at times empty-headed

“When Hegel lectured on philosophy at the University of Berlin, he had not the slightest intention of selling his philosophy. His were not lectures that simply expounded the Truth, they were the lectures of a man who embodied the Truth, lectures not of the tongue but of the heart. When Truth and the individual are joined together in a pure union, that which the man expounds, that which he speaks, is not a lecture for the sake of lecturing, but a lecture for the sake of the Way. Only when it attains to this is a philosophical lecture worth hearing. He who plays with the Truth on the tip of his tongue leaves nothing but an empty record on dead paper in dead ink, a thing without significance . . . Swallowing my anger, swallowing my tears, I read this book now for the sake of an examination—for my daily bread. You must never forget how I clutch my throbbing head and cure the examination system for all eternity!”

The writer had not signed his name, of course. Sanshirō found himself smiling at the end. And yet, in one way or another, he felt enlightened. This was something true not only of philosophy, but of literature as well. He turned the page to find still more.

“The students who flocked to Berlin to hear Hegel’s lectures” –this fellow was obviously a great admirer of Hegel—“were not driven by ambition. They did not intend to exploit the lectures to qualify themselves for making a living. No, they came because their hearts were pure. They knew only that a philosopher called Hegel transmitted from his lectern the ultimate universal Truth and, their quest for truth a pressing need, they sought at his feet to resolve their disquieting doubts. And when they listened to Hegel with pure hearts, they were able to determine their future, to remake their personal destiny. What magnificent conceit it is for you, a Japanese University student, to equate yourself with them, you and your kind who go to lectures with empty heads, who graduate and leave the University with empty heads! You are nothing but typewriters, greedy typewriters. Whatever you do or think or say is finally unrelated to the urgent life force of a changing society. And that is how you shall always be: empty-headed until death! Empty-headed until death!”

This put Sanshirō into a deeply meditative mood until someone tapped him on the shoulder…

— Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) from Sanshirō (1908)