“A fact may not be much by itself, but it points toward what is true, and even the humblest truth may in time lead a mind to contemplate the beautiful and the good.”
The imagination needs memory. In ancient Greek mythology, the nine Muses (the inspiration for everything creative and beautiful) came from the union of Zeus and Memory. Inspiration that comes merely from within--without drawing on history, art, and literature--is self-centered and peculiar.
Facts--whether they are historical, scientific, geographical, or what have you--may not be inspiring in and of themselves but if they are in the memory of a questioning mind, they can lead to all sorts of inspiration. The memory can call up two seemingly unconnected things and mold them into a whole new thought. Without the memory, the imagination has little to play with.
The memory needs facts learned in a structured, organized manner. Random and disorganized facts are robbed of their creative potential. Real art--whether it’s a painting, a poem, a story, or a mathematical equation--is subject to rules and structure.
A memory stifled by laziness and flattery will quickly fill up with everything that is silly, flat, and vapid.
Esolen quotes Aeneas, the saddest hero of ancient epic, in the Aeneid when he tells his son:
“Hard work and manhood learn from me, my boy;
Good fortune you can learn from someone else.”
A student of Latin fights his way through inflectional endings to translate that passage until “the moment of understanding, the vision of a truth that is precious precisely because it turns us away from easy and comfortable consolations, a truth made more splendid by poetry that burns itself in the memory, will have made the laborious study worthwhile.”