A Student of Philosophy

Typing.  Typing.  Typing.  Typing.   Trying to drum up some creative new posts for this blog.  Something interesting and original.

What to say, what to write, I ask myself.   Gaming?  My Hunter just got to Light Level 400 in . . .

You did say original, right? Cynical Me interjects.  And with the countless millions Twitching and podcasting while posting actual gameplay, who would actually read ‘The Adventures of Murph on Digital Mars?’

Sardonic but on point.  Okay, so no games.  What about day-to-day?  Should I start complaining about work? 

Yeeaah, sure.  People would love to read about grading Scantrons and the conservation of mass, I reply my inner voice practically dripping with venom.  Everything  you do is either boring or depressingly boring.  Reading is for escape. And nobody wants to read about school life unless you can guarantee postal owls and magic wands.

You’re not leaving me many choices here.  I work so I can buy games.  I play games to decompress from work.  It’s a never-ending cycle of co-dependence or simply poor life choices, I’m not sure which. 

You know my opinion on that issue,  my inner mind mutters.

Either way, I continue.  I’m not left with much time throughout the rest of my week to do anything else . . . Let’s try philosophy for a bit.

I attended an all boys Jesuit high school in Maryland.  While most Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore taught religion, the Jesuits taught philosophy.  They somehow avoided much of the preaching and the ‘believe-this-or-else-you’ll-dine-in-hell’ mantra of some schools, and therefore most of our religion classes evolved from scripture readings to discussions of Kant.  During my eight years of elementary and middle school religion classes, most test answers required some mention of ‘love,’ ‘Jesus/God,’ or ‘good works,’ in order to pass.  For example, in response to an essay question “How can the hope to bring the Kingdom of God to this world?”  I answered, “By embracing God’s love and attempting to emulate Jesus Christ, we are more capable and willing to perform good works, thus bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth.” Or something like that.  No studying was typically required.  We learned to BS most test questions, a skill which has successfully carried me through much of my academic career — so it wasn’t too bad.

But the Jesuits did not care much for BS — at least without proof.  On one day during my freshman year, our teacher, Mr. Brian, asked us our opinion on the existence of God.  Being trained to recite Scripture passages and Gospel readings, a few of us cited the Bible and writing of saints, but Brian dismissed our practiced responses as irrelevant.

“You can’t prove the existence of God with the Bible,” he said.  “It was written by those who already accepts God’s existence and therefore doesn’t prove anything.”

Others in the class went the other route and said God doesn’t exist, citing that people are superstitious and stupid to place their trust in an “old guy in the clouds judging mankind.”

However, Mr. Brian dismissed this argument too, because “impossibility does not negate existence.”

“Simply because something seems unbelieveable does not disprove the possibility.  Look at space travel.  At one point in human history, it would have been thought impossible, even heresy to walk on the moon.  Now, we imagine visiting other planets . . .”

Faith, of course, was the entire point of Brian’s argument. In this philosophical horse race, both sides had faith in their respective jockeys. Thus, neither side is necessarily wrong or posing with rose-scented laurels. Both are equally wrong and partially correct.

That is the trick with philosophy of course. A college freshman eager to please their professors often make the mistake of choosing a single platform: Aristotle is a joke while Nietzsche is a genius.  Philosophers hate absolutes.  Most scholarly Socratics attempt to steer their pupils to perceive multiple perspectives, thus discrediting no single opinion while simultaneously discrediting all. It is said that philosophy teachers were the first to insert “All of the Above” (or “None of the Above”) on their midterms.

The conversation continued to encompass the concept of vocation.  After all, Catholics believe countless paradoxes.  This is the crux of their charm for me since if we’re going to discuss the nature of the Universe, logically I do not think it should not make a lick of sense.

Anyway, as Mr. Brian explained later that week: Human kind has free will, the freedom to make any choice, yet God is omniscient and thus knows all including past, present and future.  If our choice is already known, then how can we say free will exists?  Furthermore, — and bear with me — God supposedly has a plan for us.  A mission to accomplish here in life.  We can either accept God’s call like becoming a teacher or choose to ignore it and do something else like sponge off your parents until you’re 40.

“It has to be one or the other,” he reminded us.  “Accept or ignore.  You cannot go half-way with God.”  That is the way with Catholics though — at least those that teach religion classes.  Absolutes and either or’s.

However, looking back on that day, reflecting on my life both professional and private and at the stack of ungraded labs on my desk in my parents’ basement, I had already managed to choose both options.

“Like a true philospher . . .” I whisper to myself, pulling another paper from the pile, the scent of freshly baked cookies emanating from the upstairs kitchen.


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