March 03, 2013

The scholar's idle times

Drawing of Harvard by Eliza Susan Quincy, circa 1836, around the time of Emerson's lecture there on "The American Scholar." Image by way of wikipedia.

During this busy season, the theme at Goat Rope is the life and work of New England Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. This week the focus is on one of his influential early essays/lectures, The American Scholar, which was delivered at the annual meeting of Harvard's Phi Beta Kappa Society. Fifty years after it was given, Oliver Wendell Holmes called it "our Intellectual Declaration of Independence."

To tell the truth, Emerson at the time didn't think much of Harvard's method of education or of traditional education generally. In fact, this lifelong lover of reading took a few potshots at book learning, or at least book learning separated from the experience of life. Here are a few:

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke,  which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books... 
Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst. What is the right use? What is the one end, which all means go to effect? They are for nothing but to inspire. I had better never see a book, than to be warped by its attraction clean out of my orbit, and made a satellite instead of a system... 
Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings...

JUST DO IT. Here's another op-ed by yours truly in support of expanding Medicaid to low wage workers in WV.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, if you support expansion, please go to the Facebook page, like it, and stay in touch with advocacy efforts.


1 comment:

Hollowdweller said...

Hey Big Daddy,

Did you see this one: