Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Value of the Mind and Society's Decline

Where has the glory of the world gone? The earth may orbit the sun the way it always has, but society seems to be spiraling downward. Spiraling into an abyss of consumerism and worship of the self. We live an age where physical appearance is all that matters. Young adults are preoccupied by the latest pop star and their unstable relationships, or drug abuse. The young disrespect the old, for what worth is their wisdom in a society which worships the body?

In a discussion yesterday, someone posited that it was in fact atheism that is leading society down into these shallow waters. I have heard the argument of athesim against religion and vise versa many times, each blaming the other for the current society.

I do not know the answer. I have heard very good arguments on both sides of the debate. In fact, I think both of them are wrong. It is clear that both atheism and religion have had repercussions on society and each has to answer for his own. Yet, I am not convinced that either can take the sole blame for the state of the present society.

I think a far greater evil is at play here. One that needs to be rectified on both sides of belief. The epidemic of thoughtlessness. Less and less people are taking an interest in philosophy. Less and less people today really contemplate the essence of life. When I tell people I want to study philosophy in university, the overwhelming response is: "What are you going to do with that?" I understand their concern. How is someone with a degree in philosophy going to make the big bucks? They are right; I probably won't. Today we want acquire more and more things, we want all the physical world has to offer and we could not care less of the acquisition of wisdom.

In Judaism, to it's credit, the mind is still very valued. From the time I was a young lad I was hearing stories of this wise man or that. They were praised for their wisdom and the hours they spent studying. Knowing scriptures by heart and reciting them is the hobby of many young Jewish children. Understanding the works of the many wise men of past and present, is what many Jewish young adults focus hours of their time on. Older Jewish men and women will continue to review all that they've learned with the hopes of seeing it from a new angle. I once saw it written that the Hebrew word for a scholar of the Bible is: talmud chacham. Which literally means "wise student." In Judaism no matter you're age or wisdom, you are always a student eager to learn. I would imagine one would find similar values in the other religions.

There are also an amazing amount of atheists whom I have known or had the pleasure of reading that stand for me as clear evidence that many atheists spend hours contemplating existence and what it means that there is no God. Throughout history many atheists have posited new ways for morality outside the bounds of religion. Within the company of these men and women one may find himself in shock by the value put on wisdom and reason. It is not the brute with big muscles that is valued by these thinkers, but the one who has perfected his art of reason and is knowledgeable in the field of discussion. I need not make a defense for these men and women for they are known by most. Their legacy and teachings have inspired centuries of thoughtful men and women. There are many amongst us today -- though most not famous or rich -- who continue to inspire the minds of young men and women across the globe.

My point is to show that I do not believe religion or atheism is to blame in any way for the decline of society, except that maybe they are failing to inspire their followers to value the mind over the body. We need to reestablish the pursuit of wisdom as a duty of all humans. For when man begins thinking, society will have a better chance of not sinking.

We need all men and women and even children to reopen the books of the past, read them, be inspired by them, and create a society of thinkers. The mind is all that separates humans from the beasts. What future can a society of thoughtless beasts truly have?

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