“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” Robert Fulghum made that statement in his book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. His words are both powerful and true.
Philosophy was born once mankind decided to ask the important question “What is the world made of?” That first question led to possibilities, answers, if you will, but those led to another important question: “How do we know that?” If metaphysics was the first branch of the tree of knowledge that is philosophy, then epistemology became the second although the name itself was not used until 1854, introduced by Scottish philosopher James Ferrier in his work “Institutes of Metaphysic: The Theory of Knowing and Being.”
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, of “justified belief”. One school of philosophers believed that man’s senses were the greatest teachers as well as experience. This was known as empiricism. Others, however, believed that knowledge was the result of the process of thinking, reasoning out facts. This manner of gaining wisdom was known as rationalism. Epistemology primarily, though, dealt with the relationship between knowledge and concepts like truth and belief.
Aristotle developed what became the basis for determining the truth or logic of an answer. His syllogism or logical argument used two premises to arrive at a logical conclusion. One famous example is “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is a mortal.” This was the basis for philosophical logic until the nineteenth century. There are some fallacies in this way of determining the validity of knowledge. For instance, “I am a mammal. My cat is a mammal. Therefore, I am a cat.” Trust me; my cats are firmly convinced I am not smart enough to be a feline!
Fulghum’s book title was based upon a poem he wrote. In his poem, Fulghum mentions the rules he was taught at the age of five and how they relate to his life as an adult. Those rules were basic guidelines which related to treatment of others: share everything; play fair; don’t hit people. Others concerned basic living and living on the planet with others: put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Still others concerned basic health and a recent study proved one of the rules correct. “Wash your hands before you eat” is touted as being the best offense in cold and flu season and “take a nap every afternoon” has been shown to be healthy as well. Fulghum included the importance of living a balanced life, advocating both play and work as daily habits, and the sage advice of looking before crossing a street, being mindful of coming traffic.
Kindergarten, the first formal schooling for most of us, teaches us to, in Fulghum’s words, ‘learn some and think some.” In his poem he states that wisdom is not found at the top of the educational ladder in a formal classroom but, in Fulghum’s words “there in the sandpile at Sunday school”. I want you to not focus on the reference to organized religion but interpret/define his “Sunday school” as any spiritual or religious basis. After all, that which we truly believe becomes truth for us, often because of but usually in spite of either empirical or rational knowledge.
This year has been the warmest on earth and, not surprisingly, as I write this China and Taiwan are bracing for what is expected to be the “biggest storm on earth” this year, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau. Outer bands have already caused disruptions to the power grid and closed some schools. While 2014 holds the record for being the warmest year and 2015 for being the second warmest on record, we need to think about how our living is affecting the planet and our future. We cannot just think for today. We must think big and consider tomorrow.
Fulghum’s poem concludes with this verse: “Hold hands and stick together” and it is a great philosophy for living. We cannot survive as a planet if we do not work together for the good of all, nature and mankind. Being a “tree hugger” doesn’t just mean caring about the environment. It means embracing all life, hugging those things that make life possible. Regardless of your creation belief or lack thereof, we still all need the same things. We need to hold hands and stick together while we think big and remember that, in the big scheme of things, we are all very small and…very important.
We learn when we look beyond ourselves, when we look at the big picture so to speak. However, it does not become truth for us until we absorb that knowledge into ourselves. After we look up and think big, we need to think small, think about what we believe, and then live it.