Areopagitica and of Education

PDF EBook by John Milton

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A couple of weeks ago, a dear friend and mentor of mine committed suicide.

I don’t say that to “hook” you or to manipulate life circumstances for hits on this site. For one, I’m sick of all that. For another, I could care less if no one but my mother, my grandmother and my wife reads this . No offense, Literators. I still love you , but I’m writing this for something other than inter- PDFtainment.

His funeral was the most hope-filled funeral I think I’ve been too. That might be superlative, but against death’s contrast their theme stood stark: A Celebration of Life. I know many readers here don’t follow Jesus, so I refuse to preach.

However I will say that this particular friend wore a white t-shirt and jeans everywhere. He was the most approachable servant of Christ I’ve met. Pimps and crazies and business men all had conversations with this guy due to his unassuming undershirt and denim. We reserved one day every semester where we’d all go to chapel dressed just like him (I attended a “Christian College”). By his attire, by his smile, by his manner he came ready to serve other people. As you might guess, his funeral was packed.

I don’t know why he did it, but I do know this – after seeing the grief on everyone’s faces, feeling it in my own soul, it was the most selfish thing he did in his otherwise selfless life. It’s personal for me. I spent a year in high school contemplating suicide every day. Every gun I walked by (it was Southern Illinois – there’s lots of guns), every knife I picked up, every unscrewing of a pill bottle taunted me to end it all. Death, I reasoned, was not so hard as life.

I finish volume three of the Harvard Classics this week. It’s a compilation of Francis Bacon (who sucked), John Milton (who challenged me), and Thomas Browne. In passing, I’ll say that Milton’s education tractate, if followed to the letter, would raise up the greatest generation of students the world has seen. But we’re looking beyond Milton…

Thomas Browne reformed me. There’s no other word for it. Had I a garauntee of your attention, I’d quote him for 3,000 words, but we’ll focus on one section:

They are in extreams, that can allow a man to be his own Assassine, and so highly extol the end and suicide of Cato. This is indeed not to fear death, but yet to be afraid of life. It is a brave act of valour to contemn death; download; but where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live. Herein Religion hath taught us a noble example; for all the valiant acts of Curtius, Scevola, or Codrus, do not parallel or match that of one Job.

He’s saying it takes balls to live. Old guys like Browne considered that kind of courage a virtue, calling it “fortitude.” I refuse to criticise my friend – peace be upon him. I learned much from his life. In fact his life, not his death, teaches me. If his death contradicts his life, it’s not because his life was a sham but because he faltered for a moment. Thanks to my past and as someone disturbed by the scenes in The Happening, I sympathize with him.

Browne told me this week that Job’s braver than Absalom. Absalom dared death in the midst of Revolution. Job dared to live in the midst of suffering. Though I wouldn’t have guessed it as a suicidal highschool sophomore, I now live a life of bliss. I’m encouraged by Browne because his Religio Medici reminded me of something: Jesus, the Author of Life, chose to live in the midst of suffering and temptation long before he accepted his comission to die. Should it surprise us that his followers talk about resurrection so often? For the Word of Life, coming into the world as a baby was infinitely braver than dying as an adult.

May we dare to live in living memory of my friend.

The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.

– John Milton, Tractate on Education

Words I learned from Milton & Browne:

horoscope – diagram of the heavens
enveagle – to entice, lure, ensnare by flattery or artful talk
rusticity – rural character or life
orison – a prayer
metempsuchosis – the transmigration of the soul, especially from a human to an animal
evanges – the four Gospels
desert – any place lacking something
yoeman – a petty officer
muing – high pitched sounds from a cat or a gull
staid – of settled or sedated character
porveying – to provide, furnish or supply
malmsey – a morning draft of wine
pusillanimous – lacking courage or resolution
expunction – to strike or blot out; to erase
contagion – communication of disease by direct or indirect contact
florrid – reddish; ruddy, (2) flowery; ornate
scurrilous – grossly or obscenely abusive – The New York City police continue their scurrilous attacks on Occupy Wall St. protestors.
sundry – various; diverses
courtiership – the work of flattery
pictures are linked to originals
– (1) Borrowed from Flickr
– (2) Borrowed from University of Glascow


Aeropagita by Milton improved my Harvard Classic experience exponentially. Milton’s arguing for the freedom of speech, freedom of the press in a time where the government passed laws that prevented people from speaking out against it. The resemblances between his culture of censorship and our culture of deafening propaganda bear resemblances to one another, despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m reminded of the #occupywallst movement… Like this book? Read online this: How to Live Life and Love It, Analysis of the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program Fund Allocations for Indirect Medical Education Costs.

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