“The first association of the intellectual, that which will show him for what he is – apart of course from his needs and his human duties – is association with his fellows. I use the word association, I should prefer to say cooperation, for to associate without cooperating is not doing intellectual work. But how rare, in this age of individualism and social anarchy, is such a kinship of minds! P. Gratry deplored it: he dreamed of Port-Royal, and wanted to make of the Oratory ‘a Port-Royal without the schism.’ ‘What labor could be saved,” he said, “if people could join and help one another! If six or seven together, with the same idea, worked by way of mutual teaching, becoming turn by turn pupil and master of the others; if by some happy concourse of circumstances they could even live together! If besides lectures in the afternoon and study following on the lectures, they could talk in the evening, at supper, of all these noble things, so as to learn more by drinking them in in conversation, than by the very lectures!’ The workshops of old, especially those of artists, were a gathering of friends, a family. The workshop of today is a jail, or a union meeting. But in response to the need which makes itself more and more felt around us, shall we not see the old comradely workshop revived, widened, opened up, and yet no less closely united than of yore? The time would be opportune to conceive and to found the intellectual workshop or consortium, an association of workers all equally enthusiastic and diligent, banded together freely, living in simplicity, in equality, no one aiming at domination, even though someone might have a recognized superiority which would be of advantage to the group. Without pride or the spirit of rivalry, seeking only truth, the friends thus gathered together would, so to say, multiply one another, and their common soul would reveal a wealth of which no sufficient explanation would appear to be discoverable in any single part. One needs such a strongly tempered soul to work alone! What heroism it is to be one’s own intellectual society, one’s own encouragement and support, to find in a poor isolated will the strength that might spring from the impetus of a multitude or from stern necessity! One begins with enthusiasm, then as some difficulty arises, the demon of laziness whispers: what is the good? Our vision of the goal draws dim; the fruit of effort is too distant or appears too bitter; we have a vague sense of being duped. It is certain that the support of others, their example, the exchange of ideas, would be admirably efficacious against this gloomy mood; they would supply the place in many people of that power of imagination and constancy of virtue which only a few possess, yet which are necessary for the persevering prosecution of a great purpose…Friendship is an obstetric art; it draws out our richest and deepest resources; it unfolds the wings of our dreams and hidden indeterminate thoughts; it serves as a check on our judgments, tries out our new ideas, keeps up our ardor, and inflames our enthusiasm.”
What a beautiful description!