Silver in the mine, jade unpolished

For the holidays, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which is by Benjamin Franklin:

Genius without education is like silver in the mine.

And because all grand thoughts are timeless, they must re-appear in an eternal return.

So this quote, too, must have antecedents. Let’s work backwards in time, to savor even more of the same wisdom:

First stop: Song Dynasty

From my daughter, who is currently reciting the 13th-century Sanzi Jing (the Three-character Classic, a Confucian poem-treatise), I hear the beautifully rhythmic:

Which means (Number 7 here):

Jade that has not been polished

cannot be used.

[a] Person who has not studied

cannot know righteousness.

Second stop: Rome

By Rome I mean Latin. Let’s see: to educate = ex-ducere = to lead out

Lead out? As in: get out what is already there, as in silver or jade? Where might that idea have come from?

Third stop: Socrates

We haven’t talked about Socrates for a while here on The Hannibal Blog. (Here are all my old posts about him. He is not in my book, by the way).

The old man had his own silver/jade/education theory: He called it (in the Meno and Phaedo) “anamnesis”. And he demonstrated it by … helping a slave to remember (= “teaching”) that the blue square below has twice the area of the yellow square:

The lesson

And now for Kluthian axiom number whatchammacallit:

It’s in there. Get it out.

Happy holidays.

12 thoughts on “Silver in the mine, jade unpolished

  1. Have a Merry Christmas, Andreas. I always learn something from your posts so I guess you could say you are polishing my jade or mining my silver… or helping this slave to remember.

    • And same to you, Douglas. You’re always polishing all of our jade here, with your incisive and incorruptible (Socratic?) questioning, which always ex-ducates the best out of us.

    • Wasn’t that about education as brainwashing? If so, Pink Floyd were decrying the Orwellian inversion of the word education, and The Hannibal Blog would have endorsed Pink Floyd’s rebellion.

  2. In Ionesco’s “Man with Bags” (a play I really like), someone says to the confused and lost man with bags: Well, that’s the way it is these days. You’ve got your fast-moving countries and your slow-moving countries.

    This blog is a fast-moving country. I wanted to comment on your last post with some admiring words about your good fight in the culture wars, but you’ve moved on already.

    So, a very Merry Christmas to you. And thanks for the fun.

    • As countries go, I’m a Lamborghini,
      with many posts, each teeny-weeny,
      then, in my rear mirror,
      I see coming nearer,
      Sprezzatura, in teeny bikini

      OK, that didn’t work — needed a rhyme for Lamborghini and ran out of time.

      Gotta brush up on Ionesco.

      Happy hols, Jenny

  3. The TE corrollary to Kluth’s axiom: “And don’t be afraid to let it out.”

    Congratulations on a successful year and here’s wishing that 2012 is even better. All the best to you and your family.

  4. I must admit to being an admirer of the wisdom of Franklin’s writings. Some years back I came across this saying of his in a newspaper:

    “Human felicity is produc’d not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”

    I was so impressed I decided to read a little at random from Franklin’s autobiography, but soon found myself mired in an interminable passage about mud.

    Wet mud. Dried mud. Windblown dried mud. After several pages on the problems caused by Philadelphia’s mud I’d had enough — I didn’t want to read about mud! — I wanted the wisdom, the insights, the clever sayings.

    Franklin ended the passage this way:

    “Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating; but when they consider that tho’ dust blown into the eyes of a single person, or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produc’d not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.”

    Clever ending.

    With Bounteous Cheer, Conclude the Year! — Jim M.

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