Monday, December 11, 2006



I have been trying to finish an essay for the first time in about 3 years - on the writings of 9th century man of letters from Basra, Abu 'Uthman 'Amr b. Bahr al-Jahiz. He's great. Here is him on books, not long after the introduction of paper to the Muslim world from China:

"A book is a receptacle filled with knowledge, a container crammed with good sense, a vessel full of jesting and earnestness. If can if you wish be more eloquent that Sahban b. Wa'il, or less talkative than Baqil: it will amuse you with anecdotes, inform you on all manner of astonishing marvels, entertain you with jokes or move you with homiles, just as you please. you are free to find in it an entertaining adviser, an encouraging critic, a villainous ascetic, a silent talker, or hot coldness...

"Moreover have you ever seen a garden that will go into a man's sleeve, an orchard you can take on your lap, a speaker who can speak of the dead and yet be interpreter of the living? Where else will you find a companion who sleeps only when you are alseep, and speaks only when you wish him to... You denigrate books, whereas to my mind there is no pleasanter neighbour, no more fair minded friend, no more amenable companion, no more dutiful teacher, no comrade more perfect and less prone to error, less annoying or importunate, of a sweeter disposition, less inclined to contradiction or accusation, less disposed to slander or backbiting, more marvellous, cleverer, less demanding or quarrelsome, less prone to argument or more opposed to strife, than a book."

I like that alot. IF I were still teaching school I would print it out and put it on the wall of my classroom.
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