Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren

How to Read a Book, 1972, pp. 53-55

Knowing the rules of an art is not the same as having the habit When we speak of a man as skilled in any way, we do not mean that he knows the rules of making or doing something, but that he possesses the habit of making or doing it. Of course, it is true that knowing the rules, more or less explicitly, is a condition of getting the skill. You cannot follow rules you do not know. Nor can you acquire an artistic habit—any craft or skill—without following rules. The art as something that can be taught consists of rules to be followed in to operation The art as something learned and possessed consists of the habit that results from operating according to the rules.

Reading is like skiing. When done well, when done by an expert, both reading and skiing are graceful, harmonious activities. When done by a beginner, both are awkward, frustrating, and slow.

Learning to ski is one of the most humiliating experiences an adult can undergo (that is one reason to start young)....

The point about skiing, of course, is that you would not be thinking about the separate acts that, together, make a smooth turn or series of linked turns. Instead, you should merely be looking ahead of you down the hill, anticipating bumps and other skiers, enjoying the feel of the cold wind on your cheeks, smiling with pleasure at the fluid grace of your body as you speed down the mountain. In other words, you must learn to forget the separate acts in order to perform all of them, and indeed any of them, well. But in order to forget them as separate acts, you have to learn them first as separate acts. Only then can you put them together to become a good skier.


Insights happen when you're doing something else.

John Platt

Perception and Change, 1970, p. 111

COMMUNICATION MEANS INTERACTION. And high-intensity communications, such as we have today increasingly all over the world, necessarily mean high-intensity interactions. This is a basic reason for many of the new tensions and conflicts that have developed across the world in the last few years.

It is worth thinking about these relationships for a moment. Etymologically, "communing" means "sharing with one another." Nevertheless, it is easy to think of many kinds of supposed communication we have today which are not sharing with us, and which are not interaction. The communication is not with us, but at us. We speak of our "communications media," but the kind of television in which some-body out there has organized a program, and is throwing it at me, the kind in which I can't talk back or have my side represented, this is not communica-tion. In some ways, it is more like ax-communication.



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