Ancient & Modern

By Jones, Peter | The Spectator, November 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

Ancient & Modern


Jones, Peter, The Spectator


Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, develops software that makes our home computers work with (on the whole) admirable efficiency, and commits billions of dollars arising from the profits to help eradicate Aids. Excellent. But his next move is designed to encourage humanity to lie prostrate and stupefied on the sofa all day long, gawping at the TV, home movies and pop singers 'personalised' by one of his devices.

This development is typical of an age in which Westerners tax their bodies to the limits -- running marathons, hiring trainers, going to the gym and generally being fanatical about physical health -- but seem to have not the slightest interest in taxing their minds. Those ancients wealthy enough to enjoy the requisite leisure for such activities would have found this incomprehensible. When Greeks went to the gumnasion, it was to exercise mind and body. Plato's Academy, for example, was located on the site of a public gymnasium; at Priene in western Turkey, schoolrooms and washing facilities stand side by side. Many such institutions developed over time into the equivalent of a university or secondary school. When the Roman satirist Juvenal speculates about what men should pray for, first out of the hat is a healthy mind in a healthy body (mens sana in corpore sano). …

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