A Quote. Of Liberal Education.

St. John’s College knows, along with many others:

In a half-dozen classrooms they gather then,—here to follow the love-song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander among men and nations,—and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices,—simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and learning the good of living. The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs, that was taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium, and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal,—not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.

—Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, “Of the Wings of Atalanta” (1903)


An Aside. Of the Single.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [ἁπλοῦς], your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad [πονηρός], your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

—Jesus, Matthew 6:22-23, English Standard Version

The adjective ἁπλοῦς (single, simple, without folds, uncomplicated) is opposed not merely to διπλοῦς (double) but also, here, to πονηρός (evil, wicked, toilsome).

Five Maxims. Of Laughter.

  • Laughter is a conquest, a seizure of the will. The grip of laughter is strongest when one wills most not to laugh.
  • A rare genius—no, not necessarily a madman—is the one who laughs in solitude.
  • One does not often laugh when alone unless it is believed that another would laugh in the same circumstances. When one does laugh alone, the lordship of the imagination is total, and in that case, it is not fitting to say that one is alone.
  • Laughter is as likely the voice of joy as the mask of wretchedness.
  • Derision and acceptance, disapproval and fellow-feeling—what do these have in common besides laughter?

A Lamentation. Of Self-Definition. Of Identity.

A dark power has taught the past few generations of Americans to define themselves by transgression of boundaries rather than by stretch and strain toward ideals. Their minds are shackled by comparisons and negations. So great were the atrocities committed by their forebears that they are content to be not like them without becoming anything else, to be not inhuman without becoming human.

The desire to be other is not enough to draw one into authentic existence.

A Return to Older Thoughts. Of Time and Times. Of Becoming Human.

Excuses are made with talk of “seasons” and “times of life” as if one is not always charged with becoming human. One becomes human not for a time but for a lifetime, and it must not be supposed that one can outgrow what is essential and eternal for a human.

A Quote. Of Ignorance. Of Self-Knowing. Of Wisdom.

. . . ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.

I have appeared at any rate, in this little particular thing, to be wiser than this [other person] because what I do not know I do not suppose to know.

—Plato (Socrates), Apology 21d

A Quote. Of Limitation. Of Self-Knowing.

. . . iste alius modus, quo corporibus adhærent spiritus et animalia fiunt, omnino mirus est nec conprehendi ab homine potest, et hoc ipse homo est.

This other mode by which spirits cleave to bodies and make living things is entirely wonderful yet cannot be comprehended by man—and this is man himself.

—Augustine, Civitate Dei XXI.10