Skip to main content

The advantages of a classical education

Winter forest stream
We never step twice into the same river, let alone walk in the same forest
As an armchair philosopher, quotes attract me. I devour them wherever I come across anything that looks like being a quote (such are the advantages of multiple digital channels), I automatically memorise them and even worse, I use them in otherwise normal conversations.

I never tried to go any deeper into the mystery of having such a fantastic memory when it comes to famous quotes, while the same brain does not seem to care about house keys or mobile.

Can it be a case of acquiring "fast wisdom", in an age of ads that promote "faster fast food"?
Reading a whole book is is a slow experience, and wisdom, if any at all, comes in dribs and drabs.
The reader is told lots of metaphors or small facts, goes through the maze of literary infrastructure and at some point, if paying enough attention, stumbles upon the memorable phrase.

Take John Milton, for instance. How many people can say in all honesty that they have read each and every page of 'Paradise Lost'?
Still, the lines 'The mind is its own place and in itself/Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven' would have brought comfort to many a quote aficionado. It makes easier understanding how distress and joyfulness change places so abruptly inside the same person.

Same for the succinct 'Carpe diem' (Seize the day),  just two words in an otherwise brief ode by the Roman poet Horace. These words come up quite naturally in people's conversation (or in print, if it's an article). From convincing a ditherer to act and up to a deep discussion around the topic of "there's no day like today", this Carpe Diem has got now a life of its own. Had he been a contemporary author, Horace could have trade-marked his phrase and live very comfortably on the resulting royalties.

Is the world speeding up, hurtling into the next stage, all impatient and cutting corners, blowing up whole chunks of time?
Definitely not. Quoting memorable words has always been a rhetorical tool. When trying to convince someone else of one's truth, bringing in the heavy guns helps. 

Unless I read a proper challenge to Shakespeare's "The lunatic, the lover and the poet/Are of imagination all compact',  I will continue to believe that using quotes is not just a way of showing-off or a sign of intellectual laziness.


Popular posts from this blog

A dog's life

This is going to outrage dog lovers, but I think that humans’ tyrannical nature is revealed not just when it enslaves other humans, but also when it enslaves dogs. We never say 'free as a dog", do we? Just 'free as a bird'. Dogs and humans, not all what it seems. We take a wolf at heart and spend lots of time and energy teaching it to obey and react to commands.  (To be more historically accurate, the 'taking' happened a long time ago, and it succeeded, so very different from cats.) We are prepared to downsize our vocabulary to a few words in order to achieve that.  We literally put up with shit.  All in the name of training, while the true purpose looks more like having a totally obedient living being under our control, one emitting apparent devotion.  In humans it’s called the Stockholm syndrome.  Even the basic freedoms of sniffing and running are restricted anywhere near human habitat. It takes a trip back to the wild

Beauty within, beauty without

"Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite" is a wonderful book by Robert Kurzban and the site where you can read a bit about it has a great URL too: It is all about evolution and the mind that has different compartments, creating this apparently terrible habit of noticing inconsistencies in all but ourselves. As our mind is a kind of cabinet with many drawers and some of them are full of junk and others of exquisite art objects, things can look a bit incongruous. Our inner balance depends on ignoring the co-existence of junk and art and happily thinking of the whole cabinet as a solid piece of furniture.  This is of course a bit of a simplistic review of the book and the theory behind it, but it serves the purpose of my own theory: that physical beauty is our greatest source of hypocrisy. If there is a drawer that very few people dare to open, let alone examine its contents, that is the drawer of our looks. The real physical appearan

First Knight

Holding my breath on the edge of a language precipice, what a way to plunge into writing in anything else than my mother tongue. Mr Ambrose Bierce, would you like to have written "The foreigner's dictionary?"