Older Friends of Mind

Tonight, I happened to read over the introduction to a book I own from 1895, Philosophy of Theism. It contains the Edinburgh  Gifford lectures of Alexander Campbell Fraser. He was about 75 years old. Only a few pages in, he reflects on how much time he wished he had to reflect on the question posed to Simonides: “What is God?” (2). Fraser suggests that this knowledge is beyond man, yet man strives toward an answer. Locke saw the same thing. So did Kant in his own way. Kierkegaard realized this too. And yet here I am at the age of 29, having torn at the boundaries of the empirical and sunk deep into the sea of the rational, and I can firmly agree with him.

I feel such a concoction of subtle heartbreak and playful glee at this thought. I do not feel wise, only decently read. But the continuous search for the truth about God and reality renders one exhausted. There truly is a peace in surrendering to the truth of human limitation. It’s a simple idea, but the implications are incredibly strong. And so, I feel a fraternal bond to Frasier in this simple idea. Who could count the number of great minds who have also reached this conclusion? I am no where near the level of intelligence as many of these men, but I do not feel ignorant of their understanding.

Indeed, time has continually proven that the wise in this world are those who understand that they, in Socrate’s words, know nothing. And when knowledge must transcend subjectivity, the wise understand their own ignorance. The wise understand – here is God.

Works Cited:

Fraser, A. Campbell. Philosophy of Theism. Edinburgh, William Blackwood and Sons, 1895.

A Philosophical Dialogue

George: “After all, ontology precedes oncology.”

Webber: “I do believe you mean ‘epistemology’.”

George: “Please… Has there ever been anything more cancerous than knowledge? From knowledge, man learnt to sharpen arrows, create dictatorships, and build atomic bombs!”

Webber: “That’s true, but man has also created suturing needles, democracies, and nuclear power plants.”

George: “All capitalist gain. They all amount to men fighting men for power and material goods. And what happens when a man gets old? His things become meaningless. His whole life is thrown away on gaining luxury and he is alone. He is distracted from the meaningful things.”

Webber: “Only if he abuses his wealth and power! If he moderates those, he can provide for a lover and a family.”

George: “Yes, and only to watch those go too through death or distance.”

Webber: “That’s true as well, but what else is there to live for in this life? To seek the truth, to love and be loved, to be happy – to avoid these simply because they are impermanent is ridiculous. I would rather know love before death than not. After all, cancer or not, we all die. Some of us just know what will kill us.”

On Knowledge and Slavery

Those with little knowledge are the easiest to enslave.

The human mind can only be strong through practice and learning. Ignorance is the mightiest of all Trojan horses. It forces its way through the gates of the mind. No invitation is needed. When someone says something that sounds like what you want to hear, you latch onto their very words – whether that person be liberal, conservative, or confused, it matters not.

Likewise, when you don’t know what you believe on an issue, you take refuge in those who speak with confidence. They must know something. They can be trusted. Ignorance of rhetoric is doubly violent to the simple mind for this reason. For all who are like sheep will be led astray.

Last, if you have the wrong ideas in the first place – if your trust of authority and ideology has been misguided already – you will be led astray more as a rebel. You step up to shout with those shouting your thoughts. But have you actually stopped to ask what you believe in? What is good? What is right? What is bad or wrong or disgusting? If not, then you are simply a slave to yourself and those who dare to lead you, a commander of callous clockwork.

Those who take time to challenge themselves from both sides of an issue will likely be best suited to fight the cultural charge to enslave their minds. These are the ones who have realized that they know nothing, but that they know nothing. Admitting limitations is the first step, but experiencing this truth is the rest of the staircase. Humility will next be your guide, followed by patience and compassion. For all others still have much to learn and they usually do not know that they do.