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A Tendency Of The Age
by [?]

It is beautiful to witness our reliance upon others. The house may be full of books, the libraries may be as free and as unstrained of impurities as city water; but if we wish to read anything or study anything we resort to a club. We gather together a number of persons of like capacity with ourselves. A subject which we might grapple with and run down by a few hours of vigorous, absorbed attention in a library, gaining strength of mind by resolute encountering of difficulties, by personal effort, we sit around for a month or a season in a club, expecting somehow to take the information by effortless contiguity with it. A book which we could master and possess in an evening we can have read to us in a month in the club, without the least intellectual effort. Is there nothing, then, in the exchange of ideas? Oh yes, when there are ideas to exchange. Is there nothing stimulating in the conflict of mind with mind? Oh yes, when there is any mind for a conflict. But the mind does not grow without personal effort and conflict and struggle with itself. It is a living organism, and not at all like a jar or other receptacle for fluids. The physiologists say that what we eat will not do us much good unless we chew it. By analogy we may presume that the mind is not greatly benefited by what it gets without considerable exercise of the mind.

Still, it is a beautiful theory that we can get others to do our reading and thinking, and stuff our minds for us. It may be that psychology will yet show us how a congregate education by clubs may be the way. But just now the method is a little crude, and lays us open to the charge–which every intelligent person of this scientific age will repudiate–of being content with the superficial; for instance, of trusting wholly to others for our immortal furnishing, as many are satisfied with the review of a book for the book itself, or–a refinement on that–with a review of the reviews. The method is still crude. Perhaps we may expect a further development of the “slot” machine. By dropping a cent in the slot one can get his weight, his age, a piece of chewing-gum, a bit of candy, or a shock that will energize his nervous system. Why not get from a similar machine a “good business education,” or an “interpretation” of Browning, or a new language, or a knowledge of English literature? But even this would be crude. We have hopes of something from electricity. There ought to be somewhere a reservoir of knowledge, connected by wires with every house, and a professional switch-tender, who, upon the pressure of a button in any house, could turn on the intellectual stream desired. –[Prophecy of the Internet of the year 2000 from 110 years ago. D.W.] –There must be discovered in time a method by which not only information but intellectual life can be infused into the system by an electric current. It would save a world of trouble and expense. For some clubs even are a weariness, and it costs money to hire other people to read and think for us.