“We live in an epoch of discipline, culture, and civilization, but not in an epoch of morality. In the present state, we can say that the happiness of the people grows, and yet the unhappiness of the people increases as well. How can we make people happy when they are not educated to have high morals? They do not become wise.” – Immanuel Kant
Kant wrote that more than two centuries ago but it rings as true today as it did then. He might not recognize the world we live in today but he’d recognize people’s behavior and tendencies. We might live in a world unimaginable then, but human nature remains roughly the same. People want happiness but not the journey to get there. To know their place in this world but not know themselves. To be informed by distraction while they shun wisdom. But what is the wisdom Kant points us to, and how does it lead us to happiness? He left a trail of breadcrumbs to follow:
“Look closely. The beautiful may be small.”
“Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own.”
“Genius is the ability to independently arrive at and understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person.”
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence.”
“For peace to reign on Earth, humans must evolve into new beings who have learned to see the whole first.”
So there’s the path: Live in awe of the world around us and seek to understand it. Above all have the courage to think for yourself. Focus inwardly on your own learning, don’t rely on others to tell you what to see and think. He’d be thrilled with the vast wealth of knowledge available to humanity today, and chagrined that more people don’t tap into it, instead deferring to others to tell them what to think. For all our progress, we still have a long way to go.
I’m leaving my own trail of breadcrumbs as I live my life, as much to find my own way back to these places as it is suggestions for others. My way of saying “Don’t forget this” in addition to “Hey, check this out!” But that’s the nature of blogging, isn’t it? Don’t pretend to have it all figured out, just mention what you see along the way. Have the courage to put it out there for others to weigh in on. Adapt and grow. Develop your own philosophy derived from a lifetime of thoughtful observation, living and learning.
I tapped into Immanuel Kant while sipping coffee early this morning. I like to dive into the deep end when my mind is fresh and willing to dance with the great thinkers. Kant would get along well with Thoreau, Emerson, Muir, Mary Oliver and other brilliant minds. I’m working to earn a place at that table, for I’d hang with that crowd anytime. But then again, I guess I already am. The great thinkers were generous that way. Thanks for leaving the bread crumbs.
Originally posted 3 July 2020