Old is Gold

Philosophy, science, and religion are perceived to be the three most viable paths towards the ultimate goal of all human activity, namely, the truth. And from a philosophical standpoint, all roads lead to Plato and Aristotle. Hence, the claim or suggestion on the part of the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead that: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”

Aristotle argued that the purpose of education, work, and recreation is to enable a person to engage in leisure. But leisure, one must note, does not equate to idleness. Rather, the purpose of leisure is to enable the ultimate goal of all human activity, namely, the exercise of one’s intelligence upon the highest object of one’s mind. Thus, contemplation is at the heart of perennial and traditional culture and epistemology, and in turn contemplation is enabled by leisure. It is no wonder that Arab merchants in medieval times would leave their businesses and their women in order to contemplate in a cave for weeks on end.

In ancient and medieval culture, leisure and contemplation took precedence even over governance and imperial pursuits, as demonstrated by one of the most famous stories of ancient times, namely, the story of the humorous encounter between Diogenes and Alexander the Great:

“Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him, and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.” It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.”

Perhaps Washington should heed such ancient wisdom, given that synchronicity has now diminished Washington’s imperial pursuits into an instance whereby a rabid fox bites nine people on Capitol Hill. On one hand, there is the eternal and spiritual, which is the highest object of one’s mind that perhaps Aristotle had in mind and in turn is the intended subject of one’s exercise of intelligence. And on the other hand, there is the temporal, transient, and thus the comical. As Kierkegaard wrote:

“If one has reflected thoroughly upon the comical, studying it in practice, keeping one’s category constantly clear, it will readily be understood that the comical belongs of all things to the temporal, for that is where the contradiction is found. One cannot stop it, metaphysically and aesthetically, and prevent it from finally swallowing whole the temporal, which will happen to someone developed enough to use the comic but not mature enough to distinguish inter et inter [between one and the other]. In eternity, on the other hand, all contradiction is canceled, the temporal is permeated by and preserved in the eternal, but in it there is no trace of the comical.”

But as Kierkegaard also noted:

“But eternity is not what people think earnestly about; they are anxious about it, and anxiety can hit on a hundred evasions. Yet this is precisely the demonic.”

Thus, by avoiding the eternal and the spiritual, modern man is generating the demonic within himself, and in turn is generating anxiety as well as other mental disorders such as the “Havana Syndrome.”

In a sense, truth is emanated through discourse, and discourse comes in three forms, as was noted by the Andalusian scholar Ibn Rushd. For one, there is the rhetorical, which is employed as a tool to persuade people regarding the truth as briefly and effectively as possible. Second, there is the dialectical, which occurs through conversation and debate. And then there is the demonstrative, which sets out the truth through logic, reason, and syllogisms. While lacking in both the rhetorical and dialectical aspects, my hope is that the demonstrative aspect of my writing efforts has been able to shed some light on some important truths that are largely hidden by the appearances and illusions of modern life.

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