“If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton
What high school or college students learn in the course of a semester, in their math class, for example, or in their chemistry classes, or physics, etc., took centuries for the most brilliant human beings to uncover. Once it has been uncovered, however, it appears to be so simple. Why did it take so long? This is true especially for philosophy. It takes years and years to dispose the intellect to learn such abstract truths, and from these truths it is possible to go on to demonstrate, through reason alone, the existence of God, and it is also possible, through reason alone, to show that God is one, eternal, the source of all that is good and beautiful, that He is Beauty Itself, Goodness Itself, and Truth Itself. And when we finally come to see it, we inevitably think: “This is so clear and simple; why did it take years to get this?”
The reason is that human beings, by nature, are slow. We are the highest beings on the hierarchy of material beings, but we are the lowest beings on the hierarchy of God’s intellectual creatures. Below us are the animals, and below them are plants, etc., but above us are angels, who are immaterial creatures, and their knowledge is not encumbered by matter as is ours. They see at a glance what it takes centuries for human beings to learn.
The word ‘human’ comes from the Latin ‘humus’, which means ‘dirt’ or ‘soil’. Man is from the earth. He is made of matter; he is a spirit and matter unity. As spirit, we can think and will, but as matter, we are weighed down, limited, and are vulnerable to destruction.
The word ‘humility’ is derived from the same word: “humus”. A humble person recognizes his limits, his frailty and vulnerability to destruction. He realizes that he is, fundamentally, dirt (dust and ashes).
So what is man’s glory? The glory of man lies in ‘humility’. When he is humble, he is true to himself. That is when he recognizes that he is fundamentally dirt (soil).
It is indeed sad to see that so many adults have missed this, especially those who rebel against God by writing books in an attempt to persuade others that God does not exist, that religion is evil, that man is the measure of moral truth, and that there is nothing higher than man, neither angels, God, nor truth itself. This is nothing more than that ancient tendency in man to ascend so as to take God’s place.
So having said that I will now get to my point, or rather my pet peeve. And that is people who think they know everything there is to know about something but are unable to back up their opinion with any basis of fact. Examples? I thought you’d never ask:
- Christians are responsible for more deaths in all of history than any other religion or group.
- During the Inquisition the Catholic Church murdered millions of people.
- Republicans are evil.
- Democrats are evil.
- Tea Partiers are racists. (Quick, somebody better tell Col. Alan West, Nikki Haley or Marco Rubio)
- Sarah Palin is an idiot.
- Barack Obama is the antichrist.
You get the idea. The first two are quantifiably untrue, and anyone willing to look at more than just one source for reference will learn this. The last five are unquantifiable and subjective. They start with a false positive. Instead of putting the opinion-holder in the position of having to prove it, he/she has deftly put the disputer in the position of having to disprove it. This tactic is unfair and dishonest. It harkens back to the classic question: “Mr. So-and-So, when did you stop beating your wife?”
I myself won’t even bother with these people. I’ve defriended more than one acquaintence online as well as real life who have thrown such wild accusations at me without their being willing to discuss them.
I have absolutely NO beef with anyone who makes those statements and then is willing to offer up a defense of their statement. Hell, that’s how we learn. But have you ever noticed that more and more today no one can back up their opinions with any sort of facts? And I don’t mean facts that a conservative will only get from Rush Limbaugh/Fox News, or facts that liberals will glean only from The Huffington Post/MSNBC. I mean genuinely well thought out, balanced and reasoned research. This is why I can’t stand to watch Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow. Their shows are not formats set up for any forethought to be expressed. It’s the 5-10 second soundbite, often void of facts. Sadly that is what most of us now emulate.
And discussion does not mean persuasion either. I am not looking to necessarily change your opinion. For all I know it may be valid and I need correction. I’m humble enough to know this because I have experienced it firsthand. By being unwilling or fearful of having our worldview challenged or worse…changed…many will refuse to offer me their reasons why they feel the need to say that “Sarah Palin is batshit crazy.”
Look, I get it. We’re busier today. And lazier. The internet has put a wealth of information at our fingertips by making a few clicks here or there. But swallow a humility pill and be willing to admit that you don’t know why you have the opinion you do for crying out loud. Worse than offering no defense is the alternative of baselessly slandering someone in order to puff yourself up and hold fast to your stance. I’ve made friends with people with whom ideologically I have fundamental differences, but during conversations we have both found common ground. Thank God, because these have proven to be some of my most steadfast and valuable friends. Those friendships have been mutually earned. There is value. It is a lesson in humility for the both of us.
If it took centuries for philosophers, scientists and theologians to give us the sums of all their knowledge as a foundation for us to build to even higher heights why on earth do we say some of the incomprehensively stupid things we do as emotional knee-jerk reactions?
Because we lack humility.
Take a moment and think about it.
If you don’t understand something, own it. Silence is not the answer.
As human beings, we want acceptance, we want approval. But especially as we grow older, we should concern ourselves less with what others think about us. Some things need to be reasoned, researched and said, not implied.
In the end opinions that are formed in a few minutes are worth about as much as the current U.S. Dollar, and just as easy to print.
After all, I just published mine.