose between. Things are only signs which represent ideas. Several times a day we shall find two ideas presented to our minds; and we must make our choice upon right and reasonable grounds. The things themselves which stand for the ideas may not seem to matter much; but the choice matters. Every such exercise makes personality the stronger; while it grows the weaker for every choice we shirk. – vol 4 pg 146 (emphasis mine)
This goes along with the first quote. Again, the more we allow others to make our decisions for us or simply go with the crowd, we lose out on growing our will and making ourselves into deeper thinkers who not only see the value in having an opinion, but also in themselves as the opinion holders.
The dishonest fallacy, that it is our business to get the best that is to be had at the lowest price, is another cause of infinite waste of time, money, and nervous energy. The haunting of sales, the ransacking of shop after shop, the sending for patterns here, there, and everywhere, and various other immoralities, would be avoided if we began with the deliberate will-choice of a guiding principle; that, for example, we are not in search of the best and the cheapest, but, of what answers our purpose at the price we can afford to pay.
The mad hunt for the best, newest, most striking, and cheapest, is not confined to matters of dress and ornament, household use and decoration. We are apt to run after our opinions and ideas with the same restless uncertainty. Indeed, it is ideas we hunt all the time; even if we go to a sale with the dishonest and silly notion that we shall get such and such a thing––’a bargain,’ that is, for less than its actual worth.
It is well to remember that in all our relations of life, our books and friends, our politics and our religion, the act of choice, the one possible act of the Will, has always to be performed between ideas. It is not that ideas stand for things; but things stand for ideas, and we have to ask ourselves what we really mean by allowing this and that, by choosing the one or the other. Are we going after the newest and cheapest things in morals and religion? are we picking up our notions from the penny press or from the chance talk of acquaintances? If we are, they are easily come by, but will prove in the end a dear bargain. We have expended the one thing that makes us of value, our personality, upon that which is worth nothing. – vol 4 pg 149-150 (emphasis mine)
I honestly highlighted this entire section (entitled, “Cheap ‘Notions.'”) We live in a world that values “the best, newest, most striking, and cheapest” above all else, including the lives of others, our health, or morals, etc. Does it really just boil down to a bad case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” or even just conforming to whatever everyone else is doing or believing so as not to be different? If we became more thinking people, perhaps we would see how this conformation and need to be better than the neighbors doesn’t benefit anyone except maybe marketing firms, executives of multi-national companies, and people of that ilk. If we think for ourselves, we rise above the pettiness of the status quo.
Self-restraint, the ordering of our appetites; self-control, the keeping back the expression of our passions and emotions; self-command, which keeps our temper from running away with us; self-denial, which causes us to do without things that we want––all these may be excellent; but there is a better way.
When the Will aims at what is without self and more than self, the appetites are no longer ravenous, nor the emotions overpowering, nor the temper rebellious (except for a quick, impulsive instant, followed by regret and recovery). – vol 4 pg 154
This part actually reminded me of a CS Lewis quote…. “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” I don’t know that humility and will have much to do with each other, but the idea that instead of thinking about ourselves all the time and what we need to stop doing or how we need to do better, and instead filling our minds with something outside of ourselves, by default, allows us to be less involved with “self” is profound to me.
Love, and the service of love, are the only things that count. – vol 4 pg 155
I didn’t actually highlight this quote….it was pointed out to me by the other members of the book club. I think the fact that it didn’t stick out to me means I really need to start getting more sleep, and/or, I really need to work on loving others…
…in all labour there is profit, and without labour there is no profit, whether in things of the heart or of the hand. – vol 4 pg 159
Life isn’t easy for anyone, yet we often expect it to be that way, even so far as feeling cheated if it isn’t. But I know that for me, the times I have felt the most satisfied and fulfilled have been when I’ve worked hard for something. Profit doesn’t only come in the shape of the thing worked for, but also in the work itself.
This question of influence is, by the way, very interesting. The old painters pictured the saints with a nimbus, a glory, coming out of them. The saint with a nimbus suggests what seems to be a universal truth, that each of us moves, surrounded by an emanation from his own personality; and this emanation is the influence which affects everyone who comes near him. Generosity emanates, so to speak, from the generous person; from the mean person, meanness. Those who come in contact with the generous become generous themselves; with the mean, mean. – vol 4 pg 162
This quote is both enlightening and very convicting. I feel that I tend to have more of the “mean nimbus.” I at least see myself radiating meanness more than generosity quite often. I know several people with a “generous nimbus” and I’d love to know their secret….maybe it has something to do with the self-restraint quote….
None of us can be proof against the influences that proceed from the persons he associates with. Wherefore, in books and men, let us look out for the best society, that which yields a bracing and wholesome influence. – vol 4 pg 163
And this is where the “generous curriculum” comes in to play. By having kids read the “best” of many different subjects, they gain the best that society and history have to offer.
In the spiritual as well as in the natural world, great means are always simple. – vol 4 pg 167
Simplicity is life.
Good quotes all around! We’ll be finishing the book next month!