Prof. J.J. O’Donnell, Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to CyberspaceMy experience as a human being, not to mention my experience as a scholar, tells me that I cannot ever possibly imagine thinking that I have enough information. At no time in my life have I ever had enough time to get all the information I need, and I am wearily used to making compromises in pursuit of adequacy. That quality has nothing to do with the abundance of what is out there, and has everything to do with intellectual character and discipline. What is perceived as infoglut is mainly infoguilt—a sense that I should be seeking more.
Insomniac passing anhypnic nights in writing, translation, music, mathematics, programming and whatever else captures my attention or alleviates agrypnia.
This consists mostly of quotations of things that stand out to me or reflect what's on my mind; occasionally I also post original, often more personal, content as well, which may be found under the "personal" tag. Anything posted under "translations" is also original work and may broadly be taken as personal as well as I seldom tackle a work that does not speak to or for me in some way.
John Clare (1793–1864), Autobiography, chapter 8I always had a thirst after knowledge in everything & by that restless desire have only acquired a very superficial knowledge of many things that serves no other purpose than to make me feel my real ignorance of everything so much the more.
Stanislav Andreski, Social Sciences as Sorcery, 1972, p. 208Never have so many stayed in school so long to learn so little.
T.H.White, The Once And Future KingThe best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn…
homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.
An educated man always has riches within himself.
Garry Wills, Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer (2010), from a conversation in jail with Karl Hess
An autodidact and devourer of books, he asked what was the volume I carried with me through the arrest. It was the Greek New Testament. He asked why I had it. I answered that I read it every day for spiritual sustenance. Besides, “It’s the most influential book in Western culture.” Yeah, but why Greek?
I said that learning Greek is the most economical intellectual investment one can make. On many things that might interest one—law and politics, philosophy, oratory, history, lyric poetry, epic poetry, drama—there will be constant reference back to the founders of those forms in our civilization. Politics and law will refer to Aristotle on constitutions and balanced government. Philosophy will argue endlessly with Plato. Historians must go back to Herodotus and Thucydides. Students of Virgil or Milton have to gauge their dependence on Homer. Drama harks back to Sophocles or Euripides for tragedy, to Aristophanes or Menander for comedy. Oratory is measured against Demosthenes or Isocrates, lyric poetry against Sappho or Anacreon. The novel begins with Longus and others. It helps, in all these cases, to know something about the originals. He objected that the remains of ancient literature seem exiguous. That is partly true. Only three of the dozens of Greek tragedians survive, and only about 10 percent of their output. But that gives a kind of detective-story interest to their study. To rebuild the social setting for judging them, one must call on the study of papyri, coins, inscriptions, vase paintings, and archaeological ruins. (The only art history course I ever took was a graduate class on Greek vases.) Karl liked the puzzle aspect of this.