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Sweet moonlight, shining full and clear, Why do you light my torture here? How often have you seen me toil, Burning last drops of midnight oil. On books and papers as I read, My friend, your mournful light you shed. If only I could flee this den And walk the mountain-tops again, Through moonlit meadows make my way, In mountain caves with spirits play - Released from learning's musty cell, Your healing dew would make me well!
Men and boys are learning all kinds of trades but how to make men of themselves. They learn to make houses; but they are not so well housed, they are not so contented in their houses, as the woodchucks in their holes. What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on? — If you cannot tolerate the planet that it is on? Grade the ground first. If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him … he will be surrounded by grandeur. He is in the condition of a healthy and hungry man, who says to himself, — How sweet this crust is!
The faults of a writer of acknowledged excellence are more dangerous, because the influence of his example is more extensive; and the interest of learning requires that they should be discovered and stigmatized, before they have the sanction of antiquity conferred upon them, and become precedents of indisputable authority.
You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them… But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy.
The second doctrine of the Perennial Philosophy — that it is possible to know the Divine Ground by a direct intuition higher than discursive reasoning — is to be found in all the great religions of the world. A philosopher who is content merely to know about the ultimate Reality — theoretically and by hearsay — is compared by Buddha to a herdsman of other men's cows. Mohammed uses an even homelier barnyard metaphor. For him the philosopher who has not realized his metaphysics is just an ass bearing a load of books. Christian, Hindu, Taoist teachers wrote no less emphatically about the absurd pretensions of mere learning and analytic reasoning.
We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power, or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities have been decayed and demolished?
The law, so far as it depends on learning, is indeed, as it has been called, the government of the living by the dead. To a very considerable extent no doubt it is inevitable that the living should be so governed. The past gives us our vocabulary and fixes the limits of our imagination; we cannot get away from it. There is, too, a peculiar logical pleasure in making manifest the continuity between what we are doing and what has been done before. But the present has a right to govern itself so far as it can; and it ought always to be remembered that historic continuity with the past is not a duty, it is only a necessity.
To inquisitive minds like yours and mine the reflection that the quantity of human knowledge bears no proportion to the quantity of human ignorance must be in one view rather pleasing, viz., that though we are to live forever we may be continually amused and delighted with learning something new.
I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity, to this announcement. I know that I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington, but I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change. People who love their country can change it.