Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 2


Chapter 2 is all about virtues and their connection to knowledge.  I’m going to use the information in the fourth part of the chapter, which is about disciplining our bodies.  Since I consistently struggle with consistency in bodily discipline, I thought I’d take some of the author’s suggestions to make a list for my own benefit.


  1. Go outside! Live as much as possible in the open air. (37)
  2. Take walks every day. Walk before you study, after you study, and even while you are studying. (37)
  3. Breathe deeply.  Keep windows open, when possible.  Sit in a position that frees your lungs and doesn’t compress your other organs.  Take slow and deep breaths.  Try doing it while standing on tiptoes. (37)
  4. Stretch.  Reach your limbs in two or three rhythmic movements or movements that amplify your deep breathing exercises. (37)
  5. Exercise every day. “Those who do not find time to take exercise must find time to be ill.” If you cannot exercise outside, then do it inside.  It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise, as long as you do it! (37-38)
  6. Take vacations. At least once a year.  Maybe more.  This doesn’t mean you can’t do any work during them, but you should mostly rest, get fresh air, and exercise out-of-doors. (38)
  7. Watch what you eat. Stick with light food that is plain and simply cooked.  Do not overeat!  “A thinker does not spend his life in the processes of digestion.” (38)
  8. Get enough sleep.  This is very important. Both too much or too little can negatively affect you. Find out how much you need and make a firm resolution to keep it. (38)
  9. Have good hygiene. Wash, brush, floss, wear dry, clean clothes.
  10. Pay attention to your passions and vices. Are you overdoing anything?  Have you noticed behaviors that dull your mind? Or make you tired or anxious?  Are you doing them excessively?  Do you have habits that you know are not good for you?  “A lover of pleasure is an enemy of his body and therefore quickly becomes an enemy of his soul.  Mortification of the senses is necessary for thought, and can alone bring us to that state of clear vision…” (39)  Try fasting or abstinence.  Limit screen time. Stay away from Twizzlers.

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 1

D7D291B9-7B7C-4F9D-BB1D-A5C0B1DE50F8I created a new category called “Book Notes” where I’ll post my thoughts on books I’m reading, as I said I would do in my last post.  I also created a tag for the name of the book. I think that will allow one to call up all posts about that particular book. My first notes in this new category will be about The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.  I think this is a great way to begin methodically reading my nonfiction books… by studying a classic book that teaches how to learn!

I don’t plan to summarize each chapter.  Maybe someone else has done that online.  I’ll just write about whatever I find interesting and would have written about by hand in a journal as I do sometimes. This category will be my electronic commonplace book.

“Christianized humanity is made up of various personalities, no one of which can refuse to function without impoverishing the group and without depriving the eternal Christ of a part of His kingdom. Christ reigns by unfolding Himself in men.  Every life of one of His members is a characteristic moment of His duration; every individual man and Christian is an instance, incommunicable, unique, and therefore necessary, of the extension of the ‘spiritual body.’  If you are designated as a light bearer, do not go and hide under the bushel the gleam or the flame expected from you in the house of the Father of all.”  (5)

What excited me about this passage is that it reminded me of something I heard at my Spiritual Exercises retreat last September.  I heard it during the Call of Christ meditation talk and it was something that I had never thought of before.  It was a new motivation.

Jesus is calling me to follow him, like a soldier following a good king into battle.  And it’s a battle that we are sure to win.  It’s a guaranteed victory.  There may be some suffering involved, but the king will be right there suffering with us too.  How am I going to respond? I know I should be generous.  I should have courage.  I should go above and beyond if I want to distinguish myself.  I should be committed.  But here’s what I didn’t ever think about before:  I should have a sense of responsibility.  I am necessary.  Essential.  God depends on me to bring the fire of His love to those around me.  My surrender will bring a unique benefit to the world.  I will leave a black hole in the universe if I do not offer myself as He expects. To me, this means my response is more than an expression of love and gratitude.  It’s my duty.  (And it took my ISTJ breath away.)

So I saw this idea repeated in the passage above, but in this case it’s referring to the vocation of intellectual work.  Or the hobby, for people like me who already have a full-time vocation.  I do think I am called to develop and deepen my mind (as a supplement to my regular work) because I do really enjoy reading and thinking about ideas and it seems to go along with the disposition God has given me.  My interpretation of the passage above is that the calling (whether part-time or full-time) is more than just an interest you may have, it’s something you should be doing. And not half-way, but give it your all!

So that’s one takeaway from the chapter. There are many others, but it’s time for me to cook dinner.