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April 7, 1969


JAMA. 1969;208(1):140-141. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160010136021

A great scholar once declared that he envied anyone who had not read War and Peace, because that person still had in store for him the pleasure of reading it for the first time. This story is a bittersweet commentary on knowledge and scholarship. The scholar knew too much—had too great a familiarity—to derive enjoyment. Now, one of the important values of our culture is knowledge. We devote great amounts of time, effort, and money to acquiring new knowledge (call it research, if you will) and in transmitting the old (call it education). When an excess of education or too much experience drives out enjoyment, we are transported to a sort of Faustian environment, where knowledge has lost its savor.

A curious relationship obtains between knowledge and enjoyment. New experience can have an appealing freshness most striking perhaps in childhood and youth. This is the period when the world is