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

What would Epicurus say about this pandemic?

I have to apologise to Epicurus for misinterpreting him all my life. I blame it on popular culture and philosophy teacher, who should have made me retake the exam. Fortunately, with such a resurgence of interest in classical antiquity, the often misquoted and misunderstood philosophers of yore got another chance. The Internet created a repository of writings accessible now to everyone, not just academics and bookworms. Take the  Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy  for instance, the equivalent of Github  and its treasure trove of open source. The article on Epicurus has a specific reference to friendship.  He thought so highly of it that he set up a community of the likely-minded. It was called The Garden. The Epicurean view on friendship? A blessing, a source of pleasure, a fortress of tranquility, a fountain of trust. A great fortune can never give us what friends do. Bickering and occasional bitterness, the hallmark of every family relationship, are notably absent among friends. The

Time -out for kids? How about time- in?

Prequel (as they say in the movie industry): a few days after publishing this post, I came across an advertisement   that contained the very idea I had written about. Actually the very phrase, 'time-in'. Synchronicity is very real. Glad to find out others think the same. The missing toy Child has a tantrum. Child starts screaming. Parent has no idea why and prosecutorial interrogation does not work.  "Why are you shouting? Why are you not listening? Why?" Most adults don't have any trouble explaining why they are moody, irritable or simply unpleasant. "I'm stressed" is the generic label for a variety of deeper feelings and emotions, as well as pure biological reasons, such as lack of sleep. Are grown-ups being told to have a time-out when they behave like their children? God forbid, they're grown-ups. Kids are not basketball players. Time-out, shouted by the coach and meant to break a free fall in players' tactics and successive mistakes, is