December 31, 1933

Robert preached the best sermon I have heard him preach this morning. During the past five years he has developed from a high-minded generalizer into a well-rounded and forceful speaker on the essentials of life. His good-bye to the old year threw out the regretful phases of it but would make the experiences and disciplining of it a heritage of foundations for the new year's endeavor. He was pessimistic over the downfall of international arbitration and the strained conditions in Europe and Asia due to the growing nationalism of the German-French, and the Russian-Japanese-Chinese situations. Is the world headed for another dark age? Getting closer home, he outlined his views on our own nonsocialized industries along lines so closely comparable with my own views, as expressed in my X Club paper, that I naturally thought his sermon was particularly good.

Seth Jordan may have had his faults (which I realized too late for my own welfare); but I cannot think of him without acknowledging his virtue of burying his own dissappointments in thoughtfulness for the less fortunate. I recall his rising from his sick bed to distribute toys and food to the poor one Christmas. Curiously, his generosity proved my downfall; for by accepting it I unwittingly incurred the hatred of his enemies, who happened to have my destiny in their hands. This is not a keen regret now, however, for otherwise we may never have come to Keokuk and its happy associations.

A glance at the future (produced by the universal subject of New Years resolutions which I take little stock in as such, but which involve the wholesome idea of taking stock) finds me under the influence of two magnetic attractions. I have a conservative notion to attempt to combine a limited rural life with the limited opportunities for engineering work in the power company. There are many advantages in this set-up. In the first place, health would be assured: a cow (with an annual upkeep of about the cost of the three quarts of milk per day we now purchase) would provide abundant milk, cream, butter, and manure for the garden; chickens would supply plenty of eggs and roasts; and the room to spread out in the open air would be of inestimable value to all of us. These advantages are partly offset by being tied down to the routine of chores, and some isolation from the urban interests which we have always been accustomed to, and which the Ford cannot entirely obviate. As for engineering, the small company offers opportunities for variety of work which the big city buries in specialization. Correspondingly, the oppportunities for remuneration are smaller in the small town, but so is the cost of living. The drain on the nervous system is less in the small town, but this is a most difficult limitation to gauge.

My comparatively radical notion is to pull up stakes and seek a community of higher cultural standards, and where the development of professional interests would eliminate other side-shows, except hobbies. Such a move is so remote that I scarcely admit the attraction to myself. It involves adventure in unknown fields, and uncertain results. Can I afford to take risks at thirty-seven, and with three dependants? Such a move, utopian though it may appear, would require many sober moments of thought.

Having viewed the peaks of two mountains from the depths of a deep valley, I come back to earth with the realization that after all we are, to a large extent, mere puppets in the hands of fate. So I shall feel my way, hanging on for dear life to any kind of an income, and live in hope that I shall be ready for dame fortune if she happens to smile on us.

Quotations from Pitkin's "The Art of Rapid Reading":

Read Wholes, not parts. Read sentences, not words. Read for the broadest meanings first, then for details later if necessary.

A big vocabulary is not nearly so useful as a moderate one thoroughly understood. It is much more useful to know all the important meanings of 15,000 words than to know only one meaning of each of 50,000 words. Mastery of a little is better than shallow knowledge of much.

For most people the maximum length of thoroughly easy, natural reading is around 16 words (per sentence), provided that these fall into subordinate units of 4,5, or 6 words each which can be taken in as units. No ordinary person attends naturally and easily to more than 5 or 6 words at a single moment. If many of the words are unusual or very long, keep the sentences down to 10 words if possible.

In reporting aim to use the simplest habitual phrases. Avoid the badly built habitual varieties.

Short words -- pack more meaning into a single moment of attention.

Contrast these:

I had good time at your home last night. -- It gave me great pleasure to accept your hospitality yesterday evening.
I don't want to go to the lecture. -- The prospect of attending the dissertation is not of an enticing nature.
The beach was crowded. -- A motley congregation of hoi polloi was gathered at the surf.

The fastest of all readers is the man who reads wholly or almost wholly with his eyes and never has to complete the pronouncing of any words or phrases.

Save the gist of what you read.

Fit your reading to the moment.

Apply your findings to your affairs as you read.

Conversation gives us opportunity to test the ideas gained from books. It is often humiliating but salutary to try to tell or explain a thought. We find it is vague or confused or incomplete. Making it clear to another clarifies it for us. "Teaching teaches teachers". Better still if the listener disagrees. He compells us to bring forth illustrations, analogies, proof, colorful and forceful speech. ---- Jesus trained his ignorant fishermen and artisans to direct the greatest educational movement in history. The great teacher exalted conversation as education. Leaders in modern history have given eloquent testimony to the value of conversation with all classes of people. Gladstone, Palmerston, Fox, Patrick Henry, Clay, Lincoln were always practical and had a cosmopolitan interest in men and women. They learned from the farmer, the laborer, the storekeeper, from the traveler, the diplomat, and the scientist. Webster said "Converse, Converse, CONVERSE, with living men, face to face, mind to mind - that is one of the best sources of knowledge."

Skimming is to determine the main facts and arguements of an article, or its subject of discussion, when this is not evident in the headline or opening paragraph. (400 words per minute, varying according to the character of the subject.)

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