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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 2:55 pm    Post subject: Practicality of Books & the Point of Knowledge?         Reply with quote

Hello,

This is a question I've been struggling with for a little while now. Bear with me while I give you a little background: my wife is largely very disinterested in my hobby of swords, armour, and studying medieval history. She's on occasion like, "ooh, pretty sword", but on the whole it's just another one of those nerdy pursuits like tabletop wargames, Star Wars, Tolkienism, et cetera, that she could care less about, as long as I don't damage myself too much.

For all that, she was kind enough to purchase me a nice copy of Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword for my birthday a week or so ago. This is awesome, and inspired me to comment that the rest of Oakeshott's books were on my 'wish list' for later gift purchases.

This brought forth a comment from her, which I can't quote exactly as I don't remember it too well, but the gist of it was, "Why do you need more books on that? What use are you going to put it to? You aren't making swords or anything, you aren't studying the subject in school, all you're doing is just reading about that stuff, and you have too many books anyway!"

The 'too many books' comment aside, this provoked the subject question...

If one is not actively involved in the manufacture of, or studying or teaching history, what is the utility of reading about swords, armour, the use, technology, and applications thereof?

For example, while it's one of those "I'd love to do it if I ever get the chance to" things, is it really all that practical to purchase a copy of Jim Hrisoulas' sword-making books when I'm not ever likely to have a forge to start with, much less make even a knife from scratch? Do I really need to read Brian Price's book on how to recreate medieval armour?

Or, another example: It is highly unlikely in my lifetime, barring a collapse of civilization as we know it or an extremely improbable self-defense situation, that I'll really need to use the German longsword as taught by Christian Tobler or Peter Lindholm. Am I going to have to use Stephen Hand's book on the i.33 sword-and-buckler system to guard myself in a judicial duel?

Then, I haven't been in school for about... well, four or five years now. What, honestly, is the practical use of Records of the Medieval Sword? It's a listing of various swords from the Middle Ages in a loose typology; beyond that... well, that actually is about it. If I was to return to school, study either metal-work or medieval history, then it might have application if I were to write a paper on the medieval sword; otherwise, it exists on my end-table right now because I derive pleasure from seeing pictures of old sharp things in profusion. You could say the same thing for the rest of Oakeshott's books, or Tobias Capwell's catalogues of swords, daggers, etcetera, or Jan Petersen's Viking Sword books..

Heck, what even is the point of browsing websites and online forums such as this very one? It has to be said that the interest in swords and armour, at least, is fairly niche; medieval history is a bit of a bigger subject, but then I go to the local bookstore and I see three shelves devoted to World War II. About one row on one shelf is the amount of medieval books they've got. And as far as applying the knowledge in the modern workforce, needing to use a sword is about on a level with a taco-stuffer needing to know calculus-- not bloomin' applicable 99.999% of the time in the job (for reference, I stack shelves at Home Depot).

So there's my question and dilemma. How do I really justify wanting more books on this subject to myself and my wife? What is the honest, practical use of this knowledge and these books?
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Patrick Kelly




Location: Wichita, Kansas
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
How do I really justify wanting more books on this subject to myself and my wife? What is the honest, practical use of this knowledge and these books?


Those books are justified because they expand your mind into a broader world and increase your knowledge, as well as honing your thought process. Is everything in your life there for purely practical reasons? I doubt it and I'm pretty sure the same goes for your wife.

That's all the justification you need for yourself. On the other hand, if your wife is dictating whether you can purchase something as relatively inconsequential as a book then I'd say you have larger issues to address.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jeffrey, I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, in that I'm never likely to make any kind of arms or armour myself, nor will I ever have the funds to acquire many of the arms and armour that I would like, but these facts do not in any way detract from my interest in the subject, after all, we are all entitled to dream. I also believe that everyone, even if they are not involved in any kind of formal education, should have a subject which they enjoy studying, even if said subject has no practical application.
Éirinn go Brách
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:

Those books are justified because they expand your mind into a broader world and increase your knowledge, as well as honing your thought process. Is everything in your life there for purely practical reasons? I doubt it and I'm pretty sure the same goes for your wife.
That's all the justification you need for yourself.


That strikes me as a good answer. Thanks. Justifying the purchase isn't the only reason I ask the question, though.

Quote:
On the other hand, if your wife is dictating whether you can purchase something as relatively inconsequential as a book then I'd say you have larger issues to address.


Yeah, this is just one of those things where she has basically learned to tolerate my hobby... We discussed this a little more in depth after that and the issue honestly isn't so much my taste in books as it is in quantity-- I've got ~200 books and we only have shelf space for maybe half that, and then of course she's got a number of books herself that she'd like to have up on the shelves. We're working on donating some of our books to lift that particular pressure.

