Monday, June 23, 2008

Why Philosophy?

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
It is Monday, June 23 and a truly glorious day in terms of weather. As Pink Floyd sang on their famous Dark Side of the Moon album, “Breathe, breathe in the air.” (So long as you’re not close to a place full of smog…my sarcastic commentary, not Pink Floyd’s). But please, I beg you to enjoy some of this wonderful weather. After these last few weeks of immense flooding and tragedy in southeastern Wisconsin and the Midwest at large really, it is a blessing, a relief, to have a sunny day. Let’s pray the sun stays around to help dry out troubled, waterlogged communities.

The following reflection is a short paper I wrote for a one-credit seminar class last year. I distinctly remember writing the paper in the Loyola student union, laptop on my lap (what a concept, bob!), and the clock working against me. That is to say, I had a little less than an hour to type the paper before it was due. Fortunately, it only had to be one to two pages in length. Another fortunately, I am a long-winded writer. This is detrimental when I am giving a word limit, but it is an oh-so-sweet habit when I have to hammer out a paper in a short period of time.
During one of the class periods in the aforementioned seminar class, a Jesuit priest delivered a talk to our class of college seminarians about why philosophy is a practical major for a person in seminary, and why philosophy should be embraced as an important part of academics and society at large.
Father Paul Mueller’s lively pep talk in support of philosophy triggered thought (for that’s what philosophy is supposed to do) as I took notes. Mueller said that philosophy has the potential to stimulate individual philosophy and philosophy for society as a whole. These two ideas are important in that they present philosophy as a more complete field of study than common conceptions grant the academic area. Not only is philosophy a turning in towards self to think deeply, it can also be used to better and strengthen the people around us.
Before we address how society can benefit from the study of philosophy, we must first realize what philosophy can do for the individual. Mueller suggested that at the core of philosophy is a reflection of the deeper self. In a sense, to talk of philosophy is to talk of a deeper level. Finding and entering the crux of the philosophical realm can help foster spiritual awakening and growth. According to Mueller, it is in times of silence and solitude in which we enter this deep realm. To foster philosophical growth, one needs to set aside individual time in which he or she can practice philosophy. Entering times of such a reflective state as an individual will make us more desirable in community. Mueller said, “If you’re reflective, you are a place where people like to meet.” We somehow become a center of discussion with others if we come to know more fully who we are. Ironically, quiet philosophical reflection can make a person the talk of the town!
Once someone has reflected enough in solitude, they are able to bring their philosophy to the rest of society. Philosophy becomes evident in dialogue and conversation and deepens the relationships we have with the people in our lives. On a grander scale, philosophy can help to cure what Mueller described as “cultural diseases.” He briefly touched on three such ailments in our society, including narcissism, pragmatism, and general “busyness.” The third of these problems seems to be one of the most constant battles of the 21st century. How do we slow down in an age of constant movement? As Father Paul suggested in his talk, we become a more philosophical society. We take time to reflect on ourselves, our entire world, and how we as individuals and as a part of a group can solve the greatest challenges we face.
Father Mueller’s talk painted philosophy as a unifying tool, a means for hope and a foundation to find meaning amidst the hustle of daily live. Most importantly, I find his message especially pertinent in a society where organized religion is hardly welcomed with arms wide open. Philosophy can give life meaning even to the least religious of persons. It can be a unifying ground for maintaining peace in the individual and society. If we all keep on reflecting, we have the opportunity to build a more thoughtful, hearty and lively existence, a society where love can poke its glorious head out of the reflection on our being and where peace may one day prevail.

Peace and blessings!

With love,

Your friend bob.

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