If you want to know the value of philosophy…
Ask someone who struggles with beauty and what they would think about something that could change that
Ask someone who felt they said the wrong words, and wonder why words matter
Ask a minimum wage worker who comes home exhausted after work everyday wondering if this is all life is.
Ask those who cannot speak in their government, and what it would mean to have a voice.
Ask a person about their identity and why it matters.
Ask a marketer about a customer’s perspective, and what the value of being able to change it is.
Ask a shopper what is worth their money and why they feel that way.
Ask someone that has had their minds changed from a conversation.
Ask 2 friends why they are friends, and what they feel the importance of friendship is.
Ask yourself “what would i do if i could only do and think what i was told?”
If you want to know the value of philosophy…
Your appetite for food is limited. Your appetite for information is insatiable. So you transcend your physical limitation by compromising - your informational appetite is without limitations, so you consume pounds upon pounds of fish, steak, rice, potatoes, greens, fruit, milk and on and on because you can. If a 16 ounce steak takes 1 megabyte store, than you feed by the flow of information online. You need more bandwidth now than yesterday; and yesterday’s bandwidth ridicules its ancestors, all the while knowing very well it will soon enough be the subject of the past and ridicule. Each piece of expansion grows quicker than the last, until there is only the understanding of expansion. This feeding is almost itself alive, and you now seem more a bionic part of a larger organism, like roots that work in reverse of a tree, or like the sun giving birth to all life on earth. And so naturally there is the question of wether we can be destroyed by the same hand that feeds, the same hand which we are so hopelessly dependent on.
Dao is the unspoken, as the spoken word is something entirely different than Dao. I am getting closer to leaving behind the gimmicks and realizing the effortlessness and wordlessness.
I’m a mess
Some interesting things to note would be A) William James once said, “Wisdom is knowing what to overlook” which is very interesting, and I’ll go on to explain why below and secondly, B) Lao Tzu who advised leadership that was supposedly in harmony with nature.
Regarding A) There is a very serious condition called (I’m not sure if this is formal or informal) Hamlet Syndrome, which resides in an individual who is so intelligent and so aware of the many things around him, that he/she is unable to take decisive action. I think there are many examples of this. It is the reason controversy exists. It is the reason things get very, very hair numbingly hair-spliiting, and it is the reason why a talented debater can beat his opponent in taking pro and do it again by taking the con side. This is because there is literally an infinitude of factors to consider, pros and cons to list, exceptions to be made, and so forth all because black is not inherently better than white and so forth. What I think William James said is very relevant because without wisdom, we would fall into Hamlet Syndrome. With the wisdom he speaks of, the wisdom a leader would ideally have, he/she would know when to break the rules and when, though he may be opposed by all people in either case, uphold them.
In regards to B) Lao Tzu had a very different perspective of the world. It was all about “going with the flow” and not trying to make life solid, unchanging and stagnant. The principles of Daoism were modeled after the universe. In my eyes, it was/is the ultimate usage of credibility— the universe has been doing its thing (you know, being in harmony in such a perfect way that, despite impossible odds, has managed to create and sustain life.. the list goes on forever) for, well, eternity which must mean that it’s doing something right! So he thinks a leader should be so closely related to the people, that he is actually indistinguishable from them. In this way, Lao Tzu says, what happens is so natural that no one presumes to take credit! It reminds me of another Daoist concept WEI WU WEI, which is doing without doing. The best example I’ve heard is from a philosophy professor named Seth Tichenor on youtube. He explains that in his swimming days, his best coach would, rather than telling him what to do, ask him to dive. When Seth would swim back up, he would ask Seth how it felt. Seth would go on to explain this. And this went on time after time, and each time, he would only ask Seth to explore his own self. By not acting, by not imposing, Seth became a better swimmer. Maybe the coach knew what Seth had to do, but maybe he didn’t. One thing is for sure though — Seth did, which is why the coach focused on him.
This is surely one of the qualities I see a fit leader having, probably because no one man has the answers, but when he has ears that hear more than himself, he can find the way (though it he might lend the power to something outside of him, a fit ruler knows his boundaries, and knows that the trust he places in others when the time is right is what makes his versatile and adaptive).
