Sunday, January 15, 2017


The Coral Reefs of Scholarship

Michael King (1945-2004), Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999), p. 218 (Eric = Eric McCormick [1906-1995], at the 41st International PEN Conference in London in 1976):
Of everything that occurred that week, however, I was most moved by a remark Eric made in the course of our evening at Westminster. The function of the scholar, he said then, was analogous to that of the coral organism. One lays down one's own skeleton on the heap of bones left by others, who by so doing have built up a patterned structure. One also does it for the benefit of later comers, who will in turn lay their remains on yours. It is the inclusive effect of this accretion that creates meaning, Eric said, not the individual contribution. I cannot think of any metaphor which better describes the organic growth of culture and scholarship; nor of one which is more indicative of Eric's own monumental patience, humility and achievements as a writer and scholar.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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