Compendium Quotes #5
Up until now, I’ve been content with putting as much distance between my life and 2020 as possible. But the pandemic is now far enough in the background to focus on the future. The future is still quite murky. But all of the cultural convulsions we have been through in the last few years make one thing clear. We need really good thinking if we are going to makegoodhappen in our world. It seems to me that the three quotes below offer some really good advice about what we need to think about and how we should do it.
1-"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. "I don't much care where--" said Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat. "-so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
-Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland” (1865)
Lewis Carroll offers some practical logic in a wonderfully delightful way. Now that the all-consuming concern we felt during the pandemic has faded, are we devoting enough time to developing a clear picture of where we want to go?
Sketching out our destination, however, is just the beginning. We also need good thinking about who we will allow to guide us on our way. Thus quote number two.
2- “The footnote would seem to be the smallest detail in the work of history. Yet it carries a large burden of responsibility, testifying to the validity of the work, the integrity (and humility) of the historian, and the dignity of the discipline.”
-Gertrude Himmelfarb, “On Looking Into the Abyss” (1994) American historian.
As I map out the next step in my journey, I listen for voices that, whether I agree with them or not, speak from responsibility and truth. Footnotes keep us from flights of fancy grounding our ideas, instead, in humility and integrity. If I grab onto someone else’s opinion without looking at where their ideas came from and how they have fared thus far I am not committing myself to truth but to their clever speech and delivery.
But even footnotes can be manipulated. Our third quote comes from someone who lived over 400 years ago. His day was a day like our own when the multiplicity of voices and pursuit of power kept the true path hidden. Then as now the truth needs to be earnestly sought if it is to be found. So how do we find it?
3-“Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”
-Blaise Pascal, “Pensees,” no. 863 (1657-1658) a French philosopher and mathematician.
So often we seek truth out of fear; fear that we are being misled, fear that the earth is being destroyed, fear that if “the other side” wins, our lives won’t be worth living. This is an essentially defensive approach that prioritizes the protection of our hearts over the truth itself. As Pascal points out, love is a better guide than fear. We will not find the true path unless we pursue it out of love.
Join me in the art of “good thinking.”1 As we prepare to walk down the path that is 2024:
Take time to consider where you want your life, and our life together, to go this year.
Look for guides who offer wonderful ideas for our future that are grounded in demonstrable truth.
Allow love to be our guide.
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