“Ours is a time that would have sent the Greeks to their oracles. We fail at our own peril to consult our own.”–Harold Goddard
The older you get the more you learn about yourself (or so some say that is the way of it). Surprisingly I find myself currently on the other side of reason despite my genuine love for logic, the rule of law, intellectual honesty,integrity, and the practical application of knowledge. I can honestly say I no longer see myself as solely governed by reason (and I am excited by that because a whole new organ of perception, as Goethe observes, has re-opened before me). Though I will continue to consult oracles–science, history, honest inquiry, objectivity, books, experience and curiosity–I think my allegiance is returning to that youthful and exuberant hand-maiden of reason known as ‘wonder’ (and with that reality is suddenly pregnant with possibilities again because I have finally given up the desire for certainty)
“All the idols made by man, however terrifying they may be, are in point of fact subordinate to him, and that is why he will always have it in his power to destroy them.”—Simon du Beauvoir
Aaron: why’d Achilles die the way he did?
Me: because his mother Thetis dipped him by the foot in the River Styx so he wouldn’t die young. The water made him immortal. But his ankle was not immersed so he remained vulnerable there.
Aaron: why not turn him over, dip him in the water completely and finish the job? Or switch feet and hang him by the other side?
Me: because Achilles would not have been nearly as interesting if they did that I guess.
This exchange got me thinking: all myths–whether produced by the ancient Greeks or by we moderns–never stand up to even the simplest most childlike question. Myths persist precisely because human ignorance and credulousness continue to make such fertile soil; by simply inventing answers to mysteries we are not actually increasing our knowledge but moving further away from reality. So your belief in homeopathy, acupuncture, astrology, etc. all anesthetize the intellect making one a slave to both mindless abeyance and absurdity.
If you need money then go to the “banca.” In the 14th century, when capitalism was emerging through the work of a growing class of merchant bankers in Italy, these bankers exchanged money at the “river bank” where they met traveling merchants to exchange currency. Hence, the name “bank” is a reflection of a centuries old Italian “riverbank” financial exchange. We are surrounded by words, ideas and concepts whose origins have passed into memory and then into complete obscurity; we presume they’ve always existed in their current form (a form we’ve inherited) giving our worldview an unjustified veneer of sophistication, meaning and purpose.
This is one of the reasons why knowledge and literacy are so important: knowledge increases a person’s awareness of where things come from (increasing the possibility of change and improvement) while literacy provides a person with the means to continue unlearning the nonsense their well-intentioned parents, teachers and parent culture taught them.
I personally identify as a book reading liberal in the 18th century sense of the word: I like my church and state separate; I prefer constitutions to kings and dictators; I favor the notion of morality not being dictated to me by some infallible priest. I also accept, without any qualification whatsoever, that I have a civic and ethical responsibility to respect my fellow citizens, their life choices, and to preserve a society which embraces diversity. I view social change as a good and not as some sort of disease to be eradicated. I also really, really like watermelon, chocolate, bananas, peanut butter, and music.
It is indeed remarkable how strongly a person will believe X is true based on the slimmest (or even complete lack of ) evidence while at one and the same time deny Y is true that actually has empirical and observational evidence in support of it.