My Elder Son Reads Everything

My elder son, the dreamy quiet planet, has the most curious mind I’ve ever encountered.

He never rejects an idea outright–first he acquaints himself with who and what is behind the idea and then finds out who influenced their thinking and he checks them out too. He will swim in the seas of an idea for a while before deciding whether he accepts or rejects it, and then washes up on the next shore, then the next. His library is formidable, and he is never intimidated (as I sometimes am) by a really thick book with tiny type. Sometimes he’ll push a book on me that I know is way beyond my ken and I’ll say, “I don’t think…” and he’ll say, “of course you can read this! You just have to want to!”

I am flattered that my son thinks I am as smart as he is, but I know it is not true.

Anyway, for me his regime of constant-study would be exhausting. As I’ve often confessed, when I am tired, I must retreat to the Discworld or Heyerland. I cannot keep so many ideas and philosophies in my mind; I can’t retain so much relevant information (his memory is astounding; basically once he’s read something, it’s stored forever. I can’t even remember what I wrote two days ago!)

For Christmas this Elder Son gave me two books touching on a subject I’ve been exploring on my own, and then the other day he shot me an e-mail about Dietrich von Hildebrand.

A little astonished, I asked, “how did you get to von Hildebrand!” and he wrote back,

Hildebrand, like Marion and John Paul II, was also coming at theology from a perspective informed by phenomenology. I am not familiar with much of his writing but I think these quotes are very much up your alley.

Yes, I keep telling him to read a little Edith Stein, since she was something of a phenomenology prodigy. But anyway, today answers me with this great email:

[Someone] brought him up after he noticed I was reading about virtue ethics.

Also, though it’s not exactly related to your last post (the “Jesus vs. Religion” one), something in there put me in mind of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He’s an epistemologist and probability theorist who adheres to a philosophy of skeptical empiricism in most aspects of life, but is also an Orthodox Christian.

“Scepticism is effortful and costly. It is better to be sceptical about matters of large consequences, and be imperfect, foolish and human in the small and the aesthetic.” …

Startlingly, this great sceptic, this non-guru who believes in nothing, is still a practising Christian. He regards with some contempt the militant atheism movement led by Richard Dawkins.

“Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance. Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman? You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of candles. It’s an aesthetic thing.”

Take away religion, he says, and people start believing in nationalism, which has killed far more people. Religion is also a good way of handling uncertainty. It lowers blood pressure. He’s convinced that religious people take fewer financial risks.’

Incidentally, I really like his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (no relation to the movie). When I get it back from [a friend] I’m gonna loan my copy to Dad. It’s a much quicker and more rollicking read than the last one I lent him.

Rollicking. Yeah. My son finds this stuff rollicking! He doesn’t understand that his poor father can’t read two pages of anything without falling into slumber, these days, and his mother is just not all that smart.

But he reads my blog! That’s flattering.

Then again, he does read everything.

I am going to have to write better!

Images mine.

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About Elizabeth Scalia