It’s the quality of books, not the quantity, that matters. Careful selections benefit; great and varied assortments serve only for delight. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This was a very interesting post to me, given my love for books. The quote is one about the difference between quality and quantity.
The quote doesn’t say that one is good and the other evil or that one should be pursued and the other avoided, but that they have different purposes. For one who is studying a topic, and needs great knowledge, quality is much better than quantity.
Similarly, if you are bored, the quality of the books in your library won’t be as important as the variety contained therein. Are you in the mood for some history, or perhaps a biography? A quality book on Physics won’t cut it.
By chosing books which are of high quality and containing new knowledge is best for learning and expanding your mind. A wide variety of books is best for amusing yourself and passing the time.
Why are both quality and quantity important?
There are times for depth (the quality of the books in your library). There is also a time for breadth (the quantity of the books in your library). One is not a good substitute for the other.
As bright as Einstein was, there would probably be times when you wanted to talk with someone with broader experiences. But if you wanted to know about physics, he was probably the guy you wanted, right?
When your car breaks down, you want someone with a great depth of knowledge in the area where the problem has occurred. At a party, that same person, if that was all they knew, wouldn’t be as interesting, right? Similarly, we need a certain breadth or width to our knowledge and skills, as well as a few things we know or do, in depth.
It’s nice to know just enough about wine to know how to get the cork out, and enough about can openers that the cat doesn’t starve. Whatever you do for work is something you should probably know a lot more about, or be able to do with a great deal more, right? And there are probably a few other parts of your life which fit this pattern as well.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As it was mentioned above, we all have some things we know quite a bit about or can do very well. We also have some general knowledge about a lot of other things. Depending on what it is we are good at, we might know a fair bit, or a whole lot. Sometimes we can find a way to get paid for it, other times we do it from passion.
While an encyclopedic knowledge of 70’s and 80’s rock-n-roll bands might not seem all that useful, it is something of which I have a bit of quality knowledge. The same goes for computers and programming. Guess which one gets me paid? Guess which one gets me calls from time to time by panicked people desperate for help?
I also know a little about quite a few things. I can work in metal, wood, and plastic, as well as do things around the house like wiring and drywall, as well as yard-work, work on the cars and a few other things. I consider being able to do more than one thing an important skill to have.
Have you ever thought about your skill set? What parts of you are the books of quality? Where do you have a great deal of skill or knowledge? How much effort did you put into getting to that point? How much of it was fun, and how much was a pain? Was it worth it, looking back? Do you wish you’d done more?
What about all the other things you do fairly well, or know something about? When and how did you pick up those things? Was it part of a prior job or a passing fad? Was it because of who you were hanging out with at that point in your life? That’s how a lot of it was for me, as I was growing up.
Here is another question to consider. If you couldn’t do what you presently do for a living, which of your other skills or bases of knowledge would you try to build your life around? Do you have something you could do on the side which could be fun, as well as put a little extra in your pocket each month?
We all have metaphoric libraries in our lives. We control what books are in it. Whatever we have today, we can change it dramatically by this time next year, if we set our minds to it.
I believe we need both beneficial books in our library, as well as those which give us delight. How does your library look?
From: Twitter, @quotesofseneca
confirmed at : http://www.stoics.com/seneca_epistles_book_1.html#‘XLV1 2nd sentence
Photo by aehdeschaine