There’s a saying in the liberal arts world that everything that one needs to learn in order to be a culturally and socially aware person and live a conscious life can be learned by spending 15 minutes a day reading from a collection of books that could fit on a five-foot shelf.
The idea of the “Five Foot Shelf”, “has been described as a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement… characterised by challenging encounters with important issues, and more a way of studying than a specific course or field of study.”
According to Wikipedia,
“The decline of liberal education is often attributed to mobilization during the Second World War. The premium and emphasis placed upon mathematics, science, and technical training caused the loss of its prominent position in higher education studies.”
Initially, a liberal arts education was intended to produce a “virtuous, knowledgeable, and articulate person.” And then, like with everything else it seems, learning came to be controlled by the church. The church added arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy to the core courses and ultimately a liberal arts education was deemed a luxury… an education fit for those who came from wealth.
For me, what’s interesting about this evolution in education is that once one learns how to read of course, the ideas contained in the books on the “Five Foot Shelf”, teach on their own. Opposed to the math and science where instruction is usually necessary, no teacher is required for the books on the five foot shelf.
The books expose the reader to integrity through various ways of thinking and that provides the opportunity to view the world differently. Each book builds upon the next, regardless of the order one reads them in. All the while informing the reader of new potential thought processes that invite the reader to integrate the mindsets they like and rejecting the ones they do not.
So the next time you consider reading a book. Take a look at the this anthology (collection/list of books) and pick something you’ve never read by someone you’ve never heard of… chances are, the book will express a way of thinking that you’ve never considered.
We’re all doing our best to be happy, so we use what works for us, and discard what doesn’t.
At what point should one stop learning new ways to be happy though?