When we typically think about learning, we tend to think about being in a structured school, and doing it for some reason — to get a grade, to get a degree, to get a certain job. But my guest today says that if we want to live a truly flourishing life, we ought to make time for study and thought long after we leave formal education behind, and embrace learning as something wonderfully useless. 

Her name is Zena Hitz and she’s the author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life. We begin our conversation with how the unique Great Books curriculum at St. John’s College works, and how Zena got her undergraduate degree there and then went on to pursue a more traditional academic path, only to discover the downsides of the modern university system and be drawn back to St. John’s, where she now teaches. From there we turn to what Zena argues are the hidden pleasures of the intellectual life, which include learning for its own sake as opposed to doing it to advance some goal, developing a rich inner life, and embracing the idea of true leisure. We then discuss how thinking and studying for its own sake is different from watching TV or playing video games, and how it can create a resilience-building, inner-directed refuge from an externally-driven world. We end our conversation with how you can carve out space for contemplation amidst the overload and noise of modern life, the importance of finding a community that wants the same thing, and how to get started with deeper study and reflection by reading the Great Books.

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Show Highlights

What’s unique about St. John’s College? How does it inspire the intellectual life?Why are the pleasures of learning for its own sake hidden?How learning for its own sake became so rare What are we working for? How has our leisure culture been lost?The importance differences between distraction and leisureHow instrumentality can actually lead to learning for its own sake How the intellectual life can be a retreat from “the world” So what does this look like in the 21st century?The case for the Great Books

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Why You Need to Join the Great Conversation About the Great BooksHow to Read Long and Difficult BooksLife Lessons From Dead PhilosophersThe Classical Education You Never HadWhy Every Man Should Study Classical CultureHow to Read a BookOn the Joys and Travails of ThinkingHow and Why to Become a Lifelong LearnerThe Shut-In EconomyThe Razor’s EdgeThoreau on Simplicity and AspirationThe Power of ConversationReclaiming Conversation

lost in thought book cover zena hitz.

Connect With Zena

Zena’s website

Zena on Twitter

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)