A poster at my home says, “Read, Write, Learn and Inwardly Digest.”
I remember placing that poster up there 14 years ago with my brother, and it gets only occasional bits of admiration for the painting that encompasses most part of it. What is written there at the bottom is gracefully ignored, as it generally seems banal when you first read it.
I was home a few weeks back that I had an inadvertent look at the poster again. As I read and re-read the quote several times, I could notice a profound meaning in it, especially in the word “digest”. As one thought lead to another, I could remember one of Rajiv Malhotra‘s lectures on the digestion of civilizations and cultures. Though his focus in the lecture is on something else entirely, the example he gives is extraordinary. We have a tiger and its prey: a goat. If you take out the goat’s blood and inject it into the body of the tiger, the tiger would reject it. But when the tiger actually eats the goat and finally digests it, the goat’s blood becomes its own. So without digestion, tiger cannot accept the goat’s blood.
Likewise, unless you digest an idea which is new and foreign to you, you wouldn’t really understand it fully, or appreciate it beyond some point. Digestion of an idea is a process of making it your own, to be able reproduce and redefine it on your own terms and hence build on it to make it even more elegant.