“…Worldly ambition inhibits true learning.
A young man in a hurry is nearly ineducable:…
… He knows what he wants and where heâ€™s headed;…
… when it comes to looking back or entertaining heretical thoughts … he has neither the time nor the inclination.
All that counts is that he is going somewhere.
Only as ambition wanes does education become a possibility.
My own education did not commence until I had reached middle age.
I can fix its start date with precision: for me, education began in Berlin, on a winterâ€™s evening, at the Brandenburg Gate …
… not long after the Berlin Wall had fallen…
By temperament and upbringing … I had always taken comfort in orthodoxy.
In a life spent subject to authority … deference had become a deeply ingrained habit.
I found assurance in conventional wisdom.
Now, I started, however hesitantly, to suspect that orthodoxy might be a sham.
I began to appreciate that authentic truth is never simple and that any version of truth handed down from on high —
– whether by presidents, prime ministers, or archbishops — is inherently suspect.
The powerful, I came to see, reveal truth only to the extent that it suits them.
Even then, the truths to which they testify come wrapped in a nearly invisible filament of dissembling, deception, and duplicity.
The exercise of power necessarily involves manipulation … and is antithetical to candor.
I came to these obvious points embarrassingly late in life.
â€œNothing is so astonishing in education,â€ the historian Henry Adams once wrote …
… â€œas the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.â€
Until that moment I had too often confused education with accumulating and cataloging facts.
In Berlin, at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate … I began to realize that I had been a naÃ¯f.
And so, at age 41, I set out, in a halting and haphazard fashion … to acquire a genuine education.
Twenty years later Iâ€™ve made only modest progress.
What follows is an accounting of what I have learned thus far…”