Then again, we are also in fairly limited financial circumstances; the birthday gift of Records was a fairly big deal even used at around $30 including shipping. To illustrate, $30 is about as much as we spend on food per week for the two of us (we supplement our food budget by visiting a local food pantry). So in looking over the books I'd pointed out to her on my 'wish list' and seeing that most of them are in that range, if not more so, kind of scared her off a bit.

No worries, though, I do try to be responsible as far as buying books go, no matter how much I might talk about how I'd like to have a good copy of Fighting with the German Longsword or the Star Wars Blueprints... anyway, that's about enough of the personal digression!
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W. Knight




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Honestly, the way I see it, the way things stand in the modern world today, there is absolutely no practical use for these books and the knowledge you attain from them. And (similar to your own sentiments) unless December 21st, 2012 turns out to be more than Y2K was, then that is very unlikely to change in the near future. But why the concern for practical knowledge?

I am interested in medieval history, and arms and armor for one reason, and that is enjoyment. It is a hobby to me. I love to read books about these things that might be boring to many people, but I really enjoy them. Likewise, all the money I have spent on swords and armor could have been put to much more practical uses, I am sure, but I think the money is well spent, due to the pleasure I get from these things. Many people feel that everyone needs a hobby of some sort. And there is absolutely no need for it to be of use in any other way than just enjoyment. Is a guy who spends a great deal of time and money rebuilding a classic car in his garage doing anything practical when he has a perfectly good car he drives to work every day sitting right there in the driveway? He doesn't do it for any practical reason (although he could certainly sell it, but then good swords and armor sell for a pretty penny too). Sure, he could drive the car to work everyday when finished, and put it to practical use if he really wanted to, but the point is, a hobby is just that--a hobby--and whether you can find a practical use in it or not, when it really comes down to it-- people do hobbies for pleasure!

So I would ask instead "Is there honest enjoyment and pleasure I get from reading these books and learning these things?" If so, then I think there need be no other reason to have a hobby. Happy


Last edited by W. Knight on Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How about you respond with "What do you need all those shoes for? You never wear 'em and they just rot in the closet!" Or maybe "Who cares what Richie did, it's a God damn soap opera!"

Ok, that's probably not the way to go. Laughing Out Loud


On a more serious note, I concur with the good Mr. Kelly. Learning is rarely a bad thing and the more you know the better. Having an interest in something, whatever it may be, is better than engaging in the sterotypical American past-time of mindlessly watching the TV.

As Robert A. Heinlein puts it:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

There are far less useful and interesting, not to mention more expensive, things you could be doing, so all in all I don't see why you should be in trouble for buying a book. (I suppose if you live in a small apartment and it is wall-to-wall "boy toys" she might have a valid point.)



Edit: Took too long in writing and didn't see the other replies. I guess if $30 is a substantial portion of your income that gives your wife a reason to argue. Doesn't make it fair or pleasant, but money is money after all.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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W. Knight




Location: United States
Joined: 30 Jul 2011
Reading list: 7 books

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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I too didn't see your reply about your financial situation when I posted mine. I edited it once for grammar mistakes, then read the new posts that had been written while I was writing and editing mine.

With times as tough as they are, I suppose, even though I do believe everyone should have a hobby, maybe it's not always possible, as most hobbies cost some money, though there are some that cost very little. One way to look at it, maybe, is that books are the cheapest way to be into a hobby like this, and someday, if financial circumstances permit it, look at all the knowledge you would have shoud you decide to buy a sword or something! Happy I dearly wish I had known more before I first started buying swords, as I wasted some money on some that were not what I really needed.

In any case, you said you are being responsible about buying books with your situation as it is, and that is the important thing. As long as you keep doing that, then maybe a book every now and then would still be possible. Or perhaps just enjoying this forum could due. After all, there is SO much great info to be read, and it is free! Big Grin
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 5:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are two separate issues in play: real value of any hobby and financial responsibility.

Hobby value: You can make a case that every hobby that costs money and/or time isn't worth the investment from a practical standpoint. Collecting books about weapons (and weapons themselves) is the same in some people's eyes as collecting Pokemon trading cards or stamps. Ditto basically every other hobby.

For me, in this case of this hobby, my books (which are cheaper than swords) inform my purchases and lead to less buyer's remorse than I used to have since I (over) research most purchases before buying. My library, which isn't too tiny, still cost less than my arms and armour collection. It enriches my appreciation for what I have.

