Liberty Matters

Why Read the Ancients Today?: A Response

There is one main message that seems to be present in each of the responses.  Jennifer Frey and Aeon Skoble supported Roosevelt’s thoughts on how the old texts are here to teach us.  They are the voices of those who have gone before us calling for us to drink from this fount of wisdom. These thoughts mirror the words of a poem I wrote years ago, entitled “In These Pages.”
In These Pages There is so much to glean from the ancient folk There is so much to learn from those who spoke Centuries ago. It is different for every person How the books connect to your soul But they will if you let them And it may take time to reflect them Doesn’t matter the color of your skin Look deep inside you will find that you are in The pages spoken of by the sages of your humanity It’s plain to see and if you can’t I understand You see others have struggled too But we all had to invite Hurston, DuBois, Woodson or Wheatley To speak for us, so let them guide you Let them ask the questions that reveal How these books speak what’s true About your humanness Let the process cultivate your mind To be able to know beyond what’s read between the lines   Talk about it, with a friend or not Draw close to a stranger of a different shade Or not but is of the same specie—Woman or man the whole lot Of humanity Can be found in these pages(Prather, 2016)
I wrote that poem after reflecting on how these texts still teach and inspire. When I first discovered the canon, I was shocked that all of the commentary I heard about them revealed a total misunderstanding of what these texts are.  
We can learn from  the words of Aristotle who explains how the parts of animals collectively reveal their essential being and in turn reveals that each of us has an essential being or purpose.  We can learn from the tragedy of Antigone, by understanding the importance of being willing to sacrifice our life to stand on our convictions. They help us understand ourselves and the world in which we live, so that we can make better decisions. They are a gift to us from those who have gone before, a guide to lead us through the maze of life. 
This is what fascinates me about my ancestors and how they tapped into that wellspring of wisdom from the ancients. It led them to mental, emotional, spiritual, and eventually physical freedom. The words of these texts are so powerful that they were able to break the chains of oppression for so many who have paved the way for me. If these texts are that powerful, so full of the wisdom found from human failings and victories, then just maybe their magic spell can awaken our souls and set us all free.