I am not religious, but as the greats before me have come and the greats before me have died, so I have come and seen, that life cannot be quantified and measured. Life cannot be placed in little boxes, cut up into data, looked at through lens as small as our hearts, and placed on a platter. It must be lived; we all know this —we all feel this, but we don't feel it; that is the precise problem.
I am inclined to lecture everyone on what it means "to feel" —it means, you are inclined to be moved, and I must recount to you then, a story of a fiat lux (1 unit class) I took in UCLA on precisely this. The professor was interested in the topic: what does it mean to be moved? and we spent the quarter looking for evidence, by asking people questions, observing people, and doing the normal study based approach through to arrive at an answer.
The class received no answer. They arrived that being moved was a more or less feeling of camaraderie... an emotion, but I deigned enough to believe that being moved was not so much an emotion, though there was inclusion of a profound emotional event, but it was precisely stated within the definition itself what it was —being moved is being moved. In other words, to be compelled to act despite oneself.
During the class, we were made to watch some of the sad videos that had conspired in Japan to manipulate people into buying car insurance. One of those wretchedly upsetting and sad stories with a Dad who lived for her daughter, though the Dad was deaf and mute and because of this, caused much grief to the daughter, for she saw the normal parents that other kids had during school, and could only wish for that which she did not have. Well, one day that daughter became ill and arrived at the hospital, and it was at that moment that this deaf and mute Father was talking with the doctor, giving all these hand signs and gestures which in essence said, "Take me damnit! Take me before she dies!" and of course, that is what happened, because her daughter needed an organ, and he was the one that had it, and so when she awoke... well, we know what happened to her, as for the class, we were given an advertisement for life insurance a moment after.
So, were we moved? We were evidently sad, many of us could commiserate, we even understood the message clearly, but were we moved? The answer, I'm sorry to say, is no. None of us, in that moment, moved to our phones, and called our Fathers. Not a single one. Why? We all said we were moved, not a single one of us said that we didn't feel a commiseration, but I can accept condolences without wanting them. I can accept emotions without acting on them, and we all continued the class, very much *unmoved.
*To be moved is to act. When something is so intensely felt, that there is no possibility of not acting. It also works in the reverse. To act, means to move yourself. Each are synonymous, only we confuse decisions with actions sometimes.
What is a decision? It is a reasoned choice. I decide or resolve on a particular course, then, regardless of circumstances, I attempt to carry out my choice. How come it is an attempt then? What causes some choices to fail to be carried out? Is it not because choices are in opposition to action? That is, to being moved? That when one decides on a course, but cannot do it is precisely a counter-definition to being moved —the person cannot move themselves to act on what they have decided on.
All choices stand in opposition to being moved. To be moved means to be compelled by something beyond thought, something being emotion or spirituality.
But we deny that the world has any objective emotions or spirits. We laugh at the idea of the existence of these phenomena because we cannot quantify them, therefore we choose to say that they do not exist because they are not countable like cups on a table, like data in a graph, like people in a class.
But just because we cannot quantify something does not mean it does not exist. We cannot quantify love, yet surely we all agree that it exists, respond to it in similar fashions, play the role that love intends us to play with our beloved.
We cannot quantify fear, yet surely we all agree that fear exists, so much so that we will physically move ourselves out of fear to avoid that which we fear. That a genre of movie called horror exists means we can all agree upon the circumstances in which fear should arise, so though fear is not measurable, its existence cannot be denied, but if fear has an existence, does that not fall under a definition of objective?
And what of spirits? I do not believe they exist, but I do believe a phenomena that is close to a spirit does exist: patterns. A pattern is a recurrent set of movements that makes us recognize that pattern, a pattern denotes a signal. When a close friend moves away from you, and you miss them, and if they lived with you, you still see them roaming around the house, doing what they used to do, though they are obviously not in the house, what is that but the existence of a spirit, a pattern that still exists within your soul, but has lost physical permanence?
To think of this as "memory" wouldn't be quite right either because the "imagination" of that person can sometimes be said to do completely new and novel things within the house of which memory would not be able to encapsulate. You come home one day from work upset, and you feel your wife greet you as she used to before she left, but it is an altogether different greeting today based on the new circumstances of your work. There's a spirit! or rather there is a densely concentrated pattern that was ripped away physically, but not emotionally nor spiritually —an existence without a physical existence: that is the definition of a spirit; it is a pattern which we cannot physically see, but still recognize to exist. It is real, objective.
