Why Should I Go to Mass?”
“He… “He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as was His custom.”
A story from ancient Egypt tells how the god Thoth invented a new way of helping people learn and remember things, a system called writing. Thoth explained his invention to the king of Egypt; but the king was not impressed. He said the invention was liable to make people lazy in trying to remember things; that they would start to rely on written things instead of thinking for themselves. Worst of all, it would allow people to appear learned, rather than actually being learned. Written things need the help of the author to explain them, the human touch.
Although this is just an ancient myth, it still has some valid points to make. First, we learn from other people. Books are written by other people; they don’t appear out of the blue or fall out of the sky. And second, we learn better from human contact in teaching, even when books are involved – what the ancient Greek philosopher Plato called “the animated speech of a knowledgeable person.” Even then, although the person might have knowledge, they also need the gift of passing on that knowledge, of helping others become keen to learn, and setting people on fire with a love of that subject. And with the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, some of the Egyptian king’s misgivings came true. People sometimes mistook the book for learning or wisdom itself. Sometimes they thought that simply by reading or quoting that they would become learned, and so they neglected the need for understanding, for teaching and for interpretation to bring the written word to life. Continue reading