Thursday, May 20, 2004

How Not to Begin the Day

A thoroughly bad way to begin the day is by reading a newspaper. For it is not only the hands that get dirty, and the house cluttered; the mind in its early morning freshness is degraded by useless facts, polluted with badly written opinions, and suborned by seductive advertising. There is plenty of time later in the day to load up on the sort of drivel with which one must deal in order to survive in an imperfect world. The mornings should be kept free and clear under the aegis of Thoreau’s admonition, “Read not The Times, read the The Eternities.”

The morning is to the night as virtue is to vice. It follows that one should so arrange one’s life as to secure the maximum quantity of morning. Arise early, before the birds. The true lover of silence finds even the birds too noisy. In the morning all is cool, clean, and quiet. The worldlings are asleep, the universe is yours. Now read something worth reading, something that inspires, improves, ennobles, challenges. There are the great scriptures to choose from: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dhammapada, the Old and New Testaments. There are great writers such as Shakespeare and Melville. Great philosophers such as Plato and Augustine wait patiently to engage us from across the centuries. If if it is self-help you need, why read the latest New Age hustlers when Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and Seneca lie to hand?