“What is learning?”
The quietness with which the question was put made the boy’s heart contract with a foretaste of mystery, and be edged nearer to his teacher trustfully.
“Learning,” said the deacon, stroking his pupil’s hair, “is the means by which we acquaint our minds with events in the past, with life in the present, and with human dreams for the future. Learning, then, binds one man to another; in other words, it is a link connecting him with the world as a whole. Now let’s see what that means.
“What are words? Words are the body of the human mind, just as these bodies, yours and mine, are the vesture of the soul, no more and no less. Further: take a book, any book; it is written by a man who lived, let’s say, a hundred years ago and left for our edification all the treasure the man’s soul accumulated in the course of a lifetime. And so we might say: books contain the souls of people who lived before our day or are still living; a book is, as it were, a man’s account to the world at large of his deeds; it is the life record of a human soul. Is that clear?”
—Maxim Gorky, The Life of Matvei Kozhemyakin