Culture | Habits | Learning | Philosophy | reading | Writing

Seeing Our Soul in Things

Weeks just fly by, we remain in a pandemic, but the writing continues.  The writing must continue.  Some days the words come to me immediately, some days it’s a struggle, but I always attempt to get about 400 words into a legible and hopefully enjoyable blog post.  Prior to writing today I read 10-11 pages of thoughts from long-dead souls before turning back to my own thoughts.  When traveling is limited, there are always books to take you places.  So I went back to 1850’s Switzerland with Amiel’s Journal and 1910 Russia with Leo Tolstoy’s Calendar of Wisdom.  I know what you’re thinking: this guy must be a lot of fun at parties.  But there’s tremendous wealth to be mined from the masters, and these books largely stand the test of time:

“Common sense is the measure of the possible, it is composed of experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life.” – Henri Frédéric Amiel

“We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul in things.” – Henri Frédéric Amiel

“Do not fear the lack of knowledge, fear false knowledge.  All evil in this world comes from false knowledge.  Knowledge born in argument and discussion is to be doubted.” – Leo Tolstoy

So these guys, language and cultural barriers aside, might be interesting at a party after all.  I could see myself diving deep into a discussion on the use of common sense in measuring the possible with Amiel, or the rise in false knowledge with Tolstoy.  These guys might not recognize the players of 2020, but they’d surely recognize the character of the players.  Just as we recognize the character of historical figures from the past.  The more things change the more they stay the same.

Like most books, I didn’t just fall upon Amiel’s Journal and Calendar of Wisdom.  Each was referenced multiple times by other writers I’ve read.  When someone you’ve mined for knowledge and timeless wisdom points you to the source of their own development of thoughts, doesn’t it make sense to go check out that source?  And so it is that reading leads to more reading, which influences my writing, which drives an appetite for more knowledge, which brings us right to this cocktail party with Amiel and Tolstoy and me trying to keep up my end of the conversation.  But the long-dead have infinite patience with rakish amateurs like me (thanks gents).

So if there’s a take-away from all of this, it’s to do interesting things, and read interesting things, and it will in turn make you more interesting in your writing and at random cocktail parties with dead people.  But seriously, we’re all just participating in the Great Conversation, and skipping from source-to-source collecting a wealth of information and insight that we might, if we’re lucky, develop into a philosophy of our own. Do not fear the lack of knowledge, fear false knowledge.  Go find the truth in that which you observe.  We’re all visionaries, after all, and what we see is our soul in things like the truth.  You’ll know it when you see it.

 

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