Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Year and A New Title

Welcome, and a Happy New Year to you all!

The observant reader will notice that the title of this site has changed. The unobservant reader is probably trying to find the right sidebar item to update his fantasy football roster. I have contemplated changing the title of this site for some time. There are several reasons for this.

First, though the title DomiNickan is intended to refer to my association with the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, it often instead has led people to believe that I am a member of the Dominican Order. I wish neither to confuse people nor to bank off of the good name of those itinerant preachers. 

Second, since I have now completed my degrees, I feel it is time for me to shove off from the school's shores and give my blog an independent title, though I will always be the first evangelist and apologist for the school's mission. 

Third, I wanted a title that evoked a deeper idea than a pun that relies on a misspelling.

Thus, goodbye, DomiNickan, and thanks.

Why Two Old Books, then?

This phrase refers to a quote from C.S. Lewis, and speaks to my own beliefs and motivations for writing. Lewis wrote an introduction to a new edition of St. Athanasius' book On the Incarnation. (Keep in mind the historical context: this was the time at which the study of the Church Fathers was coming back into fashion, and new editions and compilations of their works were being published by men like Danielou, Von Balthasar, and DeLubac.) In it Lewis offers a reflection on students' relation to classic texts:

Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed atsome other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance... It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

You can find it in its entirety here, and I suggest you read it.

There is much wisdom in this invitation. Certain works have inspired generation after generation, remaining always fresh and relevant. They have served as fodder for reflection for centuries and millennia. Why should we not also draw from their wellsprings and gain the same inspiration? Why should we be content to read Sparknotes and not Shakespeare? To read Thomists and not read Thomas? To read biblical commentaries and not the Bible?

I will go beyond Lewis, though, and suggest that you read two old books for every new book you read. There's a simple reason for this: there's a lot more of the past than there is of the present. There are a lot more old books that have proven themselves than there are new books that appear promising. Our Catholic Faith is rich with millennia of history, philosophy, theology, poetry, and literature--great minds thinking deep thoughts on important questions. So much to read and experience!

Additionally, as Lewis mentions, becoming acquainted with old ideas inoculates us against the same ancient errors that rise zombie-like every generation to terrorize us anew, and revives for us valuable ideas and insights from the past that have since fallen out of fashion. 

I am not going to develop some trope where I always mention two old books in my posts. That would be tedious, obvious, and just plain uninteresting. But I do tend to cite classic works anyway, so it might work out that way unintentionally. 

Thank you for visiting. I hope you will be back often, and in this new year I hope to provide material for your enjoyment more regularly. I am always open to suggestions for topics. Let me know what you want to know about!

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