Simplicity-Lit: Holmes away from Home

Share For Christmas a couple years ago Stacy gave me "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris" by historian David McCullough, an account of the time spent in Paris by various Americans over the past two centuries. Many Americans - writers, artists, scientists, medical students - went abroad and particularly to Paris to learn from and gain the measure of themselves against the world's best in their field.

One such American was medical student Oliver Wendell Holmes, who eventually was father to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

In "The Greater Journey," McCullough notes that, in Paris, Holmes Sr. "felt as intellectually exhilarated as he had ever been and even more adamant about the value of all he had come to understand that he never would have had he remained at home." At the end of his first year in Paris, Holmes wrote home in an effort to express what he had accomplished so far:

"My aim has been to qualify myself so far as my faculties would allow me, not for a new scholar, [or] for a follow of other men's opinions, [or] for a dependent on their authority, but for the character of a man who has seen and therefore knows, who has thought and therefore arrived at his own conclusions."

Holmes Sr. wound up as one of the Transcendentalists - fiercely independent thinkers who also included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau and James Russell Lowell - and a poet, lecturer, author, and professor.

The old saying that "the map is not the territory" is true. If you truly want to understand the territory and understand this world, it is best to go out into the world yourself and see it for yourself and not rely on potentially faulty mapmakers for your view of the world.

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