I am still striving to understand the totality of Lao Tzu, but so far I’ve got the William James part down.
Though I suppose I still have not answered your question the way you would like it answered. To do so: I do not have an answer. The reason why I typed such a lengthy passage is because that is how I am trying to find an answer in the here and now of my life. What do you think, wondering wanderer?
All my life I have asked questions. I have wondered and wandered in thought. My questions have made me friends and my questions have costed potential friendships, I’m sure, though I’m not aware of any of them since they did not become friendships then end. I was born to a father who as a simpleton never asked these questions himself; to a mother who was not so much herself a thinker but a supporter. A supporter of whatever it was her children had interest in. For me, that turned out to be philosophy. The questions got deeper and deeper, the pictures bigger and bigger, more and more complex they grew over the years. I was able to make references to works like the Allegory of the Cave, among many others, to use it as a vehicle to understand the dangers of those who do not think. I come to you now to present the dangers of those that do.
We cannot think too much, but like all things, we can abuse any privilege; any tool is subject to the will of the user, whether they want to use it for one thing, or another. Intellectuality, the search for truth, philosophy and so forth is no different. I have realized, quite honestly, that it is no different than a hobby. It is a hobby, among other hobbies. It also happens to be promoted by the general population and enforced as a norm.
"Sports are great, having fun is nice, working is good, but being intellectual is the ideal. Studying can never be looked at with a frown— he/she is simply trying to better themselves, and perhaps the world, through an education!" That is how I perceive the norm in plain language, though it is seldom put forth in such a way.
In my search for college, something that will change my life not just by virtue of itself, but by many other things, such as location thus whom I will contact, form friendships with, the challenges I will face and the life I will live, I have discussed my wonders and concerns with quite a few people. “It’s kind of a selfish thing— you can get lost in your studies, forget about the outside world (that is, the world beyond those beside you in your intellectual journey) and let it consume you,” is what a woman named Audrey told me. Over conversation with a fellow prospective student, Elizabeth, she said “you can’t forget to live in the midst of everything,” and she was onto something.
You see, learning and education is a hobby, as previously mentioned, but the enforcing of the norm is what makes it so easy to justify putting aside the people we love, and the things we are passionate about in order to keep satisfying the obsession for learning, whether or not we actually enjoy it. I am in love with learning, but just because I can always think critically does not mean I should. I often (and I do mean often) find it hard to put the brakes on and just enjoy something for what it is, or as it seems to be from my point of view without breaking it down, analyzing it in relation to others things, going on and on about not that which I have experienced, not the world around me that I should be present to, but the thoughts about them. I leave the world in that ponderous time, and I leave the people I love. I do not think that anything that can consume you to such a degree, that can control you to the point that you cannot say no or stop you when you try to can ever be a good thing.
Today, March 3rd, 2013, I thought about that prospective student and how I replied to her with a quote from one of my favorite philosophers, David Hume, “Be a philosopher, but amidst all of your philosophy, be still a man.” I searched for the quote and found the longer excerpt that goes like this: Indulge your passion for science, says she, but let your science be human, and such as may have a direct reference to action and society. Abstruse thought and profound researches I prohibit, and will severely punish, by the pensive melancholy which they introduce, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception which your pretended discoveries shall meet with, when communicated. Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.
Hume was right. I do not know if it was his wife to tell him this, but it would make sense to have an outsider do so. I have experienced the profound thought and have been punished by the pensive melancholy, the endless uncertainty, and probably, too, by the cold reception the abuse of philosophy brings. “Be a philosopher, but amidst your philosophy, be still a man.” That will forever ring in my ears. I have made a very important discovery: intellectuality can very well consume an individual and blind them to what is beyond their inquiries, to neglect those around and generally live in the endless aspects of the world, the world of thought, the world about the world, rather than the world itself.
