Let me tell you something I can’t help thinking about. It is something I want to do someday. I don’t know if it would be any type of financial success, so I need to somehow make a lot of money first before I jump into this venture in case it doesn’t work or drains my resources. I need to have the resources there to drain.
Picture a large room lined with bookshelves. On these bookshelves are books that I personally have chosen. They are books that I have personally read. The books span a variety of genres, but most of them come back to the most prominent themes in the history of Western civilization. You are going to find a lot of books about freedom. You are going to find a lot of books about Christianity. You’re going to find a lot of books about economics. You are going to find fictional stories of hope and courage. You are going to find beautiful stories of joy and love. In short, you’re going to find a rather limited and selective library full of specially chosen books. They’re not books only purchased to fill the shelves. Each book will be chosen for specific purposes.
Obviously, this will serve as a library. People will be able to check out books and bring them back. Education will be the chief purpose of this location.
This location will also be comfortably furnished to encourage people to join in fellowship. The room itself will not so much be meant for reading. It will be a social space. The books are meant to be borrowed and brought home. The actual space is intended for socializing. We all talk about random things every now and then, but this piece will be used for events. Book clubs will be a fixture, discussing books that are included in this collection. Everyone will be welcome, but the prerequisite for active participation is that you have actually read the book. Anybody can come and observe to understand how this type of discussion works, but if you have not read the book first, then you really have no right to talk about it. How could you even begin? These types of freewheeling discussions are good for bonding, and they sometimes lead to some really fascinating places. They have great value for what they are, but as we all know, there are times when we want to get deeper than just a casual conversation about a particular book or topic.
That’s why it would not end at that point. There would be some type of membership structure which people earn after participating in enough of the discussion sessions. At that point, there would be a form of publication put out by this facility. It would be nothing formal. Perhaps it would be nothing more than a monthly newsletter, but members who have earned the privilege and understand the mission of this type of organization would be able to contribute pieces to this publication. Each month, they would have the opportunity, if they so chose, to present their papers to the body. At that point, iron can sharpen iron. Ideas could be critiqued, debated and ideally made even better. I could hypothetically write something, present it to the rest of the members and be questioned severely. Those questions might make me rethink my ideas. That’s a win for me in the long end. I have moved from a position I held that was incorrect and have gone to a better spot.
I hope you can kind of see how this type of entity would work. It would begin with the foundational ideas. The books are necessary. As part of my doctoral program, we read a lot of material from the Great Books of the Western World. The book collection would go beyond this excellent compilation from Mortimer J Adler, but I think you kind of see the types of works I am aiming towards. People can read them, learn from them and ultimately inform their own worldviews more effectively.
Once we have encountered the ideas by ourselves, it is time to begin discussing them informally. By having a type of book club discussion, we would have the opportunity to not only give our first impressions but hear the impressions of others. I don’t know about you, but when I am at Bible study for example, sometimes hearing what someone else thought about a particular passage jars something in my mind that I had never thought of before. It is a more casual environment, but it forces me to think more deeply. You have to read the books before you can participate, but when many people participate, it is quite possible for each one that come away with a little bit more than they started with.
After having the experience and developing a slightly stronger perspective, it is time to put those ideas to paper. What I said, this would not be any type of formal publication, but it would be something that everyone would be able to read ahead of time, come to the talk prepared, ask questions and interact with the writer. This is a step beyond casual conversation. It is highly prepared conversation. It takes a different level of academic expertise. Anybody can just shoot from the hip and talk about something. Actually committing ideas to paper shows a different level of dedication. It means that you have thought about these ideals and put them in a specific order to present an idea as best you can. Again, this is another, higher level. It is good for our intellectual development.
Why would I ever talk about opening something like this? Why would I be creating some kind of club/library? I don’t think that people think enough for starters. They don’t engage with the foundational works that built Western civilization. Because they don’t do that, they are prone to wander after a variety of terrible ideologies. We need to stop that, so the beginning step is to introduce people to the ideas. Giving them an easy way to get their hands on this material is a great way to do that.
Second, we need to practice talking to each other. We are really good at yelling at each other on social media. It is a lot different to have these conversations in person, face-to-face. I think having a space where people can come, hang out on some comfortable furniture and discuss topics is great. We do that in Bible studies in the church, so why not do it with all kinds of topics?
Third, we need practice creating arguments and defending positions. Logic is woefully lacking in American culture. This type of structure almost makes me think of Toastmasters. They help each other develop speaking skills by getting together and actually doing it. Writing things down and actively critiquing each other after a presentation is helpful. It will develop our skills, and that will benefit people within the group, but it will also help them at work, with their families or really anywhere they have to handle difficult issues with other people.
Like I said, this is some type of bizarre business idea that I have no idea how to execute or pull off. I don’t think it would be profitable financially, so I need to make sure I have plenty of passive income streams to support me while I figure out how to do this. That being said, I think it would fulfill some of the greatest needs in our society. It would be good if people learned how to think, discuss and argue effectively and decently. Maybe this little dream organization I have could help do that.