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Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the boy starts his “education” the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up. A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most of the members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets, or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to;they must get it secondhand.

What does it mean?

So difficult...

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"Get it secondhand" is a fixed phrase meaning to obtain desired information or knowledge indirectly. "It" refers to the knowledge, in this case of direct perception of nature.

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