Stop and smell the roses. Look up at the night sky. Philosophy, just like science, often shows us how lucky we are to be alive; how we are here despite all odds; how we experience, despite not really being sure there is anything to experience, that anything is real, or any of that. The deeper we go into thought, into science and philosophy, the more we recognize the mystery of existence itself. It’s a hobby, among all hobbies. But like all hobbies, it has its limitations; the mystery is in the world, not in the world of thought we use to recognize it mentally. The roses and stars are out there, not in the words we write about them. Go out there and be that mystery, rather than sitting and thinking about it… all the time.
Thus, “be a philosopher, but amidst your philosophy, be still a man.”
Through my love of philosophy, I have come to discover the beauty in/of life. I am a part of something a lot bigger than myself. We are one, and my destiny is a fraction of this whole. We all are. The universe follows very complex yet simple patterns, much like a fractal. Every piece within that fractal represents the entire whole and we are those pieces. My entire life is just a small part of this grand pattern, and even my life is a compilation of other people, things, experiences which together all model that very same pattern. No matter how infinitely large, or infinitesimally small the scale, the pattern persists. This pattern is life.
Life always finds a way to re-establish itself even in terrible circumstances: forest fires, plagues, droughts etc. Life is redistributed over and over again because an ecosystem always emerges from the remains of such catastrophes in the same way a phoenix is reborn from its own ashes. But why is it so persistent? From bears to plants without motility, that drive is there. Wherever life is found, it is always in a state of reorganizing itself, and by doing so, reflecting the complexity of the fractal pattern. In other words, it is always reflecting itself and acting upon itself. It increases in complexity just by being what it is, like an endless rabbit hole. Like science and philosophy develop more and more questions as they discover more and more. It is for this reason that life must act upon itself. Its very nature is to model itself, and it does this by acting upon itself. The stages of birth and death are themselves the static, self-modeling complexity, and the complexity manifests itself as the birth and death of everything, among many other manifestations. Life’s very activity is to persist through these very relationships of birth and death, forest fires, droughts, plagues etc. and be one with the cosmos.
All of our lives are models for the whole, every piece in our lives, every piece of those pieces and so on and so forth. The galaxies model the universe, in some way, though there are many different universes modeling the different forms of life. Some theoretical physicists even think that the universe is but one of many, which would be yet another manifestation of the pattern. Everything is infinite, and we are the infinite fulfilling ourselves, by acting upon ourselves (people, plants, animals, the universe, etc). There is just so much beauty, I can hardly keep myself from exploding with happiness and almost instant fulfillment. In fact, I am fulfilled moment to moment, just by following my nature. Everything is. I want to help everyone and everything around me grow. Not just because of how beautiful it is, not just because it is the shared nature among everything, but because I can. I truly believe that I can help people, and I want to with all of my heart, on behalf of myself, and on behalf of the universe, because me helping another would simply be the universe aiding itself like an individual cares for themselves.
I exist. We exist. That is a gift, a destiny I have no greater honor than to appreciate and fulfill.
A little point said if you ought to find me, you ought to know where
Indeed, I am here, but I am not there
My brother went for a walk somewhere over there
You may know us by the differences we share
A little girl said I cannot bare how my brother does not care
We are close, but differences make us similar, not a pair
You can know us by our differences in philosophy
Because we differ in how we ought to be
Black said to white, how do I look?
White said to black, how do I look?
Together they stood, and at once it made sense
They could live only by each other existence
Difference is the space shared by the each point in between
The road of the point on all its walks
The brother’s and sister’s philosophy creating space in between
The space that hosts all their talks
It is the space and relation between black and white
Both existing because of the other, ever so tight
We know these relationships because we can see
Because eyes are the tension between darkness and light
Life is possible because of the tension that creates
Life is the line that is thus made
On it we rest between the extremes
In between life and death, wake and rest, arrogance and humility
In the seams of all possibilities
I have been dissecting the idea of “justification” lately, but that is really another discussion in itself. I do, however, think that people are, by default, dealing in terms of themselves. What I mean by that, is when someone says “cool” for example, they might assume that person is using it the same way they do (using the same connotation), but upon further thought, I might realize that this may not be the case. So you see, I have still reacted (without justice?) without knowing all there is to know.
In a nutshell, my argument against justification is that if we really did know all, there can be no “right” or “wrong” because, for example, the glass is both and neither half-full and/nor half-empty.