Books, their Relevance and irrelevance.

"Books have led some to knowledge, and others they have led to madness."
-Proverb



In the praise of books, mankind should take caution. Not all books are inherently good. A book is a tool and like any tool, it can be used for good or ill. The printing of a thing in a book does not mean it is reliable; if you read a book, that does not mean you will gain knowledge from it- the opposite might happen. I have found it odd in recent years that people attack the Internet saying it is unreliable when there are plenty of crazy books in print, too, and always have been.

Readers need to discern both in print and online resources. This proverb warns us that just as all food is not good for you even though it is for sale in the grocery store, all books are not good for you just because you can buy a copy at any bookshop or online book stores- Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

This quote comes from an absolutely marvelous dialogue by the great Italian scholar and poet, Petrarch. There is the Latin dialogue, along with an English translation. Here is the Latin written with macrons:

"Librī quōsdam ad scientiam, quōsdam ad insāniam dēdūxēre."

"Books are teachers who instruct us without rods and the whip."

We know that books are silent teachers. When you learn from a book, it is just you and the book, one on one, very different from the classroom environment. Many people have fond memories of teachers whom they respected and even adored, but what this proverb reminds us of is that there can be a dark side to the teacher-student relationship as well, either the literal punishment inflicted with rods and whips, or the metaphorical blow that can be struck by a harsh word or by silent contempt. Teachers face an almost impossible task in the classroom, with different students to attend to, and so little time to do that. It is no wonder that teachers often fail in this impossible task. I am someone who always finds it safe and more reliable to learn from books; I am guessing there are other successful learners out there who might agree with me. The Latin is a longer quote by the medieval scholar Richard de Bury:

Hi sunt magistri qui nos instruunt sine virgis et ferula, sine pane et pecunia. Si accedis, non dormiunt ; si inquiris, non se abscondunt ; non remurmurant si oberres ; cachinnos nesciunt si ignores."

These are teachers who instruct us without rods and the whip, without (the reward of) food or money. If you come to see them, they do not sleep; if you have a question, they do not hide; they do not grumble if you make a mistake; they know not how to mock you if you are ignorant of something"

Here is the Latin written with macrons:

"Librī sunt magistrī quī nōs instruunt sine virgīs et ferulā."

In books lie wisdom and in them lie foolishness.

"But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding." (Job 32:8).

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