When I say I see something that people cannot see, I mean that I recognize a pattern that other people do not recognize. The patterns people recognize are generally the easiest ones, physical patterns, but as stated above, those are not the only patterns that exist in the world, for people. If people were only the sum of the physical patterns they composed of, we'd be able to quantify people by two different means: 1. how they look, 2. what they do. These are the only true physical realities when it concerns people, and since people cannot control how they look aside from cosmetics, I chose, for 7 years to live precisely on number two.
I obsessed over what it is I should do —over the long-term, over the short-term, over the mid-term, over every decision; and I, not lacking in courage and strength, carried out precisely what I reasoned to do, but what I found when I tried this, was that my best decisions, or rather the decisions that defined my existence, were the most unreasonable decisions, and because they were unreasonable, I often had to work backwards —I would act, then reflect and attempt to pin-point the reason why I had acted as I had acted. I did this for 7 years, and it has taken me to an altogether simple conclusion: there is no reason for why I did as I did. It is outside the scope of reason; it is something more than reason. Though the reasons I gave may have a semblance of truth to them, they were not the truth, and the reason why is because the Truth lies outside reason; it lies outside reason because the Truth attempts to encapsulate the existence of everything, but if reason is only a part of that "existence of everything", with emotions and "spirits" (patterns) existing as well, then it is quite clear that reason cannot arrive at Truth. It is a fragment of the Truth, a lowercase t-truth, but we like to pretend that it is the summation of all Truth; it comforts us greatly to know.
Back to being moved; it is when there is no possibility of not acting, but if this is the case, why it is that people are so seldom moved? It is for the sake of comfort. We do not like to feel controlled, we do not want to be moved by some foreign substance called emotion or spirit which we cannot physically see and control; how we fear it! Yet for the whole existence of this world has been run on that emotion or spirit which compels men to follow their hearts and discover the unknown for no reason other than to follow their hearts and to discover the unknown. It is the most unreasonable men and women who have given this world the nurturing it requires, of which if they did not exist, the world would be no more than a giant machine, with its citizens as the cogs of that machine, churning out waste for the sake of petty accomplishments like building skyscrapers and roads, fancy restaurants and lifestyle, entertainment which we call art, and to improve the speed at which we dig our own graves; that has been primarily been what our 21st century calls success.
I'm attaching here a snippet of Ten Bears' speech during the Medicine Lodge Treaties; the meetings that happened as a result of war of the whites and natives. I consider this success:
"You have said that you want to put us on a reservation, to build us houses and to make us medicine lodges. I do not want them. I was born under the prairie, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no walls and everything drew free breath. I want to die there, not within walls. I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas River. I have hunted and lived all over that country. I live like my fathers before me and like them I live happily."
—Ten Bears, Medicine Lodge Treaty Conference Speech
And the reason why:
"I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass. I want it all clear and pure, and I wish it so, that all who go through among my people may find peace when they come in, and leave it when they go out...
But it is too late. The white man has the country which we loved and we only wish to wander on the prairie until we die. Any good thing you say to me shall not be forgotten. I shall carry it as near to my heart as my children and it shall be as often on my tongue as the name of the Great Spirit..."
—Ten Bears, Medicine Lodge Treaty Conference Speech
Full Text: here.
there are worse things than
but if often takes decades
to realize this
and most often
when you do
it's too late
and there's nothing worse
And how alone we are! How absolutely alone despite all the "joys" of modern technology that has taken this world on a trajectory thought only to be an imagination of science-fiction in the 1900s. It is becoming reality, and we move further down our graves so as to comfort ourselves with a task in our loneliness, but the further we dig, the less we come to realize light!
The allegory of the cave; it was education that saved us from savagery, but now it is education that causes our savagery! For education has conspired to teach us what Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle sought to teach (dialectic over rhetoric), and it has taught it well! but we ourselves have forgotten what it is that they did not need to teach to everyone centuries ago because they already knew, but we have now forgotten!
I quote from The Apology of Socrates by Plato:
"I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name as an illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god."
