I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.
This quote from Thoreau could have been my theme for 2005. Perhaps because of a slight improvement in health, or perhaps because I had whittled my daily chores down to an absolute minimum, I was able suck out more of the marrow of life this year than I have since I got sick with ME/CFS. Living with this (or any) disease is an art, and after four years I am starting to get the hang of it.
Much of the year, especially the early part, was spent decluttering, physically and mentally. Everything that was no longer serving me (or had never served me!) had to go. I sorted through the piles and boxes resulting from years of procrastination followed by years of total exhaustion. The piles and boxes are not completely banished yet, but they have been significantly reduced, which has freed up a lot of physical and mental room for new life to enter.
Much of that new life is documented here. I am on a quest to give myself a liberal arts education, inspired by the likes of Susan Wise Bauer and Mortimer Adler, with the aim of understanding more about where we’ve come from and what we’re about. This is easier said than done when you wake up every morning feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck (some days it’s just a pickup, other days it’s a fully loaded cement truck). But the urge to remain horizontal in no way negates the urge to grow and learn, so here I am despite protests from my anatomy.
My intention for 2006 is to do more of the same: clear space, physically and mentally, so that deeper, truer life has somewhere to be. I have a very systematic reading program in mind, beginning with the long delayed How to Read a Book, followed by the much acclaimed Robert’s New History of the World. This will be the foundation for a survey of literature, starting with the Norton Anthology of World Literature, followed by the Norton Anthology of Western Literature, and finally the Norton Anthology of English Literature.
I don’t expect to accomplish all this by year’s end, but if I can get stuck into the Nortons before 2007 I’ll be satisfied. This doesn’t include my spiritual reading, which has definitely languished this year and requires renewal. I’m sure there will also be delightful detours along the way (the Slaves of Golconda being one of them), but I hope to keep moving in the same general direction for the duration of the new year.
I can sometimes give myself a hard time for not having accomplished more this year, but in a way it is appropriate that I didn’t launch into this reading program in 2005 because I have only just now built up a reference library that can support it. The jewel in my reference crown is of course the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which is wending its way toward me at this very moment. I am also now the proud owner of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and will soon be in possession of a new atlas, history encyclopedia, and guide to classical mythology. There are other reference works on my wish list, but I certainly have more than enough to get started.
I also have to remind myself that at the beginning of the year I was very keen on getting and reading the Great Books of the Western World set, and thought that the Encyclopaedia Britannica was completely out of the question. What a difference a year makes! Now I no longer want to clog my shelves with books I may only read once. With my new study skills I can keep proper notes and let the library bear the burden of acquiring and storing all the great books. I also switched my allegiance to the Norton Anthologies for their breadth and scope, and, as I mentioned before, amazon.ca is practically giving away the E.B., so that dream has come true. For me, 2005 was a year of preparing the soil. Here’s hoping 2006 will bear much fruit.
I wish all my visitors a happy, peaceful, and bookish New Year!