Monday, June 6, 2016

On the Pleasure of Walking About Derby

James V. Schall, "On the Pleasure of Walking about Derby" in On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing. ISI Books, 2001.

Fr. Schall asserts, "No one will ever know whether there are answers to the highest questions unless he has first formulated the very questions to which such answers might be addressed." This is a remarkable statement because we tend to put the cart before the horse. What I mean is that we look for answers before we even created good questions. One important part of learning is knowing how to formulate good questions. Schall add, "Faith does depend on reason in this sense, that reason need not exclude a priori those answers of revelation that curiously seem to be aware of the abiding questions, when accurately formulated." For example, reading Plato can help us to develop good questions about the essential things of life which revelation answers. Faith and reason needs each other.

Schall notes how so many people are worried about the crisis of their time. He shares with the reader the advice Eric Voegelin shared with his students: "Civilizations as such are never static because every man is a new element of revolution in the world. Just stop being static and do something.... Nobody is obliged to participate in the crisis of his time. He can do something else." Schall adds, "The first thing we can do, then, is to refuse to cooperate with the forces that have brought upon us a crisis of culture." These words are startling. You hear so many people despairing of the times, but everyone can do something. We do not have to participate in this crisis; we can do something else.

Schall believes that two of the most significant words in the English language is to "wonder" and to "wander." They even sound similar. As we wander we wonder. Aristotle says that wonder is the beginning of philosophy. Chesterton said, "We wander because we have here no lasting city." Schall describes how Louis L' Amour wondered as he wandered. He has written an excellent book, Education of a Wandering Man. It is a book I have read and which I need to read again. Schall notes, "Perhaps the only thing that will save us from the many ideologies found in academia and public life will be books--good books--that we find lying about unnoticed because, as was the situation in the Athenian democracy, virtually no one can distinguish a good book from a silly one." We  can educate ourselves simply by reading books or through meeting good men and women in our wanderings.. This is what Louis La'Mour did. In his book, La'Mour lists hundreds of boos he read during his journeys. L'Amour wrote: "I know that no university exists that can provide an education; what a university can provide is an outline, to give the learner a direction and a guidance. The rest one has to do for oneself." It is in our power to acquire an education if we are willing to put forth the effort.

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