A man before his time


Bird Droppings April 20, 2014
A man before his time

“A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Many great thinkers have found their motivation and beginnings in Schopenhauer. Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the first westerners to read and understand Eastern thought. He was well read and written which was interesting as so many of the German philosophers were difficult to read and understand even a possibility of where they were coming from, writing in such difficult terms and verbiage.

“A man’s delight in looking forward to and hoping for some particular satisfaction is a part of the pleasure flowing out of it, enjoyed in advance. But this is afterward deducted, for the more we look forward to anything the less we enjoy it when it comes.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As a child I recall wanting Christmas so bad and the presents we knew would be there. Often we knew what was coming due to list to Santa and or parents asking us what we wanted. As I read this statement and thought about it how true as we plan and set goals and objectives that have significant meaning when we establish that goal. Then as we accomplish the goal while meaningful much of the significance has been spent along the way. This is not bad it is what often keeps us going giving us the energy to go another step.

“After your death you will be what you were before your birth.” Arthur Schopenhauer

So many ways to look at this statement probably somewhat contrary to European thought at the time. Over the years however I have found a simple explanation in “The circle of life” from the Disney movie Lion King, even though Schopenhauer was many years before the Lion King came out.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Having been in education I have watched great thinkers in their time be ridiculed and then years later their ideas fully implemented. John Dewey as one example in the early 1900’s developed ideas and understandings of education that today are still considered progressive a hundred years later.

“As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer writes about books quite often, both in a negative and very positive sense. In his time he was very well read himself looking for and gathering from many sources. He was one of the first European philosophers to read and think about Eastern thought and religions. But he is so critical of vast libraries if they are unused. Much the time we humans collect and simply put the books on shelves to impress the rest of humanity. In today’s world we Google it.

“Compassion is the basis of morality” Arthur Schopenhauer

Compassion is an active part of life and through it finding our morality. Morality is in action not just in statement and it is an active ingredient in life.

“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” Arthur Schopenhauer

This could be how politicians exist to begin with. I often do not watch the news for lack of anything worth watching. Here in Atlanta area everyday a shooting or two well three or four maybe, gets to be very disconcerting. I have been watching the events of the past few days. The State Senate and House are offering bills and closing doors, side swiping issues that go unanswered and yet allowing others to pass that cater to big business and special interest groups. Amazingly we sit and watch and wonder how the populous can allow this. A headline yesterday included more budget cuts so pet projects could be continued.

“Every possession and every happiness, is but lent by chance for an uncertain time, and may therefore be demanded back the next hour.” Arthur Schopenhauer

“Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost.” Arthur Schopenhauer

The more I read of this man’s thoughts the more I see “doing” as a key aspect of his philosophical thought. He is a philosopher who demanded action to be a part of reality and not just be limited to thought

“I’ve never know any trouble than an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” Arthur Schopenhauer

As soon as this book came out I bought a copy of Kent Nerburn’s “Chief Joseph and The flight of the Nez Perce”, a history of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe. I immediately read the preface and skimmed the book and now have since read the entire book. I used to read a book cover to cover in one sitting now I sit and ponder as I read and spend an hour on a page gleaning ideas, bits and pieces of what the author is showing me.

“It is only a man’s own fundamental thoughts that have truth and life in them. For it is these that he really and completely understands. To read the thoughts of others is like taking the remains of someone else’s meal, like putting on the discarded clothes of a stranger.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Often during the day I get “what do you think Mr. Bird” and I try so hard not to offend and ask back first “what do you think” about this or that. Initially I was cautious as my own thinking tends to be a bit more liberal than most Georgians and perhaps humanity as a whole. But as I look at philosophy and great teachers it was in questioning that we illicit from students thinking rather than have them just mimic back to us our own thoughts.
“Just as the largest library, badly arranged, is not so useful as a very moderate one that is well arranged, so the greatest amount of knowledge, if not elaborated by our own thoughts, is worth much less than a far smaller volume that has been abundantly and repeatedly thought over.” Arthur Schopenhauer

We have to be actively involved in the processes of our own thinking. It is not simply to have that knowledge. I wonder as we embark in education with teaching content to the test on a daily basis. I think back to John Dewey and Progressivism and we need do context and not simply content or our own children will not be thinking and understanding.

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Arthur Schopenhauer

We always seem to speak to the climb what about the descent sometimes we need breaks after pushing so hard in the climb

“Martyrdom is the only way a man can become famous without ability.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I found this statement interesting as I look back historically. I have found most men and women that I recall in history who were martyred I recall the event of death. How do we remember them it is for their death or for their life? Could it be that through their death we see their life? I wonder or is it because of their death only? I was wondering as we have nearly daily martyr’s in the Middle East blowing themselves up in search of heaven.

“The alchemists in their search for gold discovered many other things of greater value.” Arthur Schopenhauer

So often it is in our mistakes and errors we find the answers. One of my premises of learning is through our mistakes.

“The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I know for me I am still learning still defining who I am and why. Maybe one day I will get to the commentary and truly understand and see myself for what and who I really am.
“The man never feels the want of what it never occurs to him to ask for.” Arthur Schopenhauer

“The more unintelligent a man is the less mysterious existence seems to him.” Arthur Schopenhauer

I look at my students who often range in intellectual pursuit from college level to first grade. I wonder often how they perceive and view the world. I use a house, tree, person test occasionally to get glimpses of a child’s world and the pictures can range from elaborate to stick figures. So often with the elaborate come stories and mysteries versus the black and white starkness of others.
“The wise have always said the same things, and fools, who are the majority, have always done just the opposite.” Arthur Schopenhauer

Reading that simple line and wondering at happenings of today and now. “I told you so”, seems to be the catch phrase down the line with so many people and amazingly on both sides of the fence. I found myself saying this to and can be bad about it as well.

“Without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, “Lighthouses” as the poet said “erected in the sea of time.” They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print.” Arthur Schopenhauer

It always saddens me when a student says they can read well enough to get by. I hear that every day. Reading can separate us from the masses. It can lift us up and show us new heights, new worlds. Reading, hopefully one day will alleviate the pain and suffering and harm of the world. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

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