Friday, March 1, 2013

Overmuch Study

I've been submerged under much reading, hence my absence from this space. (Furthermore, I often don't find it worthwhile to broadcast my opinions and emotions until I've thought them through quite a bit. This is an exception.) On the topic of study though, an old teacher of mine has reminded me of this passage from Robert Burton's incomparable Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), on 'overmuch study'. It deserves further circulation:
hard students are commonly troubled with gouts, catarrhs, rheums, cachexia, bradiopepsia, bad eyes, stone and colic, crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds, consumptions, and all such diseases as come by overmuch sitting; they are most part lean, dry, ill-coloured, spend their fortunes, lose their wits, and many times their lives, and all through immoderate pains, and extraordinary studies. If you will not believe the truth of this, look upon great Tostatus and Thomas Aquinas's works, and tell me whether those men took pains?
That last line, I often think, hits just the right note. Burton should have taken some of his own advice though, and anyone who cares to peruse the Anatomy will understand.

(Funerary monument of Robert Burton, pseudonym 'Democritus Junior', Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford) 

Speaking of teachers, the spate of nostalgia-ridden posts on facebook (including my own) commemorating the Anglo-Chinese School's (ACS) Founder's Day has cheered me up, even if it's saddened me too. Like many thoroughly postmodernised trainees of the academy, I think I tend to react sceptically towards most claims of identity and in particular, institutional ones. But there is no denying that ACS is the one school in Singapore that seems to command such fierce and undying loyalty. (I expect angry letters in response to this claim.) We must surely be doing something right.

Happy Founder's Day, ACSians. The best is yet to be. 

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