The Uneducated Man

The uneducated man.
(“Portrait of Aristotle”, by Eric Gaba / CC BY-SA 2.5 / Derivative work)

It is hard to pinpoint exactly how I got to Philosophy, even though it all began just a few years ago. Things weren’t good in the company (again) and I was consumed by unidentified feelings of anxiety (as always), so I finally took the courage, quit my scientific job and became just a policeman. I couldn’t keep living a life of lies, pretending I was internally what I appeared to be externally. All I knew was that I needed answers for questions I could hardly formulate.

I then did what I always do when facing a difficult decision: I went to my Oracle of Delphi — Amazon. There I knew I would not find any real answers, but I could at least lie to myself. Buying books has always provided the comforting feeling that I am doing something about my problems. This time though, I had a pleasant surprise. I found a recursive book, a book about how to read a book. And, like Robert Frost in his crossroads, “that has made all the difference”.

It made me realize that I am not an educated man.

I have studied in good schools as a child and as a teenager, and I have grown up in a healthy family environment under caring parents, where the essence of character has been taught — even if tacitly. I have gone to college and then to graduate school, accumulating a few post-graduate titles. I have delved deep enough in a scientific profession, so as to present academic papers, to manage teams of scientists and even to be technically responsible for huge multi-million dollar projects.

Yet, I have not learned much of value.

We amass huge quantities of intellectual knowledge throughout our lives as we become “specialists” to please society, but we lose perspective of what really matters. We improve our exterior “résumé virtues” without enough concern to our interior true virtues. We live our lives almost like zombies, motto-continuous living beings that don’t have time to think where they are heading or the strength to change the course of their lives. So we walk everyone else’s walk and judge ourselves through other people’s lenses. Eventually, we become less than we once aspired. Every additional day we live makes it easier to accept our fate. Every dollar added to our bank account and every promotion at work reassure us that we are in the right path — even if a fragile path towards inner mediocrity.

The fragility lies in the inherent assumption that we have control over our lives. If we work diligently, we will achieve. If we achieve, we will be secure. If we become secure, we will be happy. But in the midst of this well-thought-out plan, one simple random event wreaks havoc in our lives. And we are unprepared to take the blow. We are unprepared because, like the society we live in, we lack a strong character. The education I talk about is an education of character. For the lucky ones like me, such education began in the core of our families, but it also ended there. Somewhere along the turbulence of our daily existence we forgot to foster our character, and, like any other muscle in our bodies, it atrophied. I want to resume such education — I need to, because I know havoc.

(To be continued)

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