Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't be an ass: on the value of continuing education (even if you don't remember a word of it)

Apologies to my more delicate readers for the crass post heading on this Monday morning, but sometimes ya gotta call 'em like ya see 'em. Take, for example, this advice from seventeenth-century physician Thomas Bartholin, dispensed to his sons on the occasion of their departure for travel abroad:
Possibly my own case may assist others. Avid to learn, I travelled for ten years enthusiastically undertaking not only very long trips to farthest Melita--not Thule--but also because of my wide interest I spent many hours designed for necessary studies to the Hebrew, Aramaic and Coptic languages, to lectures on law, to the delights of the poets, to the studies of the critics, to Platonic subtleties and to the curiosities of antiquity. I have forgotten a large part of all those things, but I do not regret that I undertook such a burden of no lucrative value. Whatever it may be, in addition to medical science, in which we seek pleasure in order to live happily, let us pursue it with diligence and care; and since a pure physician is commonly called a pure ass, one can devote those occasional hours which others spend in games, unseemly love-making, drinking parties, gambling and adornment to the pleasant studies of philology and antiquity by which the physician can render himself agreeable and cultivated.
(From Bartholin's essay On medical travel, 1674)
Sound advice! So go forth, dear readers, and read for fun! Browse the book stacks and pull some title advised only by the whims of serendipity! Drop in to your local archives and ask to see something you haven't looked at before! Don't worry, we'll still be here after poker night...

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