Friday, January 13, 2012
The Intelletual Life: Read This Book!
There are some books that have the ability to change the way you look at things, and this is one of them. Written originally back in 1921, 'The Intellectual Life' by A.G. Sertillanges O.P. is a manual for those interested in the intellectual life of study. But is is much more than that, it is a manual on how to live. The book is based upon a Thomistic framework, explaining first what the intellectual life is and why one would engage in such work. The author makes it clear that there can be no real intellectual work without virtue, being regularly engaged in prayer, and of course being in the state of grace. Discipline of the body is also expressed. One who cannot control their appetite for example makes a poor intellectual. It is extremely important to have a regular schedule in life, having the same time each day to pray, to exercise, to study, and of course fulfill your regular obligations of work and family, etc. The author even touches upon getting proper sleep, not too much, yet not too little, and even gives advice on how to make your sleep productive.
The second half of the book explains how to actually engage in study. He talks about always using the methods of Saint Thomas to form one's intellectual foundation, starting first learning the basic principles of philosophy and logic. The book teaches you how to read and how to properly research the subjects you want to study. He teaches you how to take notes and how to write well. How you spend your time with others and how you engage with them is also talked about. In short, the author teaches you not really how to study or how to write as a separate work, but he teaches you what it actually means to be an intellectual in the true sense of the word. It is not something that you do, but something that you become. He teaches you how to integrate your daily work, your family life, your spiritual life and your study so that you can always be active in living "the intellectual life." If there is one book you should read before you read any others, this is it. It has changed the way I think about life, and it is rare that a book has this effect. It has made me think about what is important in life. I am now on a mission to remove any obstacles that will keep me from achieving a well ordered life towards God, and towards my studies.
The author also has another great book available titled, 'Thomas Aquinas, Scholar, Poet, Mystic, Saint'. It is an introductory book on Saint Thomas which gives a basic sketch of his life, his thought, his spirituality and his work. It is only 140 pages, but it is a great book to read along with 'The Intellectual Life.' I find it always rewarding to go back and read introductory works on Saint Thomas. There is always something to be learned from them. If you implement what these two books teach, then I believe that you will be made a better person in doing so.