Thursday, August 02, 2007

An Academic Education

Mr. Antolini offers Holden Caulfield thoughtful and considered counsel in the closing chapters of Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye that has camped out in the back corners of my attention since finishing that read more than a month ago. This passage speaks to me ... about residing in the state of "student," the gain(s) of continuing education, the compelling feeling of necessity for driving on. There is a part of my humanity that comes alive for me only through the kind of rigorous study I must engage at the academy. Maybe Mr. Antolini articulates a bit of that for me.

"I hate to tell you," he said, "but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You'll have to. You're a student - whether the idea appeals to you or not. You're in love with knowledge. And I think you'll find .... you're going to start getting closer and closer - that is, if you wantto, and if you look for it and wait for it - to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score ... many, may men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to."

"I'm not trying to tell you," he said, "that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It's not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they're brilliant and creative to begin with - which unfortunately, is rarely the case - tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And- most important - nine times out of ten, they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker."

"Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it'll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it'll fit and, maybe, what it won't. After a while, you'll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing ... You'll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly" (189-90).

Salinger, J.D.. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.

1 comment:

Sentinel 47 said...

Thanks for bringing this text back into remembrance. I remember Mr. Antolini speaking to me through these words, too! ...you never fail to impress me. ---t