I love great books. For me, studying them is not just a pleasant leisure. I think it more akin to a way of life. I don’t know that I can name a favorite book, or a favorite author. I tend to non-fiction books, especially in the classics, history, law, politics, and economics. I really love the feeling of discovering a great book. And I probably devote more than a healthy amount of time to researching databases, bibliographies, and the dusty, dimlit shelves of libraries looking for that perfect, forgotten book.
It is hard to say what precisely is my motivation, or what is the origin of this passion for great books. I am not an academic by profession. And I was not bookish as a child. Nevertheless, it is probably fair to describe me as something of a bibliophile. I suspect in my case it is a condition without a cure.
Paul Martin of Martin Capital Advisors received a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1980 and is an active supporter of the college. As a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors of St. John’s College, Mr. Martin chaired the investment committee and was instrumental in establishing a formal investment policy for the college. He has been active in the St. John’s College Alumni Association for many years and is currently co-president of the Austin/San Antonio chapter. Paul also sits on the board of Thomas Jefferson Center for Core Texts and Ideas at the University of Texas in Austin, as well as the San Antonio Public Library Foundation.
Additionally, Mr. Martin is a retired U.S. Naval Reserve commander. As a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO), his service included eight years in Naval Special Warfare and a two-year tour as a U.S. Naval Reserve SEAL Team commanding officer.
I am a mother, reader, and thinker and I don’t believe those things can or should be mutually exclusive. My love affair with the classic great works of both Western and Eastern civilizations started over 10 years ago with the undergraduate program and then Eastern Classics Masters program at St. Johns College. I then went on to San Francisco where I co-founded and led seminars at the Symposium Great Books Institute San Francisco. Originally from San Antonio, when my husband and I moved back home and started a family of our own as well as a full time business, I knew that I did not want to lose the opportunity to stretch, open, and exercise my mind. I am thankful to David and Ray for making that opportunity available again! Every time I sit down at the table-whether at a physical location or in our virtual institute I feel grateful to share thoughts and meaningful conversations with my peers, excited to have encountered another masterful work, and privileged to have the opportunity to read so many great works and have so many conversations that really matter. These books and the ideas within them have the power to change your life, to deepen your thinking, to make your relationships more meaningful-exploring them requires endurance and courage but the rewards are well worth the risk. Hope to see you at the table soon! xoxo
In Paradise Lost by John Milton, Adam says to Eve that none of the beauties of nature means anything if he cannot share them with her. That’s the way I feel about reading the masterworks of human thought and imagination. These are the works which are indispensable for an understanding of ourselves and our world, but they are also the locus of the deepest and most abiding controversies in the realm of human discourse. They simply beg to be discussed and argued over. I’ve read many of these books with many different discussion groups – first in undergraduate and graduate school at St. John’s College, and then Symposium San Francisco, and now in San Antonio and via our virtual seminars – and it never ceases to amaze me what new ideas and insights offer themselves in the course of conversations with people who care to read and talk together in earnest.
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“Tonight I was lucky enough to be part of another fantastic conversation facilitated by David Saussy and the Symposium Great Books Institute. I have to say: these conversations are now one of the favorite parts of my week, and constitute very real and very necessary food for my intellect. It’s so deeply refreshing, in the midst of a busy week dealing with things on the lowest levels, to get together with a few other people and attempt to talk about the higher things, the things which are most important to us as human beings. To be reminded of these deepest and most fundamental human issues is to be grounded, to be restored, and to be brought back to one’s senses in the most pleasant and rewarding way.” -Jeff Johnston, Albuquerque, New Mexico
“Symposium is what I always felt a philosophy or literature discussion was meant to be. You commit yourself to carefully reading – sometimes with difficulty – one of the world’s great classics, on your own. And then, when you show up for a conversation, you’re joining a group of people who are approaching it with the same interest and thoughtfulness that you are. As we discussed these texts, I’d feel a combination of inspiration and profound humility. On the one hand, you witness some of history’s great minds struggling with issues that are complex, but also surprisingly relevant to how we live our lives today. On the other hand, one of the great things about a Symposium conversation is that you read critically. You’re not bound to the arguments you’re discussing – you’re joining a conversation with the author himself or herself, as well as with your fellow participants. Best of all, after finishing a Symposium seminar, I always come away with a deeper, much better understanding of the text and its ideas – together with a refreshing sense that there is far more to discover.” – Justin Dunham, New York, NY
“I’ve really enjoyed and felt enlightened by these seminars. It’s rarely easy to get a group of your friends together to discuss anything of consequence in a focused way, but Symposium completely solves that problem. Not only that, but it provides the impetus to learn about some of the classics I might have never made time for on my own.” Dusty James – Harrisburg, PA
“I was just going to write “deposit” on a statement, and instead I began writing “despot”! Thanks for the recommended readings: they’re sinking in.” J.K., North Carolina
“Symposium is different. It’s not a book club where you read the latest best seller, sip wine, gossip, and do everything but talk about the book. And it’s not an academic seminar either – where a rumpled, aging professor in an ill-fitting corduroy blazer lectures on why a great book is sacrosanct. Instead, Symposium gives you – the average reader – an opportunity to tussle, engage, and struggle with understanding, the big ideas of life. Symposium participants are not expected to have any advance knowledge about a text or to even have any idea who the author is. Many times, I have fundamentally misunderstood a text or read a passage incorrectly, but during (and after) the discussions, I have come away with a better understanding of the text through the thoughtful comments of others. Symposium will force you to engage authors and to tackle ideas that are so easily glanced over.” Jason Erlich, San Francisco, CA
“I have been familiar with Socratic seminars for nearly twenty years, and frankly I was a little skeptical about having one via a voice conference as compared with physical space, even in our day and age. How wrong I was! Our conversation on Adam Smith last night, coast to coast, was wonderful. I enjoyed listening to everyone, and I begrudge their availability to pick up the conversation next week where we left off. I suspect that though we know everything has a “natural price” we have no way of ascertaining that price precisely, and, even if and when we did, all the natural prices are relational to each other, and so Adam Smith’s argument is that theoretically the market price approximates the natural price best; eo ipso the public good, and not merely the private, is well served. Thanks to David and all my colleagues on the call : each time I’ve participated (remotely) in a Symposium the reading selection has been stupendous and the conversation excellent. Highly recommend it to any and all who are serious.” –Reynaldo Miranda , San Francisco, CA
“Symposium brings online learning to the next level. It takes the best parts of your favorite college seminar, combines that with an easy to use discussion board, and delivers it in straight to your living room. Where else will you have the opportunity to discuss the ideas of the world’s greatest artists and thinkers? The discussion leaders do not teach their own ideas, but skillfully guide participants to discovery through enlightening discussion. In this age where everything revolves around the shiny and new, Symposium opens an encounter with the wisdom that has founded and shaped the great civilizations of the world. Nothing is more refreshing or more life-changing than the rediscovery of the possibility of truth, in all it’s many forms. In this time of uncertainty and superficiality, the books and conversations you encounter through Symposium will spark a fire that can guide you through your life. There is a reason these works have survived for ages, and there is no better way to begin your discovery than through the Symposium discussions.” –Dan Kirkeby, New York, NY