First Musings: The Chains of Ignorance

This blog will have several functions, or a “Telos“. The first of which is to give me a place to write, and practice my writing. Sometimes the purpose may be creative writing; at other times it may leap into poetry; occasionally it will be prose. It will usually be unrefined – a first draft, if you will – but will always be something I have given some in-depth thought to. I will muse on various topics, respond to current events, ponder and dissect new view points for my own and others’ edification. I will likely wax philosophic, as that is a favorite hobby, though I rarely have the patience necessary to copiously transcribe my lengthy mental arguments and rigorous proofs for my points. I will also usually speak in the first person. I will ask questions, attempt to persuade, argue, debate, cajole, and otherwise attempt to engage the occasional reader who perchance may stumble across these stream-of-consciousness writings, and may perhaps glean some value from what I have penned here. I will probably say many things with which you vehemently disagree. Hopefully you will still respect the points and proofs I offer, even if you disagree with my conclusions.

With this in mind, let me give you the first quote that I came across that struck my fancy as being worth analyzing:

“A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.” ~Oscar Wilde

This quote is not likely to meet with any disagreement as it stands. Briefly, I considered arguing against it, but I found that I could not encourage “groupthink” even in jest. Instead, let us consider some of its facets.

First, this quote makes no reference to women. Oscar Wilde was a known sexist, and his observations tend to be caustic social critiques. He denoted men, and women in his writings with great intent, and referenced humanity when it suited his purpose. His assumption here could be that women don’t think for themselves, but instead consume whatever their friends think, and then parrot that. However, I believe that the truth of this statement transcends whatever gender critique he embedded within the pithy phrasing.

His critique’s essence is when people allow others to think for them, and merely regurgitate the opinions, and skewed perspectives that seem to fit their prior beliefs; no matter how intelligent the opinion sounds, they are not truly thinking. They are simply repeating.

The great irony here is that I am relaying a quote, that agrees with what I am saying, meanwhile seemingly decrying what I am doing. However, this is an illusion of misplaced causality. I held the opinion first, and then found the quotation that supported it, rather than the other way around. In this, I clearly avoid the pitfall of ironic contradiction.

Unfortunately, with the advent of mass-media, news, pundits, sports analysts, radio/TV hosts and writers we have allowed ourselves to be one step more removed from our own lives. We live in an age where the total sum of human knowledge is so vast and overwhelming that the average human can only hope to grasp a small fraction of the overall knowledge tree. For instance, while I grasp the basic principles of quantum mechanics, and Einsteins theory of relativity, and the problems of discovering a grand unifying theory; I have next to no understanding of the advanced mathematics that make the universe work. Most of the casual readers that stumble across this will likely have other areas of specific knowledge that I will have no relationship with. A classically trained man in the 1800s was expected to know English, French, German, Latin, Greek, Calculus, Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric, Astronomy, Music, Geometry, Arithmetic, History, Physics, basic Chemistry, Literature, Music, Poetry, Art, Philosophy, Architecture, etc. He was also expected to be trained in the art & strategy of war, and politics. He was expected to wrestle, box, row, fight, fence, shoot, and generally be in good shape. The mark of a Gentleman was his manners. He was expected to be ambitious and taught the tools he would need to survive and thrive. He was expected to think for himself, and to keep up with current events, and new publications on the fashionable topics of art, science, and society. These were the basic requirements of every young man who intended to join society, and climb the ranks to be a man of some importance.

However, even then we have Oscar Wilde attempting to warn us of the dangers of people allowing others to give them subject matter (what to thing), and framework (how to think about it). After we have been instilled with a quality framework, which requires constant re-evaluation and bolstering, we must research the data ourselves, and then analyze it with our own cognitive powers, and discover our own conclusions in the framework of our general knowledge (which should be extensive), and then evaluate our conclusions against the experts in the field. Critically analyze everything. Test all opinions given to you. Refrain from mere laziness of the mind, and fight for your intelligence.

Those of us that do practice independent thought will always have more opportunities, be better qualified, be smarter, and inherently more valuable to society that those of you that are mindless drones merely sucking up the drivel that we engineer you to believe. The largest problem in front of you is that once you reach a certain age, the habits of mental weakness will be so ingrained that you cannot even be made conscious of your shortcomings and will be oblivious to all foresighted pitfalls. Learning takes work. It is essential that you continue to give yourself mental exercises. The Brain functions like a muscle: if you allow parts to atrophy, they will be irrevocably lost. Go to Barnes & Noble: pick up a treatise by Stephen Hawking, or a book of poems by Robert Frost, or a text book on behavioral psychology.

If you don’t keep stretching yourself, you will quit learning. If you quit learning, you will cease growing. If you cease growing, you are not alive.

In fact, your gullibility will support the Thinking “Our” hedonistically lavish lifestyles due to the psychic snares of your chains of ignorance.

~JRWH

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