Monday, September 21, 2015

Tell Me Why

Flip to back Flip to frontI took one of "those" FB quizzes recently to confirm what I already have been called. It tallied me up as a skeptic. I wonder if this is inbred? I seem from an early age to be full of questions, not settling for the usual platitudes or casual responses. I want to dig deeper, but I question more even then. A favorite children's book. ca. the late '60s? Tell Me Why.

One of those wonderful productions in the Golden Books series (I think but I may be wrong), it listed hundreds of answers to such questions as "why is the sky blue?" Refracted crystals in the air, I dimly recall. I was reminded of this when today I came across a FB meme citing Epictetus: don't explain a philosophy, rather embody it. I have always been curious and eager to learn more, and except for math and jazz, I reckon I've looked up arcana on just about everything. While my interests shift, it's all striated. Like the Grand Canyon, you can see layers of what compels me to stay up late on this blog. The past few years may show chess, Buddhism, the Irish language, anarchism, or The Who.

It all sinks in. I make connections across limits. Richard Papen's professor of Greek, Julian Morrow, in Donna Tartt's The Secret History contrasts, unfavorably, the linear precision of ancient inquiry with the modern mind, which skips about among associations and whimsies. I embody the latter, but with enough of a dose of the former to keep me somewhat on track, despite what editors and friends may say. I suppose I tread not deeply but widely. I explained the other day to my class Isaiah Berlin's metaphor of the fox and the hedgehog. Despite my homebody stubbornness, I know which I am.

 Milton Glaser, the graphic artist, confided the advice not to hold on to beliefs too tightly, and I find this sensible. Not to be beholden as a slave to any one theory, but to learn from them all, as my philosophy professor wisely counselled me the day I graduated--when he found I'd go on to grad school. Perhaps that is why I never made it to the pinnacle of some of my classmates, but at least I have the chance to keep searching on my own for meaning, rather than be credentialed as a pundit or exponent of one school of thought or one period, one author or one school, in my journey in ideas.

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