Friday Meditation: Andrew Griffin
“My son, gather up instruction from thy youth: so shalt thou find wisdom till thine old age.” Let us today meditate on what it is to gather instruction and pursue wisdom.
“Come unto her as one that ploweth and soweth.” Wisdom is cultivated in a season of work and patience.
“Bow down thy shoulder, and bear her, and be not grieved with her bonds….Put thy feet into her fetters, and thy neck into her chain” I must submit myself to instruction and chain myself to wisdom… and like the uncertainty of a harvest, remain humbled by my limitations.
Wisdom is a discipline, an endeavor, and a submission that is motivated by this humbling.
Certainty does not belong to wisdom. Certainty is a relationship to my knowing. It is intra-subjective. Not a characteristic of the thing known.
To be certain is to be unaware of the participation of my own consciousness in the object of my certainty.
I do not need to put myself in the fetters and chains of wisdom if all I’m after is certainty. I will chain myself to wisdom because I am examining the role ‘I’ play in my knowing. Wisdom is self-conscious.
I come nearer to knowing something when I know how my prejudices participate in the thing I take myself to know.
“Search, and seek, and she shall be made known unto thee.” There is a Truth, and it is because of Truth, that I am concerned with the fact that it can be distorted.
Hegel proposes that certainty and truth come together in self-consciousness. How do I work towards self consciousness and wisdom?
“Come unto her with thy whole heart, and keep her ways with all thy power”
“With thy whole heart” With my myself examined as a work in progress: emotionally, spiritually, and physically. “Keep her ways with all they power:” Practice a persistent reflection grounded in the discipline of instruction.
An unexamined worldview is a total worldview.
It explains everything. My reasons, justifications, and beliefs. The more I examine myself, the more cracks appear, and the less total my belief.
It is easy to remain impenetrable, to let no challenge break the defences of my understanding of the world. I do not have to examine my beliefs, and nothing makes me do so: Neither university, nor my friends, nor the world around me.
My total view explains the world in terms of me, my reasons and attitudes are projected onto the world in such a way as to find a comfortable and stabilizing coherence. What is unknown already fits within my structure.
I make myself secure by making everything understandable. What is unknown is explained in advance of my encounter with it. To approach the object of my preconceived notion is terrifying. Since it far exceeds the concept I have limited it to, I am pushed to acknowledge myself both as vulnerable to the unknown, and limited in my capacity to know. We rehearse the dictum of Socrates often, but we still think we know the world.
I will propose that at the heart of the move to self reflection is something irrational. To reflect on my outlook is to destabilize myself, to do something for which I do not have reasons. It goes against my reason precisely because I’m stepping outside of my own total view, and allowing something which I don’t yet have reasons for, to participate in my world without being consumed by it. To give it an integrity of its own.
When I first walked into the chapel I was not making a rational decision, taking communion was not a rational decision. Choosing to believe, is not rational. BUT once you go to the alter, once you enter the community, and once you believe that being here holds meaning. THEN it makes sense. It is a leap of irrationality. Intuition maybe.
So Wisdom, does not possess the answers but is a hollowing out of myself into a readiness that does not accept uncritically, but approaches thoughtfully. “And then, shall her fetters be a strong defence for thee”
We read in Acts: “And the next sabbath day, came almost the whole city together, to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”
If I reject Truth, let it not be because of prejudice. Let it not be because of envy, or a fear that my world is threatened. If I accept Truth, let it be likewise.
In our passage from Acts, there is a clash of identity and belief. The Jews see the multitudes, and they are jealous, they are threatened. In response, they dig in their heals, and become impenetrable to words. From thenceforth, there is only conflict to be had.
When I respond to an attack with fear, how do I ensure that I remain self-reflective? How do I avoid making a retreat into the security of my prejudices? Of us, and them. Of good, and evil, of home and abroad.
We grieve deeply with the victims of extreme violence all over the world.
When this points us to our own vulnerability, we must not rehearse harmful distinctions and so remain in the comfort of an enclosed world. We must not become impenetrable to words.
But rather, we must maintain a thoughtful relationship between our visceral demand for security and the truth.
We must examine our mind, our fears and insecurities, and approach the truth of the matter, in order that we do not create it.
Let us grieve the loss thoroughly. From grieving you do not return unchanged. It involves a reflection on ourselves as much as on the lives lost because of the way we are interconnected. We are absolutely vulnerable to one another.
So when we return from grief, let us return with a greater readiness to embrace others.
“For at the last thou shalt find her rest, and that shall be turned to thy joy.”