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07 November 2009

A Deep Thought

"...But all fields of study and enquiry, all great Schools, demand human sacrifice. For their primary object is not culture, and their academic uses are not limited to education. Their roots are in the desire for knowledge, and their life is maintained by those who pursue some love or curiosity for its own sake, without reference even to personal improvement. If this individual love and curiosity fails, their tradition becomes sclerotic.



There is no need, therefore, to despise, no need even to feel pity for months or years of life sacrificed in some minimal enquiry: say the study of some uninspired medieval text and its fumbling dialect; or of some miserable "modern" poetaster and his life (nasty, dreary, and fortunately short) - NOT IF the sacrifice is voluntary, and IF it is inspired by a genuine curiosity, spontaneous or personally felt.


But that being granted, one must feel grave disquiet, when the legitimate inspiration is not there; when the subject or topic of "research" is imposed, or is "found" for a candidate out of someone else's bag of curiosities, or is thought by a committee to be a sufficient exercise for a degree. Whatever may have been found useful in other spheres, there is a distinction between accepting the willing labor of many humble persons in building an English house and the erection of a pyramid with the sweat of degree slaves."

- from Tolkien's Valedictory Address at the University of Oxford

(Hat Tip to the smartest Cajun I know)

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