Why Read the Classics? What is a Classic?

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What are the Classics, you ask? Well if you know me you know I’m going to subject their definition to an analogy of sorts, or multiple. And thus, create more questions than I answer. But you will none the less have a greater idea what makes a classic, and why you should read them, after reading this short blog.

Socrates claimed in 400BC “A man lives a happier life if he is just, even if he is thrown starving into prison for the rest of his life, than if he is unjust and celebrated for the rest of his days.”

Was he right to say this? 

Many of the questions asked by the big thinkers of 2 millennia ago, still irritate and call on the mind’s of the big thinkers of today. 

Shakespeare’s works are almost 500 years old and they still evoke such a deep expression of our human nature, depicted in the depths of lust, greed, envy, pride, and ambition. 

What moves the human heart? What can Shakespeare’s characters (of whom we can barely understand) teach us about ourselves in a modern society? 

What can we learn from modern Classics? Is there modern Classics? 

I would say the Star Wars have become a Classic, as well as The Lord of the Rings, and other feature films and famous books you hear about without even reading or watching.  

But will we still watch and read those Classics of Modernity in the next centuries to come? Will Star Wars be preserved into hologram film and watched by space children in the year 2500 (or something)? Or the year 4000 if George Lucas’ legacy is to be as successful and impactful on history as was our Socrates’? 

I’m going to make an argument of why you should read the RIGHT, OLD BOOKS.  IN THE RIGHT WAY. 

There are a lot of these books, so why should we spend our time going over what is considered to be ‘outdated’ in our society? Don’t we know everything we need to know from the books of before? 

Why read the RIGHT BOOKS, THE RIGHT WAY? And what is the RIGHT WAY?

Let’s start by saying there are a lot of books out there, and the number is just growing.

That means you’re going to have to be extremely picky on what you spend your time reading. Because even if you read a book a day for the rest of your life, you aren’t even going to make a 1% dent in the archives of the Library of Congress. And if you don’t read them the right way, you aren’t going to get anything from it! What do I mean by this? Let’s just say a year or two into my classic’s studies I picked up a book called: The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli – tried reading it, and put it down after 10 painful-to-read pages. I was getting ahead of myself. It wasn’t until another year or two of studies that I came back to read it (after reading the works of Will Durant: a brilliant writer and historian) that I was able to understand what I would say is more than 50% of the book!

Jordan Peterson, a Harvard Professor of Clinical Psychology, known for his skills as a Social Scientist, said in his second book; 12 Rules for Life; “If I can understand 50% of Dante’s Inferno.” (A Classic even I’m fearful of taking on) “Then I will come out of it that much greater a thinker, and be that much more effective in society.”     

Many of the Classics find their birthplace in Ancient Greece, and it is the merger of Greek and Jewish thinking that birthed the principles of Christianity that so unified Western European spiritualities. But the worship of Christ was illegal for many hundreds years still After Death. The Christians were working in secret on perhaps the most famous Classic of all time, you may have heard of this one too. It’s called; The Bible. An amalgam of history’s most impactful and inspiring, moral and dignified stories. One does not simply study the history of Western thought without studying The Bible, and the great Thinkers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. (That is like walking into Mordor with a Ring…) These books are Living, as their effects on society have stood the tests of time and can still be studied insurmountably. The Bible is still discussed every Sunday for hours, by millions, and all the days in between. And the Classics are still discoursed by the finest thinker of today. 

Will you join them with me?  

Start by making a list of 5 Classics you’d like to read, and why.

(P.S. Don’t start with Moby Dick… Or James Joyce’s Ulysses… I beg you. Depending on your reading skills maybe start with The Great Gasby, or The Lord of The Flies, or even Shakespeare).


Mackenzie Andres.


Founder | Copywriter

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