TITLE: Umberto Eco and the Ineffable Power of Books AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 05, 2016 4:06 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In What Unread Books Can Teach Us Oliver Burkeman relates this story about novelist and scholar Umberto Eco:
While researching his own PhD, Eco recalls, he got deeply stuck, and one day happened to buy a book by an obscure 19th-century abbot, mainly because he liked the binding. Idly paging through it, he found, in a throwaway line, a stunning idea that led him to a breakthrough. Who'd have predicted it? Except that, years later, when a friend asked to see the passage in question, he climbed a ladder to a high bookshelf, located the book... and the line wasn't there. Stimulated by the abbot's words, it seems, he'd come up with it himself. You never know where good ideas will come from, even when they come from you.
A person can learn something from a book he or or she has read, even if the book doesn't contain what the person learned. This is a much steadier path to knowledge than resting in the comfort that all information is available at the touch of a search engine. A person's anti-library helps to make manifest what one does not yet know. As Eco reminds us, humility is an essential ingredient in this prescription. -----