Every once in a while a friend of mine will put out the question, “What’s on your desk?” on social media. Or at least they used to. I’d share a few things I had including a quote I have pinned to the wall just behind my monitor and, well, now they don’t ask me anymore. I’m not convinced it’s the quote, but it does seem to stun people into silence. To break the suspense here’s the quote:
The philosophers, preachers, and doctors of your world feed you with fine words through the ears. Here we literally take in our teachings orally, through the mouth. Therefore I do not say to you: Read this chapter, understand this gloss. What I say is: Taste this chapter, swallow this gloss. Once upon a time an ancient prophet of the Jewish nation swallowed a book and became a learned man to the teeth. Now you must immediately drink this, and you’ll be learned to the liver. Here, open your jaws.
That’s from Gargantua & Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais, translated by J.M. Cohen.
Some people find that unsettling. I’m not sure why. When you were a kid were you ever told that you are what you eat? It’s fun to think you are what you read too, unless the only thing you’re reading these days is the labels on soup cans because you want your information condensed, but that’s another story.
What got me thinking about this is the upcoming Edible Book Festival. Or maybe it’s already happened, since it’s a moveable feast.
So what’s around you? Whatever you say I won’t find it unsettling. Here, open your desk.