The Living Word

Books are alive! Not literally. In fact, their figurative life is more like the life in the germ of a seed. Not active in itself, but full of potential. As John Milton wrote in Areopagitica, books “are as lively, and as vigorously productive, as those fabulous dragon’s teeth; and being sown up and down, may chance to spring up armed men.”

And the potential of books is unlimited. The books themselves are finite, consisting of only so many words on so many pages, but in those words and pages they “contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are.” Books may express simple, straightforward ideas or complex esoteric concepts; but either way, their impacts on the world go beyond themselves in the form of inspiration. Sometimes, they inspire ideas or actions that are at odds with the powers that be.

Areopagitica is not just an essay on the value of books; it is a vibrant defense of freedom of press. Milton was fighting against a law that would require state approval of all printed material. The form of his defense is that books are potent and active in themselves. Of course, this is exactly the reason that the state would censor books in the first place. It is a strange argument that the state should not engage in censorship because books are productive and active since the state necessarily fears productive and active thought. Any novel thought, particularly in the form of political or social organizing, is a threat to the establishment.

But Milton appeals to the members of Parliament as individuals, as men who “esteem it to imitate the old and elegant humanity of Greece.” He does this because although the state itself must always fear that new ideas will upset their established power, true humanitarians acknowledge that the intellectual progress of the human race should not be impeded for the sake of “the party line.” An attempt to censor a book is an attempt to kill truth itself; and “revolutions of ages do not oft recover the loss of a rejected truth, for the want of which whole nations fare the worse.”

Beer of the week: 5,0 Original Lager – An online program generated this translation of the label to this supermarket brew: “Just a simple black and white box! Gold imprinting, with no effort! Only a simple design! No expensive TV advertising! This savings goes to you! We saved as much as for everything! Except on the quality of the beer! 5.0 is an original lager, brewed to the German purity law! Ingredients: water, barley malt, hops and extract! Put your money better one! You pay less now for a good Pils without frills!”

I am not sure that I’d call this a “good Pils”, but it certainly is without frills. It is a simple mass produced beer. Not much on the nose, very basic flavor. Almost a savory aftertaste which surprised me (even though it is actually very slight.) If the price is right, this could easily be had in large quantities.

Reading of the week: Areopagitica by John Milton, Excerpt – One of the most eloquent defenses of free-speech I’ve ever read. I enjoyed this more than I enjoyed his poetry.

Question of the week: Can freedom of speech ever mean anything less than total freedom of speech? Does even the slightest restriction amount to a total lack of freedom?

One Comment on “The Living Word”

  1. EDIT: Originally I misquoted the can as “Export without frills”. This beer is their Pils, their Export comes in a red can.

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