The Art of Reason
The Act of thinking might seem a natural inclination. After all, most people would say it is thinking that differs man from other animals. We assume animals act by instinct while mankind acts by rational and sometimes irrational thought. On this day, this Easter which is marked by what some call an irrational act of a man rising from the dead, we will begin a new series. During this Eastertide, we will embark on a journey of thought. In scientific terms, we will be discussing philosophies of mankind.
Philosophy is defined in various ways but one common definition is that philosophy is the study of problems. In ancient times, philosophy was considered to be the love of wisdom. In practical terms, philosophy is the critical and systematic approach to the resolution of things. In other words, philosophy is how, why, and what we think. We consider it to me the sole habit of man (and woman), one of those “mental” things that separates us from other animals.
I keep bringing up the fact that other animals are considered to not engage in philosophy because I beg to differ. As one who is owned by two cats and one dog (Okay, the dog actually thinks we “share this life but the cats…they definitely think they are in charge and I am their servant!), I am absolutely positive that they engage in philosophical thought. More on that later, though ….
Thinking is not a stagnant habit. An art collector might simply enjoy a piece of art without exerting any effort except to be near the painting and keep one’s eyes open. The thinker must put some effort into the act of thinking. We might not end up burning calories as we think or even work up a sweat but any thought process that does not involve effort really is not much of a thought process.
Talking about philosophy is a great deal like discussing religion – an interesting activity fraught with landmines. There are many different areas of philosophy. During the next fifty days we will delve into many of them, much as we explored the different religions and spiritualities in the world last Advent. As usual, current events will also be integrated into our discussions, discussions whose purpose is to create new thought patterns that expand our thinking and allow new avenues of humanitarian thought and ways to live in peace to open.
We will not be going “all mental” during this time. Nonetheless, we will seek to learn how what we think and what we do integrate with what we profess to believe. Some philosophers believe thought needs an object of and for its purpose. Others feel it is a part of evolution; in fact, thought might be the impetus of evolution. And this is where my pets enter our discussion of the day.
As mentioned before, I am the major domo for two cats. The cats were both rescues; the term meaning that the cats were not previously in the establishment formally of any house. One cat was not even thought to be a cat. At approximately five days of age with eyes newly opened, she scurried up to my daughter and I while we were in our backyard. We were cleaning up from a delightful afternoon spent outside on a warm summer’s day. Suddenly I see what looks like a chipmunk or baby squirrel about to jump on my daughter’s leg and so I attempt to brush it away with my hand. The animal leaps up and bites my hand. I reach around with my other hand to capture the animal. We’d had a rash of rabies in the area and I knew I needed to keep the animal so it could be tested or else I’d have to undergo the two-week series of rabies shots.
We put the animal in a cat carrier on our back porch deck. I cleaned the small bite and scratches and then put some food in the carrier. The next day we realized two things. The wild rabbits that had a nest in the very back of our country yard did not have one dark baby rabbit. The mother rabbit had apparently been nursing this small animal along with her own babies. The second thing we realized was that, instead of a baby squirrel, I had quarantined a kitten. It has been eleven years since that tuxedo cat entered our lives. Three years after our first tuxedo cat we adopted a second, this time from a local animal group that takes care of stray animals and finds them homes. The first fetches, when she feels like it, much in the same manner as a dog when thrown a toy. The second cat is very aloof and independent but, when she has a hairball she has thrown up, will get my attention and then lead me to it.
Five years ago we were asked to take in, by another animal activists’’ group, a young puppy. His mother had been killed within hours of his birth and he’d been bottle fed by some good Samaritans. He had no socialization with other dogs so we took him to training classes. I will admit that I first said no when asked to take the puppy. I admit that while my writing moniker is “C. C. Ladee” which is a play on the term “Crazy Cat Lady”, I really am more of a dog person. However, I was told this puppy would only grow to be about twelve inches tall and weigh about the same as our cats. I had never had a dog that small, being more the medium-build dog person or even a large-size dog lover. My progeny reminded me I was getting “older” and perhaps should consider “downsizing your canine preferences” (Yes, those actually are the exact quotes!) so after two hours, protesting “I’ve never had a dog that small!”, I said yes to the dog.
In the past five years I have learned that size has absolutely no bearing on the heart. That puppy who came into our lives smaller than the cats soon took over a large part of our hearts and lives. Being orphaned at birth led to several allergies and a lack of natural instinctive bonding and trust but we’ve learned to communicate and understand each other. We also learned his running around and pulling me to go to my spouse was the dog’s way of alerting us to a medical crisis, something my spouse must content with due to a health condition. The dog became a warning system and has helped improve my spouse’s quality of health and my life.
Philosopher Henri Bergson rattled the science world’s cage when he proposed that intuition was more powerful than intellect. In his work, “Matter and Memory”, Bergson proposed that “creative urge” rather than Charles’ Darwin’s theory of natural selection motivated the wheels of evolution. Bergson maintained that man’s intelligence was the result of living, the reason we survived, not the act of surviving itself. The by-product of living intuitively, intelligence becomes the result and not the manner by which mankind has lasted.
My pets are not thought to possess the same intelligence that mankind has. They are, common house pets (but please, do not EVER let them know the term common was used to describe them!) and as such, are considered to have minute thinking skills compared to man. After all, when was the last time a dog performed geometric equations or a cat conjugated French or Latin verbs? Of course, my dog can curl his body up in a space roughly one-eighth his size, a size which was poorly estimated when he was a puppy. Now weighing one hundred and twenty pounds, standing forty inches at his shoulders, my dog is proof that what humans think they know and what comes to fruition are sometimes opposite things. Apparently the universe did not agree with my children that I was too age for a large – make that giant – dog!
Einstein believed that for every action there was an equal and just reaction. The Problem I have with his theory is the word “just”. I am not certain that the reactions we create are just for the actions which prompt them. Today those in many Christian churches will celebrate the story of a man they claim as their Messiah. His message of acceptance and love is portrayed in terms of divisiveness and hatred. His supposed accomplishment of rising from the dead should give his followers release from the fear of dying and yet, they live the lives of those who are in constant fear and paranoid of others with differing beliefs.
This is not an attack on Christians. I am one myself. It is a plea for us all to think before we act, think we before we speak. It is a plea to put what we believe into action and live our faiths. Easter comes at a time when many in the world are experiencing spring. Regardless of the season in your land, whether springtime or harvest time, Easter and Passover are times to rejoice in the strength of one’s faith and to live thoughtfully. Philosophy is that arm of science that looks at how we live our thoughts. Our lives are a reflection of how we live our faith and what we do says more about what we believe that any speeches or sermons preached on this day. I pray that today will be the beginning of thinking for us all and living intuitively in the love that mankind has. Our future evolution depends upon it.