Thursday, November 15, 2007

Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures

Now if that doesn't sound like the title of a dull and dreary discourse!

But truth is, whether we are a student in school, an invitee to a party, a watcher of a political debate, or even out on a date, we will be hearing speech and we ought to know the virtue of being a good listener.

Plutarch wrote nearly 2,000 years ago but his words are still gold today. He warns against one who waits impatiently to jump into the conversation or interrupts incessantly; and against believing that a young person is better off hearing no speech rather than being taught to distinguish for themselves what is bad speech and what is good (the endless attempt to ban books from libraries and schools springs to my mind).

Admire but do not envy a good speaker. Learn from his flaws how you may improve your own speaking skills. It is easy to criticize, harder to excel. Beware the empty pleasure of a flowery speech that does nothing to improve one's mind.

Do not lead the speaker to digress. Pretentious contempt should not be mistaken for dignity. Discourse demands graciousness.

Every lecture has something in it of merit. And every listener has a certain role in the speech, a part to play as the audience.

Inflation of adjectives, abuse of superlatives, seems to have been a problem then as it is now.

Don't pretend to understand, nodding assent to avoid the shame of your ignorance. Don't be as a fledging bird, expecting the speaker to regurgitate knowledge while you put forth no effort of your own to learn and study.

And finally:

"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 truth."

8 comments:

...Kat said...

I resolve to be more gracious.
and rant and rave less.

I like that last bit lots!

Janice Thomson said...

Came across your blog mentioned by Lgs and have been happily browsing. Your posts are interesting , informative and enlightening.

eastcoastdweller said...

Kat, unless Your real-world persona is vastly different from Your bloggy one, don't change a thing!

I'm not sure I know anyone who rants and raves less than You do, or who is more gracious.

eastcoastdweller said...

Janice:

What a nice thing to read first thing on a Friday morning.

LGS is a blog treasure, that is for sure. We have an admiration for him in common.

I shall return the favor and visit Your blog over the weekend.

Molly said...

My son is taking a public speaking course this semester. I'll have to direct him to this post. I'm sure he would be as interested to read Plutarch's advice as I was.

...Kat said...

ok ... I try always to stay One Person/One Soul though multi-faceted .... and a bright diamond at that....

when I am perceived otherwise I look to see what it is I am doing that is giving off the wrong signals as to who I really am and how I can mend that...
it is hurtful to be misunderstood ....
and it is hard to be seen as gentle while at the same time having to be an individual responsible for oneself and not a doormat for anyone else....
and why is it that I Know How and Can apologize to folks when warrented but some people never do, they cannot....

anyway I came here to say: In honor of the classics let us all go out and see Beowulf.

...Kat said...

actually, through blogging, it is a delight that I can be the most myself... talking about what I love and interests me when people in my other life that surround me care not a whit about all this... sigh

eastcoastdweller said...

Molly -- thanks for Your comment. I've been AWOL from Your blog of late, I know.

Kat: You are so right. I, too, do a lot of apologizing and yet, I can probably count on one hand the number of genuine apologies which I have received from others.

I'd have to see Beowulf on my own, since my Sweetie doesn't care for that kind of movie. So maybe I'll wait for the video.

Once I get done with Plutarch, Juvenal and the rest of the Romans, the so-called Dark Ages, the mileu of Beowulf, will be my reading target.