Guest Author - Cindy Jones Lantier
Philosophy is a subject that makes the eyes of most people glaze over. Because so many important philosophical texts are translations of old – sometimes ancient – books, the language is often stilted and unwieldy. Even though philosophy, at its heart, should be accessible and exciting to everyone, it’s a subject that is often misunderstood.
The word “philosophy” is actually a mash up of two Greek words, “philo” (meaning “loving”) and “sophia” (“wisdom”). So, a philosopher is not necessarily some overeducated white man, holed up in an ivory tower; a philosopher is simply anyone who loves wisdom. That means anyone – regardless of their profession, level of education, gender, or ethnic/spiritual background – can be a philosopher.
As a lover of wisdom, open-mindedness is essential. One needs to be prepared for wisdom to come from anywhere – a book, a movie, a casual conversation with a stranger. Wisdom is not only the property of the privileged and the educated; it belongs to everyone who seeks it.
A true lover of wisdom will constantly be taking in information. She will not only read voraciously, she will read a wide variety of books, magazines, and blogs. Again, she knows that a nugget of wisdom may be found anywhere.
Finally, an armchair philosopher will find herself thinking deeply about the wisdom that is coming her way. It will not be enough for her to be exposed to other people’s thoughts. Eventually – probably sooner, rather than later – she will feel the need to compare the various bits of wisdom she’s collected. She will need to weigh them and decide for herself the veracity of each piece. She will also find herself trying to synthesize the various teachings into one world view. She will turn it all over in her mind and in her heart, finding her own way, rather than blindly accepting the words of others as Truth.
Why be an armchair philosopher? There are several ways it can enhance your life. For one thing, you have a greater appreciation of the world around you, as you see it through thoughtful eyes. You understand more of people’s motivations and the framework for their actions. Things simply make more sense.
It will also enhance your own thought processes. It will become more important to you that your ideas and values be congruent. Consistent. You will learn to compare and contrast various ideas to find the real kernels of Truth they hold.
But the real fun comes when you take your love of wisdom from a passive state (studying and appreciating wisdom) to the more active state of allowing the wisdom you glean to inform your decisions and your actions.
When you make this leap, you become more actively responsible for yourself and the quality of life you lead. Of course, one is always responsible, but the gifts of wisdom provide you with the insight that makes accepting and acknowledging that responsibility more palatable. It not only becomes easier; it becomes necessary.
Philosophy – the simple love of wisdom – is not just an academic pursuit. It can be the guiding framework of a life well lived.