Gather around kids, I have a tale to tell; about the day that philosophy decided to rebel…
We have a problem. A problem of the mind. A problem of having it and rarely using it. A problem of neglecting it and forgetting it. A problem of losing it and destroying it. A problem of gluttonous filling of it with inane, insignificant, insoluble shit. A problem of ignorance, intolerance and outright viciousness towards conflicting ideas and beliefs. A problem that is destroying our world. A problem that can not continue if we hope to survive. It is to those problems that I raise a call to philosophical rebellion.
You see, we need a way out. A way to find the truth of our lives. A way to disagree with respect. A way to find out the things that matter to us and defend them with our mental might, but not come to defend them at the cost of others. We need a way to think and grow that lasts a lifetime and changes the very core of our being. A way that sets to flame the rotting, unreasoned hovels of ignorance, hatred and self deception and builds the monuments of understanding, acceptance and wisdom. That way is to return to the roots of reason. The pursuit of philosophy.
I am not suggesting a system. A catch all methodology to find your joy in life. I am weary of people who claim to have a system to manage and direct the intentions of the entirety of a people. There is simply too much variation, to much diversity and extremity of malady for everyone to be cured by any one system. We suffer too personally and our diseases are too specific to be treated by the generic.
That is why we must diagnose ourselves through critical, honest and constant evaluation. We must be our own doctors and find our own specific prescriptions in the words of philosophy, because the seeds of philosophy planted today are the forests of reason, skepticism, understanding and wisdom, grown tomorrow. And we must remember that, where we rest our minds is the soil from which those forests will spring. Just as you can not hope to grow a bounty from ruined dirt and rancid seeds, so you can not expect to live a life of joy and happiness by planting the seeds of ignorance, insensitivity and naiviety.
And it is those rotting seeds of ignorance and dogmatic belief that causes us to suffer so much more than the psychological maladies and neurological malfunctions that can be cured by science and medicine. We see everyday the growing insanity of man in spite of the growing body of science that promises to cure the struggles of the mind. Because we are more than that. We are a symbiosis of heart and mind and the afflictions of the mind, the ones that paralysis us on sleepless nights and send heart palpitating anxieties through our bodies, often begin in the heart – as quiet, creeping doubts and sadnesses, secreted away fears and hurts, that slowly weave their way into our minds and take root as psychological deformities that fester in our minds.
I recognize that there are some problems of the mind that run so much deeper than philosophy can dig. There are so many serious conditions that require the serious assistance of a professional. There is no substitute for that, but there are more general problems, the ones that contaminate the day to day experience of so many people, that could be cured by approaching philosophy in the right way.
Philosophy is not all heavy intellectual lifting and hours pondering shadowy truths in the dark abyss of a smoky cafe. Philosophy started as two parts personal development and one part intellectual curiosity. It went out into the world and experimented, challenged, rebelled, debated and evolved. The greatest philosophers lived their ideals; they didn’t just talk about them, and in the process they found the reason in their lives. The found strengths they never had and powers they never expected.
Philosophical thinking is like taking up an exercising program to get fit. Everyone knows that at least a little physical activity everyday is good for you. Now up to that point, you get to take your level of physical involvement in an exercise program as far as you want. You can do the bare minimum for strength and maintenance of a physique you already have. You can take it further and work more intensely in order to get to a physique you will be comfortable with, or you can take it to the extreme, training for a marathon or triathlon, and seek to join the upper echelon of athletic accomplishment. Philosophy is the same in regards to levels of effort, but the returns are more noticeable and dramatic at any effort level.
Even the bare amount of daily, deliberate, philosophical inquiry is enough to improve your mental physique. It will make your mind more supple, accepting and open to the world. You can, of course, chose to take your philosophical thinking to the next level, but you do not need to work so intensely, or be an elite philosophical mind, to reap the benefits of philosophical inquiry, reflection and study as it is brought into your life.
And yes, sometimes you have to set it all down, walk away for a while, take a mental rest day and go live your live, because no ideas, no philosophies, no understandings matter if they are not rooted in the world and in the expression of yourself. Therein lies the critical importance of philosophy. We must come to rejoice in the distraction and occasionally put down our intellectual ponderings in favor of the obvious and expansive joys of merely living.
The key in returning philosophy to its personal glory is to remove the obfuscation of it. The greatest hurdle is in the language, in the hiding of key points behind flowery beds of prose. Now I am not saying that we can distill great philosophical treatise of brilliant minds to a few bullet points and then go our merry way thinking that we understand the entirety of a philosopher’s work. I am saying that we don’t need to understand the entirety of a work in order to get value out of it. We can pull out some aphorisms, give them context and application in our lives and use them, see if they work, take them out for a test drive, because that is where philosophy is supposed to be living – outside in the real world.
We must return to the vision of Socrates to steal away philosophy from the academics who think we can not work it. We are in fact the only ones who can work it, because it was always meant for us. It was meant to improve our lives, to direct our motivations, to get us thinking about the world; our world, the world that we build and move through. The world that we shape through our beliefs and intentions and actions.
And we must come to teach a way to navigate our world, not by merely giving directions to get to a destination, but providing the tools to find your own way. We must teach the art of personal development cartography through philosophy so that people can develop their own maps to get where they need to go. Shared maps do no good. We are all starting in difference places and we are all moving along different routes and the landmarks of direction for one person can not be seen by another. While we may be headed towards the same destination, we must each find our own way of getting there, and that is what philosophy provides.
By placing in our minds a diversity of knowledge, experience and influence, we are able to ensure the right sort of thoughts will surface when we are least paying attention; those of wisdom and growth. You do not have to read philosophy as prescriptive or dogmatic. You don’t have to take all of it or get none of it. But the more you digest the more you will find what resonates with you and your mind will start to take on a new shape – fitness that it never had before and you will be able to think farther and stronger than you ever imagined possible. You will develop that vitality of mind that comes from questioning our beliefs, investigating their validity and going to search for new ones when they fail us.
So we must rebel. We must rebel against the destructive distractions of the day and reassert ourselves to the cause of living, thinking, breathing and doing. The cause of philosophy. We must take up mental arms against the constant war that is being waged for our attention and our belief and our ideals and we must be strong enough to fight back, opposing those forces that threaten to bring us down to their level by applying our reason. We must come together and fight the will to ignorance with the will to wisdom. There is nothing left for us to lose and everything for us to gain.
Today we start the philosophy rebellion and tomorrow we reshape the world.