The 3 Characteristics of an Educated Man

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What defines an educated man? The number of degrees he has? The size of his vocabulary? How many books he’s read?

The qualities that constitute an educated man can be argued over and debated. But I was really taken with the description I found in the book How to Live the Good Life by Commander Edward Whitehead (the Schweppes guy!). He said:

“An educated man has been defined as one who can entertain himself, one who can entertain another, and one who can entertain a new idea.”

Let’s take a look at each of these characteristics.

Can Entertain Himself

“Only those who want everything done for them are bored.” ~ Billy Graham

“I’m bored!” is the plaintive cry uttered by many a child idling away their summer vacation or fall break. They expect their parents to come up with an activity to cure this boredom (if your mom was like mine, she would always make a wry suggestion like, “How about cleaning up your room?”).

Unfortunately, many men never outgrow this need to be entertained by others and don’t develop into manly self-starters. This is the man who puts his head down on the dinner table as people talk after eating (I’ve seen it), the college student who grouses his way through a class outing to the local museum, and the houseguest who comes to visit your fair city and has no idea what he’d like to do during his stay; he leaves all the planning to you.

The reason that children are perennially bored is not that there aren’t entertainment options available – they’re often surrounded by toys and games – but that they have such short attention spans. They play with one thing for a little bit and then another, and then don’t know what else to do. The educated man is able to lose himself in a task, a hobby, a conversation, or a book because he has developed his powers of focus and concentration.

“When people are bored, it is primarily with themselves.” ~ Eric Hoffer

Of course these days, with an iPhone always at hand, amusing yourself isn’t very difficult. Anyone can surf or text the boredom away. The real test for the modern educated man is the ability to entertain himself when technology isn’t available or is not socially acceptable to whip out. Can you entertain yourself at a boring meeting, while camping, while conversing at a dinner party? The educated man can, and he does it, ironically enough, by retaining an important ability of his childhood – curiosity. The educated man is insatiably curious about the world around him and other people. In any situation, he sees something to learn, study, and observe. If he’s stuck somewhere with neither phone nor company, he uses the time to untangle a philosophical problem he’s been wrestling with; the mind of the educated man is a repository of ideas that he can pull out and examine to pass the time in any situation.

Can Entertain a Friend

If someone is of the dull, non-self-starting kind, lucky is he to have a friend who is an educated man to entertain him!

The educated man is the life of the party, the man who keeps the conversation lively and is known to be unfailingly engaging.

He is able to do this because of the breadth of his reading and his experiences. He has an arsenal of interesting tales at the ready about his travels and endeavors. And he’s up on the latest news stories and interesting scientific break-throughs. No matter the demographics of the group he’s with, he knows a story that will appeal to them.

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