Life is our dictionary

Tuscan farm

Books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made

If it were only for a vocabulary, the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary. Years are well spent in country labours; in town – in the insight into trades in manufactures; in frank intercourse with many men and women; in science; in art; to the one end of mastering in all their facts a language by which to illustrate and embody our perceptions. I learn immediately from any speaker how much he has already lived, through the poverty or the splendour of his speech. Life lies behind us as the quarry from whence we get tiles and cope-stones for the masonry of to-day. Colleges and books only copy the language which the field and the work-yard made.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
from The American Scholar
An Oration Delivered Before the Phi Beta Kappa Society, at Cambridge, August 31, 1837
image – antmoose

Also from the Phi Beta Kappa Society Essay:

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