Do the people that you surround yourself with know which books mean the most to you? Your close friends, your spouse, and your children should know which books strengthen you. Why? Books — whether non-fiction or fiction — give insights into what flames your soul. Not only books, but also poems. Yes, I said it — poems.
The rugged “man’s man” of the early twentieth century and former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, knew this fact all too well. He knew the value of the written word… so much so, that he had a special watertight box built for him to carry around the written works of Shakespeare.
In a recent all-employee meeting, we discussed the value of books and poems. In that context, we talked about the liberal arts mindset that is evident on our campus. This liberal arts impulse flows just below the surface and inspires everyone around us. What is this liberal arts mindset, you ask?
There are many ways to answer that question. I like Josiah Bunting’s list of characteristics from his speech, “Leadership and the Liberal Arts,” wherein he defines the liberal arts mindset. As the President of the Virginia Military Institute, he presented an address to his future soldiers. The room was full of engineers, mathematicians, and military science experts. And, in that auspicious room, he declared that humans flourish in the liberal arts tradition. Here are some of the key points from Bunting’s speech… he asserts that a liberal mindset produces:
- Self-education: The person continues to learn, and learn, and learn.
- Literary touchstones: We all have poems and literary works deep in our souls.
- Prejudice: Knowing true, good and beautiful, and false, bad and ugly — and saying so.
- Intellectual self-reliance: The person who can allow their mind to chart new territory.
- Emulation: Be willing to copycat amazing role models in your life and in history.
- Deliberate solitude: Making time to think quietly without interruptions.
- Schooled indifference: Resisting immediate impulses and allows time to ponder.
- Unassailable curiosity: Be interested and active to discover God’s created order.
The liberal arts educational model spurs everyone to be the kind of people who have a poem in their pocket. Whether we are deeply aware of it or not, SFC flows with a poetic aroma just below the surface. So, what is the poem in your pocket? The one that flames your soul? If you don’t have a book or a poem that resonates with you, I encourage you to search for the written work that does flame your soul, and share it with the ones you love. In the spirit of the liberal arts mindset and this article, I’ll share one of my favorites with you: “Love III” by George Herbert.