Another sign the apocalypse is upon us: Next month, a 272-page joint memoir of the Olsen twins will be published. Titled “Influence”, the autobiography of the child stars will chart their “spiritual and artistic maturation.”
Maturation? They are 22 years old! According to People magazine, the sisters are “gearing up to take the literary world by storm.” I can’t wait. They are planning to “take readers on a journey through their celebrated young lives, pausing to reflect on what has helped shape them into who they are today.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking: How can you criticize something you haven’t even read? Isn’t that what preachers are always doing? Right. Forgive me. It may turn out to be a real page-turner, a downright riveting read. I can’t wait to learn about the 20 people who have most influenced their maturity, most of them fashion models and designers. As one news service rightly points out, missing are such trendsetters as Leo Tolstoy, the Dalai Lama, Jane Austen, Adam Smith and Patti Smith.
“We want to explain culturally how ideas evolve,” declares Ashley’s sister, Mary-Kate, sounding every bit the learned anthropologist. But wouldn’t it help to have a few more of the world’s ideas mastered before attempting to teach about their evolution?
Can you hear the school bell ringing? Children and young adults are pouring back into classrooms this month, and pouring over thick and dense textbooks designed to pass on wisdom as well as facts. Something tells me the Olsen memoir will not be on the reading list.
Facts inform, wisdom forms. Information adds to knowledge; wisdom shapes character. Data can be transmitted in nanoseconds, but ideas require time to absorb. You can TAKS test facts, but wisdom is tested in the course of life. It takes more than 22 years to learn it.
The problems with our celebrity culture are many. Celebrities lose perspective on the difference between style and substance. Those who follow every celebrity update are so up to date they are out of touch with what matters.
You can’t understand geometry just by dividing a circle; you have to know the ideas of a dead Greek named Euclid. You yourself may be able to pen a poem, but knowing one line of Shakespeare can warn you of trouble and deflect you from tragedy. Likewise, becoming acquainted with Moses and David and Jesus and Paul will make you a citizen of the ages instead of just a resident of now.
Learning involves more than personal observation; it requires conversation across time with those who live still through the words and images they have left for us. You can master the spirit of the age and be hip for the moment. But if you join the Spirit of the Ages, you will enter the dance of eternity.
Balance your reading of bestsellers with the classics. Delve into something old along with something new. Ask yourself whether you are feeding your fancy or feeding your soul.
The Southern novelist William Faulkner once said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” It’s past time we learned that.
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