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Confessions

Everything comes at a price. Nothing is free.

Allow me a bit of boasting for just one second. I am intelligent. Allow me a bit more. I am more intelligent than most individuals my age. I may not be much else, but I have that. Boasting over. But everything comes at a price. No great past intellectual has avoided sacrifice. The question is: is it worth it? Jesus of Nazareth once said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul.” I respond, yes, but what good is it for a man to gain his soul, yet forfeit the world. Monks and intellectuals listen to Christ. They give up the joys of the people to find their soul. They often do so, however, at the cost of distancing themselves from social company, the highest of all worldly pleasures. Their lives are ones of solitary confinement. They thus lose the world. Some argue that the greatest intellectual heroes and his or her ideas are never forgotten. Look at Plato, Aristotle, Newton, Kant, Einstein, Wittgenstein. Their legacies will last until the universe is put to sleep. But what does that matter to them now that they are gone? They can take no pleasure in their lasting impact. They are all equally lost into eternity. So, again, what good is it for one to gain one’s soul, yet forfeit the world? What good is it to become the greatest of all men after one is gone if one has to sacrifice those pleasures that make a man most happy while he lives? Can one have both his soul and the world? Tis a dream.

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Categories: Philosophy
  1. 03/08/2009 at 7:19 pm

    Can one really not have both his soul and the world? And what do you mean by "soul"?

  2. 03/09/2009 at 9:46 am

    I think you may be slightly misunderstanding the statement. It does not suggest that you need to reject the world entirely to find your soul. It is rather, a shift in focus, in priorities. Jesus says it is harder for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God, but it is not merely because he has worldly goods. It is because having tends to shift us towards wanting. To find your own soul, you need to stop craving worldly goods. Stop wanting to take in, receive. Instead, Jesus advocated an attitude of complete self out-pouring. This doesn't mean you are ascetic. Asceticism has more to do forcing certain outer circumstances in order to try to control your inner life. Jesus wants us to change from the inside out. For some of us, this will look like asceticism, but it will come from inside. For others, they will be surrounded by earthly goods, yet their inner focus does not hold them as all-important.And on the specific point of social company, this is different from many other worldly goods. Though solitude is important, because it allows us to be still, quiet, and honest…love is just as important. I think that without both of these, a life is not completely authentic and flourishing.Finding your soul does not have to mean losing the world, though you may. Rather, finding your soul allows you to truly gain from the world in a way you never could before. Your plight of solitary confinement is mostly self-imposed, yet another indication that you have not as yet found what you are looking for. 😉

  3. 03/12/2009 at 2:20 am

    No. I think YOU are
    misunderstanding the statement…

    Nah, I'm kidding.

    Of course it wasn't my attempt to decipher what Jesus may have actually been
    talking about and thus it wasn't a critique of him. I was using it more as a
    jumping board/starting point to talk about whatever the hell it was that I was
    talking about…which seems to have been a discussion about the troubles
    involved in a life dedicated to something that requires quite a bit of solitary
    confinement. To be specific, I find that although my academic/intellectual
    achievements are on the higher end, it has required that I sacrifice doing the
    sorts of things most college students do. Of course then I extended that
    discussion beyond college to those who have dedicated their whole lives to academia
    and if that is the sort of life that is desirable. In many ways I think it is.
    There is something about the academic/intellectual life that is appealing. This
    gets back to J.S. Mill's famous quote, "it is better to be a human being
    dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a
    fool satisfied." The life of wisdom and knowledge and inquiry somehow
    seems better than the alternatives. It grounds us as human beings. It is one
    way to find your self. Or gain your soul.

    But it also comes with certain costs. Not just what I
    implied before about being in solitary confinement but it also brings you to
    another world. To a world that is always hyper-conscious and reflecting. And
    even when you are not working or on a vacation you remain hyper-conscious and
    reflecting. Your mind never sleeps.

    And you are probably right, you may not have to lose the
    entire world. But I still think you are losing some desirable aspects of it.

    And sure, the solitary confinement is self-imposed, but only
    in the sense that it is consequentially tied to my goals of achievement. I
    self-impose certain goals. The confinement is a necessary offspring. And that
    is the question right there: are my goals/values/aims set correctly?

    And who has found what they are looking for? Unless one has eliminated
    all desires…

  4. 03/12/2009 at 2:26 am

    Umm, essentially "the self."

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