—Plato, The Apology of Socrates
That despite Socrates' and Plato's insistence of dialectic, rationality, reason, definitions, and the usage of categories to divide and understand phenomena with concepts, Socrates was profoundly religious! perhaps the furthest absence of reason, yet he is proclaimed as a man of the highest wisdom. Ah! How we seek the truth! How we look for it, for clarity, knowledge, wisdom, how we have been led like sheep with our masterful shepherds that have dated all the way back to B.C. times, and how far we have come by the instruction of our braves; we've remembered what they've said, but have we forgotten how they've acted?
"if you say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and will let you off, but upon one condition, that are to inquire and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing this again you shall die; - if this was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting anyone whom I meet after my manner, and convincing him, saying: O my friend, why do you who are a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens, care so much about laying up the greatest amount of money and honor and reputation, and so little about wisdom and truth and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at all? Are you not ashamed of this? And if the person with whom I am arguing says: Yes, but I do care; I do not depart or let him go at once; I interrogate and examine and cross-examine him, and if I think that he has no virtue, but only says that he has, I reproach him with undervaluing the greater, and overvaluing the less. And this I should say to everyone whom I meet, young and old, citizen and alien, but especially to the citizens, inasmuch as they are my brethren. For this is the command of God, as I would have you know; and I believe that to this day no greater good has ever happened in the state than my service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons and your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue come money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, my influence is ruinous indeed. But if anyone says that this is not my teaching, he is speaking an untruth. Wherefore, O men of Athens, I say to you, do as Anytus bids or not as Anytus bids, and either acquit me or not; but whatever you do, know that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times."
—Plato, Apology of Socrates
Not with rationale and logic, but with conviction and piety: Religion and devotion. So it is that our modern world is in need of both, neither one nor the other, and that the joining of rationale with faith is the only means to truly living, to employing all the faculties present in a human and therefore taking advantage of all the advantages that a human is born with.
Yes, Socrates was moved by reason —thus he taught reason, and we people, desirous of the movement of a man whom we see is truly in love, we desire for ourselves to feel that which that man feels, are indeed inspired by it, and attempt to learn his ways, but how incorrectly we learn! for we attempt to copy that which they love, instead of loving in the manner that he loved. We imitate what is loved, not seeing that what is loved is not important so much is how it is loved.
"Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.
Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, - then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.
The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows."
—Plato, Apology of Socrates
People will consider this a form of delusion or insanity, yet is it not the case that Socrates is perhaps the first and primary dialectician? The most reasonable man that has existed and still exists in our historical memories despite it having been 2000+ years and whom education still draws its roots from? Yet this reasonable man believes in Gods and oracles, cares intensely about virtue, and does not fear death, which our current reason and rationality tells us is nonexistent, silly, and foolish?
But is it not the case that Socrates has understood the limits of rationality? That the most reasonable thing is to understand when reason does not apply? To know what which thought cannot encapsulate and therefore not utilize it in moments that do not require it? That for each case and job that there are specific tools to use, of which thought is one of them, of which "intuition" or lived experience another, and of which "spirit" or the will and pattern of being that exists within us that desires to live and so bring forth the gifts that are uniquely present within each of us is also of use?
Yes, Socrates was moved to reason —by something beyond thought...
"For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is willing to say and do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death... Do not then require me to do what I consider dishonorable and impious and wrong, especially now, when I am being tried for impiety on the indictment of Meletus. For if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion and entreaty, I could overpower your oaths, then I should be teaching you to believe that there are no gods, and convict myself, in my own defence, of not believing in them. But that is not the case; for I do believe that there are gods, and in a far higher sense than that in which any of my accusers believe in them. And to you and to God I commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me... For wherever a man's place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace. And this, O men of Athens, is a true saying."
—Plato, Apology of Socrates
To be moved means to forgo what for how; daily and hourly —and this means rationale cannot decide a direction, it can only actualize what has already been decided. It looks to do what is right or good. It is essentially a form of madness as it requires losing control of oneself in favor of what is felt to be beyond that self. If this is an uncomfortable feeling, let it move you.
See that it is not clean, but clear, clarity; absence of confusion, cleanliness of sight and vision, denoting as much a physical as well as mental and emotional clarity. ↩︎
People may argue that Plato has idealized Socrates and Socrates did not act in this manner, but that it is an ideal nonetheless does that not mean that it would still be appropriate to strive towards? Is there not some knowledge to be gained from ideals? ↩︎
And do we not make this exact mistake in all our relationships? We think our relationships will be perfect once we find the perfect match, but a match is what —true love does not care for what, it lives for how. ↩︎