This is the third in my writing prompts using aphorisms from Gracian's Pocket Oracle.
#11 Associate with those you can learn from. Let friendly relations be a school of erudition, and conversation, refined teaching. Make your friends your teachers and blend the usefulness of learning with the pleasure of conversation. Enjoy the company of people of understanding. What you say will be rewarded with applause; what you hear, with learning. What draws us to others, ordinarily, is our own interest, and here that interest is ennobled. The prudent frequent the homes of courtly heroes: theaters of heroism, not palaces of vanity. Some are renowned for their learning and good judgment: oracles of all greatness through example and friendship. Those who accompany them form a courtly academy of gallant discretion and wisdom.
To begin, Gracian makes a statement. He does not say, if you associate, indicating that you will associate with others and therefore you need to choose wisely.
"You are who your friends are" or some variation of this quote is both common and age old. It was the first thing that came to mind when I read this.
Gracian, however, doesn't begin there. First he implores the reader to identify the company one keeps as a school. He noted 'friendly relations.' To me this implies not only camaraderie, but also openness and acceptance.
Next he explains how to benefit. Be willing to learn from these people, absorb what they know and expose through conversation.
Only then does he note that the people should be those of 'understanding." They should be courtly heroes, not vain. They should be renowned for learning and good judgment.
Then, the group, the school as it were, will become a "courtly academy of gallant discretion and wisdom."
In the midst of describing the people, he notes, "What you say will be rewarded with applause; what you hear, with learning. What draws us to others, ordinarily, is our own interest, and here that interest is ennobled."
What you hear with learning is the most straightforward as that is the premise of the entire piece.
Being rewarded with applause I'm not so sure about. It strikes me as vain to seek applause for your thoughts, at the same time, this could speak to the overall environment which is encouraging, open as I noted earlier, to hear and discuss topics without prejudice.
The final sentence I take to be another reinforcement of learning. If your interest is to learn from these people and if it is done as prescribed here, then the learning goes to another level.
The notion of 'the company you keep' is age old. Here Gracian reminds the reader of its being and place, while explaining how to benefit most from it.
What are your thoughts?