Let us therefore put from us all such foolishness and pretension, and, as we go onward to the task of learning, let us take pains thoroughly to comprehend all profitable discourses ; let us submit with patience to the laughter of those reputed to be clever, as did Cleanthes and Xenocrates, who, although they seemed to be slower than their schoolmates, yet did not try to escape learning or give it up in despair, but were the first to make jokes at themselves by comparing themselves to narrow-necked bottles and bronze tablets, as much as to say that they found great difficulty in taking in what was said, yet they kept it safely and securely. For not only is one bound, as Phocylides says,
Many a time to be cheated of hope when he seeks to be noble,1
but he is bound also many a time to be laughed at and to be in disrepute, and to put up with joking and buffoonery as he struggles with might and main against his ignorance and overthrows it. On the other hand, however, we certainly must not neglect the mistake that leads to the opposite extreme, which some persons are led to commit by laziness, thus making themselves unpleasant and [p. 257] irksome. For when they are by themselves they are not willing to give themselves any trouble, but they give trouble to the speaker by repeatedly asking questions about the same things, like unfledged nestlings always agape toward the mouth of another, and desirous of receiving everything ready prepared and predigested. There is another class, who, eager to be thought astute and attentive out of due place, wear out the speakers with loquacity and officiousness, by continually propounding some extraneous and unessential difficulty and asking for demonstrations of matters that need no demonstration, and so, as Sophocles 2 puts it,
Much time it takes to go a little way,
not only for themselves but for the rest of the company too. For holding back the speaker on every possible occasion by their inane and superfluous questions, as in a company of persons travelling together, they impede the regular course of the lecture, which has to put up with halts and delays. Now such persons are, according to Hieronymus, like cowardly and persistent puppies which, at home, bite at the skins of wild animals, and tear off what bits they can, but never touch the animals themselves. But as for those lazy persons whom we have mentioned, let us urge them that, when their intelligence has comprehended the main points, they put the rest together by their own efforts, and use their memory as a guide in thinking for themselves, and, taking the discourse of another as a germ and seed, develop and expand it. For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the [p. 259] truth. Imagine, then, that a man should need to get fire from a neighbour, and, upon finding a big bright fire there, should stay there continually warming himself; just so it is if a man comes to another to share the benefit of a discourse, and does not think it necessary to kindle from it some illumination for himself and some thinking of his own, but, delighting in the discourse, sits enchanted ; he gets, as it were, a bright and ruddy glow in the form of opinion imparted to him by what is said, but the mouldiness and darkness of his inner mind he has not dissipated nor banished by the warm glow of philosophy. Finally, if there be need of any other instruction in regard to listening to a lecture, it is that it is necessary to keep in mind what has here been said, and to cultivate independent thinking along with our learning, so that we may acquire a habit of mind that is not sophistic or bent on acquiring mere information, but one that is deeply ingrained and philosophic, as we may do if we believe that right listening is the beginning of right living.

1 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Gr. ii. p. 448, Phocyl. No. 14.

2 Sophocles, Antigone, 237.

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