A writer-editor-teacher’s quote of the week #9

“Now to learn to think while being taught presupposes the other difficult art of paying attention. Nothing is more rare: listening seems to be the hardest thing in the world and misunderstanding the easiest, for we tend to hear what we think we are going to hear, and too often we make it so. In a lifetime one is lucky to meet six or seven people who know how to attend; the rest, some of whom believe themselves to be well-bred and highly educated, have for the most part fidgety ears. Their attention span is as short as the mating of a fly. They seem afraid to lend their mind to another’s thought, as if it would come back to them bruised and bent. Their fear is of course fatal to sociability, and Lord Chesterfield was right when he wrote to his son that the power of attention was the mark of a civilized man.”

– from the chapter “Two Minds, One Thought” in Teacher in America by Jacques Barzun (1954)

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