Intellectual Endeavors

smart optimist

Such a smarty pants that Optimist is, listening to lectures on his ipod while he walks

Today we passed the 1000 mile marker and completed our fifth state in moving from West Virginia into Maryland. I thought it was time to share one of my favorite joys I’ve experienced while walking ten to twelve hours a day. There are many good parts including the scenery, the conversations, my thoughts about the past and the future, and for a couple hours a day, my lectures.

If you’ve ever visited me, you know I make quite the effort to look like an intellectual and I actually believe that I still honestly want to continue to grow intellectually. I have a fabulous book collection, courses to learn Mandarin, Arabic, and Spanish, along with music theory books, instruments, and lectures on CDs . The funny thing is that I rarely use any of them though I always dream about doing so. I tend to stay busy with the current projects or life I am living and don’t spend much time actually developing my intellect as I really feel I should.

The trail has changed all this. I walk all day and have found that I really enjoy listening to people talk about things. I don’t know that I care what subject it is really about, I simply enjoy hearing about everything. It stimulates my mind in so many ways and gives me things to think about for hours. This is where my lecture collection has fit in perfectly.

A little info on the lectures: they’re a series of lectures that are supposed to be college level courses from top college professors. The subjects range from math to politics, science, philosophy, history, and just about everything else you could imagine. I am indebted to my friend Steve, the developer and inspiration for this website, because for a graduation gift a few years ago, he presented me with thousands of hours of these lectures.

I typically take a couple hours each afternoon and listen to the lectures. For the first five weeks of the trail, I worked through an 85 lecture series on Great Minds of the Western Philosophic Tradition. Each lecture was thirty minutes in length and by the end we had covered the tradition going back to the ancient Greeks all the way through contemporary philosophers. It was so much fun. I looked forward to it each day, some philosophers more than others but overall, almost every lecture was enjoyable. In retrospect, it would have been helpful to have listened to this series at the beginning of my undergrad in philosophy. I would have actually had a context for placing all the ideas, thinkers, and concepts of the tradition and better understood all the parts by first seeing the whole.

It’s never too late to learn though. I am invigorated and motivated to continue learning. My parents are meeting with us tomorrow with all sorts of goodies one which includes my lecture CDs so I may add new ones to my iPod. I’m not sure what I’ll go with next but am thinking about Economics and possibly Chinese history. There are so many options. I am currently listening to a series on the legacies of great economists.

Lastly, in thinking big picture about all this, I see trying to insert this sort of learning into my daily life off the trail as well. I hope to walk sixty minutes or so a day once off the trail so I may listen to lectures daily. I imagine that should I listen to these for the rest of my life, it can only improve my perspective on so many things that my life could only be enriched. I recognize how much time I often waste, even when busy with work, running, or whatever else I’m involved in. I’m usually tired or simply want to turn off my brain and watch TV. It feels so good to be turned on right now intellectually and I endeavor to carry it on throughout the trail and into the next life that we choose to lead.

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