By Paul Myers
–Piece originally published in the Gibsons Farm Collective newsletter–
I love a good talk on the nature of things, the ‘what and the why’ of the world, the role of people in the world, and the more prickly questions of the unseen but real. Metaphysics. Ontology. Epistemology. Existence. Reason. Universe. Nature. That kind of stuff.
Oh shoot. Did I lose you already? Did you suddenly have chill memories of that skinny old spectacled prof with unkempt white hair and a monotone drone? Of all that arcane philosophy-speak, with its spaghetti-like conversation, and its ability to lose you faster than you can get lost on an L.A. freeway? Well, I don’t blame you. So let me bring you back, and quickly, with this claim: no word in the English language has been so humiliated, so waylaid and left for dead, as the word “philosophy,” which, easily parsed, means simply, “the love of wisdom.”
So let’s start again. Existence. The love of wisdom. The Universe. The love of wisdom. Nature. The love of wisdom. Reasoning. The love of wisdom. Conduct. The love of wisdom. Knowledge. The love of wisdom. The meaning of Life. The love of wisdom. I realize, of course, that I can’t blame the English language for the takeover of philosophy. The Greeks themselves lauded the pursuit of knowledge ‘for its own sake.’ In other words, from the get-go philosophy began earning its reputation for being damnably abstract, puttering about intellectually with great self-absorption, but having nothing actually to do with life on the ground, with whether you will stop on red or pay the new price on a pint of Haagen Daaz or even if you will enlist to become a sniper in Iraq. And what the Greeks started our modern institutions have perfected, such that most of our learning today comes almost entirely by reflection and almost not at all by experimentation. In fact, I used to call my student days, “life in a book-lined bomb shelter.”
There! I always feel so refreshed after I have vented some on Academia. Still, Academia or not, there arepowerful, intriguing, and needful questions that humans regularly find themselves asking. Am I part of a larger design? Do I have any duty to the Earth? Who is my neighbour? How do I know that what I know is what I need to know? Is it okay to be me? Is there a God, or a ‘something’ to which I belong? In a world where we are defined by what we do, what does it mean to ‘be’? I grant that to connect such questions with our real-world, everyday lives is not always simple, but I do have this to say: The love of wisdom! Wisdom, by definition, is “knowledge, experience, and good judgment.” Can we just get back to this please? To this trinity of formidable, life-freeing, world-changing qualities? The love of wisdom means that true philosophy embraces learning as an adventure in the world, right down in the mud, the blood and the beer of it all, and in such a manner that reason, spirituality, and ethics actually do affect whether we stop on red. True philosophy is learned when we work on the land, when we feel the wind sweeping down Elphinstone mountain, when we feast together at a pot luck. We hear it teach us not from a lectern but in wordless Nature and in the engine that will not start until we fix it. We see it budding in the seedling that rises strong thanks to our collaborative work in co-creating. It is the ground beneath our feet, the ground behind and before us. The ground of our very being.
COMING SOON: A book with selections of Paul’s GFC posts over the last few years (and farm photographs) will be published next month and available for purchase on the GFC online Fresh Sheet order page, Amazon, and the usual other outlets.