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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Old philosophy still rings true

Every generation has it’s own “good old days.

Henry Ford’s mother used to repeat many maxims to her son, one went something like, “Work comes before play.”

Somebody’s grandma used to say, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I doubt the person who made that maxim up knew much about science, and that saying still holds true today.

It’s good to listen to the wisdom of our fathers (and mothers). One will become a fool if he does otherwise.

It’s neat how the philosophy from way back in 1 AD still holds true today. Consider here the writings of Epictetus:

Epictetus wrote: “I think I know now what I never knew before -- the meaning of the common saying, A fool you can neither bend nor break. Pray heaven I may never have a wise fool for my friend! There is nothing more intractable. --‘My resolve is fixed!’ -- Why, so madmen say too; but the more firmly they believe in their delusions, the more they stand in need of treatment.”

I think this might also hold true for the politician who refuse to budge in their opinions. You know how Socrates wrote that one is the fool who refuses to admit to his ignorance. I’m not saying all politicians are ignorant, just many people.

The most dangerous fool is not the wise politician, but the wise journalist and wise teacher. They are the one’s who will be educating our children. When they educate by their POV rather than all POVs, our children will be all the less wise for it.

Epictetus wrote: “If a man would pursue Philosophy, his first task is to throw away conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn what he has a conceit that he already knows.”

I’m sure Ben Franklin had this in mind when he signed the Declaration of Independence after he promised his loyalty to his motherland of England.

Ronald Reagan must have thought that way when he changed parties, and Lieberman as he continues to support the War in Iraq despite the wishes of most others in his party. However, such wisdom turned him into a pseudo-independent Senator.

“The question at stake… is no common one; it is this: -- Are we in our senses, or are we not?”

Only time will tell us the answer to this. However, as Ecclesiastes wrote, “Everything is emptiness and a chasing after wind. There is nothing to be gained under the sun. “

Or, in other words, nothing ever changes, and every thing we are doing today is for naught. While we think the issues before us are so important, once they are resolved, and once we are all dead and gone, the sun will rise yet again, and a new problem will fill the land.

Ecclesiastes wrote: “What do people gain from all the work they do under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, yet the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and rushes back again to the place from which it rises.”

He continues: “What is is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done. There is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which can be said, “See this is new!” -- It has already been, in eras before us. The people of ages past are no longer remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.”

Aha, so what’s the point of me sitting here writing any of this, and of you reading this. It has all been written before.

Yet, then again, this pessimistic writing appears as a book in the Bible, and it must be noted that while many people will have this pessimistic view of life, God gives us reason enough to go on.

Okay, so what if you have no belief in God. If that is the case, then I guess you just have to live for today. Can you do this and still have respect for other people. I mean, if there are no consequences to your actions, what’s to stop you from stepping over people to get what you want?

I had this discussion with my brother once, after he told me he didn’t believe in God. He told me something along these lines of Epictetus:

“Have you again forgotten? Know you not that a good man does nothing for appearance’ sake, but for the sake of having done right…?

“Is there no reward then?

“Reward! Do you seek any greater reward for a good man than doing what is right and just? Yet at the great Games you look for nothing else; there the victor’s crown you deem enough. Seems it to you so small a thing and worthless, to be a good man, and happy therein?

I said to my brother, “But you do not believe in God?”

He said, “I still seek to do good by myself and my brothers.”

“Then you are the exception to the rule,” I said.


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