Saturday, September 14, 2013




Get to know enough writers and you may be tempted to agree with that statement.

No, I jest. We scribes may be a moody, introverted, and melancholy lot—though I find writing to be decidedly cheering—but writing is hard mental work, so I expect that we score reasonably well in terms of brainpower.

In fact, believe it or not, it was Socrates who believed that writing was a negative influence—and I don’t mean any old Socrates, but THE MAN himself.

This is what he said (he didn’t write it naturally—it was probably Xenephon). Do you know when I was young and foolish, I once read Xenephon in the original Greek—a truly soul scarring experience which cemented my affection for the English language.

This discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.

No wonder he was ordered to drink hemlock—criticizing writers can be, and should be, hazardous to one’s health—especially since his jury was composed entirely of devoted readers (not a widely known fact).

Incidentally, do you know how hemlock causes death? Such information may be useful if you have a problem with critics.

Coniine (hemlock) causes death by blocking the neuromuscular junction in a manner similar to curare; this results in an ascending muscular paralysis with eventual paralysis of the respiratory muscles which results in death due to lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. Death can be prevented by artificial ventilation until the effects have worn off 48–72 hours later.[3]For an adult the ingestion of more than 100 mg (0.1 grams) of coniine (approximately 6 to 8 fresh leaves, or a smaller dose of the seeds or root) may be fatal.

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