Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hang On Little Tomato

Dared open a book as thick and musty as The Neverending Story. I can practically visualize Etrayu and Falcor while reading the 'Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell'. And just when you're slipping into the swamps of sadness (or madness, as the case may be), a dose of a wise old philosopher like Russell will halt your descent, if not yank you out.
Artax, TRY!! (How sad was this scene?)
Of the future, and hope, Russell writes in 1951:

"Men are slow to learn even when all that is to be learned is the road to happiness. Perhaps they can only learn by even more bitter experience than they have already had of the opposite road. But if they are to learn, if torture is to bring them sanity rather than madness, it will only be because some men have preserved sanity and hope throughout. And the more such men there are, the more chance there is that experience will bring wisdom.  Each separate one of us can do something to increase this chance, by steadfastness and courage throughout the days of darkness."

In a more pedestrian way, this reminds me of a piece of graffiti I read on a wall somewhere in Paris. It read better in French and I'm butchering the translation, but it was something to the effect of: if the crazy person survives the crazy times, he will become wise.

Wisdom is a funny thing, no? It is love, you can see that, yet it retains distance from passion. It is above anger, envy and ego; it is quick to admit it does not know. You can trust wisdom not to have ulterior motives or an agenda. Wisdom is more than intelligence. A janitor may be wise where the biophysicist is a simple scoundrel.

But what's the perk? Why would you want it? it's not as if wisdom is a career option. It doesn't pay, not in dollars. It pays only in the currency of civilization, and only to those who pay attention.

Crazy person, if you're paying attention: I wish you steadfastness and courage.


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

Just now getting around to responding to your lovely “tomato” post.
When you said “wisdom is a funny thing, no? It is love ...” you brought to mind something I was reading recently about Buddhism.

The writer was trying to get at the meaning of the Buddhist goal of Enlightenment.
The two words Buddhists most often associate with Enlightenment, he says, are wisdom and compassion. Wisdom is awakening to the realization that we are all connected. This awakening will naturally lead you to be concerned about and love others, Buddhists maintain. What’s the payoff? Experience of this kind of Enlightenment leads, the writer says, to a sense of profound peace.

Any scientific basis for this? In his book “Super Cooperators, Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed,” Martin Nowak makes a very strong, science-based case that there’s an evolutionary payoff for cooperation: we need it to survive.

And did I detect a biblical echo when you said “love is above anger, envy and ego?” Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant ...”

Amen, brother.

A.J. said...


Kudos. Buonissimo. Wunderbar. Keep on reading about Buddhism, and add some books written about wisdom/knowledge attributed to Confucius/Kung Fu Tze, Lao Tze, and Mencius. Add in a smathering of writings about Western Thinkers on the same topic(s), and perhaps you might "grow" in your understanding about the differences and similarities between knowledge/wisdom.
Congratulations. You are on the right track my boy!

As to cooperation. . .that requires a whole host of different writings.

These topics of discussion have fascinated me for years.

Jesse Archer said...

Thanks for your comments Tony. I like the Buddhists idea of enlightenment and have long meant to look more into it.
As to the bible, it's refreshing to be reminded there are loving passages within, but I wasn't echoing it on purpose. I'll leave that to Sunday school teachers like you! :)