My study of military history has revealed surprising links to music history (I'm a musician by trade). For example, in the early 15th century, English influence in France and England's relationship with Burgundy helped spread a style of harmony (polyphony based on thirds and sixths rather than perfect intervals) into Europe. That style, developed largely in isolation in England, is still the basis for Western chordal harmony. Books on music history usually don't speak about the Hundred Years War's effects on music, nor do books on military history, but it's not hard to see when you study both. Happy

But mostly, the hobby just consumes time and money, like any hobby. Happy

Financial responsibility: This a tricky one. On one hand, it's easy to say that saving $30 by not buying a book guarantees one more week of your food budget; that's not insignificant. Looking at it that way, your wife's gift to you is that much more special and meaningful. So don't push your luck. Happy Get by with the many free resources (this site and others, books checked out from public libraries, etc.) until your financial situation changes. Or find a way to indulge the hobby without affecting the bottom line.

I haven't sunk new out-of-pocket money into this hobby in 5 years. I buy things (arms and armour related and otherwise) and resell or trade them to create funds. I purge my collection and library every now and then and seel things to fund other purchases. Birthday and Christmas gift money goes into the fund. I've added great things to my library and collection in these last 5 years. On top of that, half of the funds created by selling/reselling things goes back into family coffers, so my hobby transactions have actually put money back into our checking account. It's fun/tough/exhilarating/exhausting to do things this way but it makes sure my hobby isn't a drain on strained finances and keeps the peace.

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What to say about it to your wife is a delicate question and one of sensitivity and diplomacy, so don't quote me or us in a blunt way but my take on it is that focusing only on what is practical is a great way to squeeze all the pleasure out of life !

Obviously in economic survival mode or any survival mode things not immediately helping one survive are luxuries better left for when things are more secure: When sitting on a hot stove getting up is more important and urgent than anything else.

All that being said what makes life worth living are one's passions, including one's passion for one's spouse. Wink Laughing Out Loud

The gift was certainly considerate but sort of spoiled by lack of understanding why you have this passion ! ( Actually why we have any particular interests in one thing and not another is one of life's mysteries and fundamentally unexplainable ).

Even with lack of funds you obviously have access to the Internet, or you wouldn't be posting here in the first place, so a lot of knowledge you can find here on this site and other sites on the Internet at no cost. Wink Big Grin

Still, good books are nice to have when one can afford them.

Well, fighting or competing for shelf space is also an issue. Laughing Out Loud

A good approach is talking about one of your wife's " passions" and bring that up as an example but being careful to not belittle it, just use it or them, if she has more than one passion, to help her understand why your passions are important to you and make you happier. Wink Big Grin Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Eric Meulemans
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Location: Southern Wisconsin
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 8:59 pm    Post subject: Re: Practicality of Books & the Point of Knowledge?         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
I derive pleasure from seeing pictures of old sharp things in profusion.


If we dismiss even the smallest potential for knowledge of any kind you might glean from such works and argue that they have no practical value, then your above statement is still more than sufficient reason for their possession, at least in as much as we might justify any other non-essential material possession (of which we can all name many).

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
...the issue honestly isn't so much my taste in books as it is in quantity-- I've got ~200 books and we only have shelf space for maybe half that


As has been said, "A house without books is like a room without windows."
And come now, really, if you expect me to believe you are some oppressed bibliophile you'll have to do better at managing your collection than that. Go hit some library sales and get back to me when you hit the 2k mark. Happy
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Oct, 2011 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey,

Now that you've elaborated on your financial situation............

I certainly understand your wifes hesitancy in relation to your household income. Having been there in years past, I know what it's like to view a ten dollar book as a big purchase. In that context incidental purchases should be discussed and agreed upon. While I'm no longer in that kind of financial situation I haven't purchased anything new in quite some time. For several years I worked a second job to finance my hobbies as well as selling pieces to acquire new ones, so in that sense my hobbies were self-sustaining. Now, I no longer have a desire to work a second job and I don't want to sell anything I currently have. This has resulted in the curtailing of my spending. I have one pending order that's been swimming around out there in the ether for several years. Should the planets ever align and the thing actually gets made I'll figure out how to finance it, other than that I don't see any new swords in my own future for some time. Given the current state of the world economy I just don't feel comfortable spending money on inconsequentials. Being financially responsible isn't always fun, but it is worthwhile. (kinda sucks acting like a grown-up though)

If your wife tolerates you interests and you hers that's all you can really ask for. If you share a common interest it's great, but otherwise you're independent people with independent interests. My wife shares my interest in history but she really doesn't get my obsession with finding out how things were made, how they worked, etc., but that doesn't lessen our marriage. She has interests I don't get and visa versa, (how a woman with a masters degree in behavioral science can be so enamoured with Twilight is beyond me.) but we each respect each other enough to allow ourselves that individual space.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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