About a year ago, I stumbled across a book. It’s fiction (though it does occasionally reference real-world events), but its main purpose isn’t to tell a story: it’s to instruct and enlighten, and, through a series of morality tales, to teach you how to live the Right Way.

This book had an immense effect on me. Its morals just feel right, and its lessons have changed the way I look at the world: they explain so much of what I see and reveal new patterns to me. I used to think sinful-but-viscerally-appealing thoughts fairly often (much less than most people, I think, but still often); I didn’t notice when I was doing it, and even if I had noticed, I wouldn’t have found anything wrong with it. But the book trained me to catch myself in the act, banish the Bad Thoughts even though they feel good, and hopefully live a happier and more moral life as a result.

I’ve started attending a sort of book club. Every week, there’s some assigned reading – sometimes from the book, but usually from more recent writings that come out of the same intellectual tradition – and then we get together to share our thoughts. I think there are lots of these book clubs scattered throughout the world, usually reading essays from a handful of prolific scholars who are highly-esteemed throughout this community.

A lot of the people in my book club voluntarily give up 10% of their earnings, generally in ways recommended by said esteemed scholars. There’s not a strong pressure for everybody to pay this tithe, but I think there’s a general feeling that it’s a worthy act that makes you a better person.

Anyway, I really like this community and the people in it, and I’m going to try to get more involved despite all these HUGE FLASHING WARNING SIGNS.

I hope I never look back on this post as a huge I-told-you-so from Past Spencer.