The worth of knowledge

Sir Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Courtesy of

Sir Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, poet and lecturer, in his speech “The American Scholar,” had a straightforward thesis: Books in the right hands are wonderful things, but can become easily abused.

His speech brings forth a bit of truth in this matter. Books teach us, guide us and help us, but at a certain point they are mistakenly treated as facts, and thus must be accepted as such.

As Emerson said, “Books are the best of things, well used; abused, among the worst.” Books are best used when looking to them for guidance, and then the “sacredness of creation” and “the act of thought” arrive, and new thoughts and works are created for the next generation.

Over time, however, the advances of society have slowed. Instead of looking to books for guidance, we began to revere them as the only truth. Society stopped thinking and began reading – witness today’s social media craze. Now young scholars look to philosophers and scientists of the past, and haven’t stopped to think that they themselves could be the future.

Instead of thinking human beings, we have become bookworms. Books should be used to push us in the right direction, to right the wrongs of the past; yet at some point the wrongs became society’s guidelines.

We have become a civilization in which thinking is unnecessary. We have begun to believe that thoughts only bring about a change in which no one believes.

So yes, books are wonderful … wonderfully abused.