We are prone to four mistakes in trying to make sense of ourselves and the world:
- Oversimple explanations.
- Answers of mind-bending complexity incapable of being grasped — except when smoking marijuana.
- The following twin assumptions: a) reason explains more than emotion and b) others would reason as we do if they were reasonable.
- The belief we can fathom life in all its fullness.
Why #4 you ask? If I try to understand my inner workings, I only know myself on a conscious level. I do not have quick access to my unconscious even if I enter psychoanalysis with an expert. Nor can I see myself from outside.
Brain scientists don’t agree whether I have “free will.” My decisions — all the ones I think I’m in charge of — might be determined by the intersection of biology, history, and the fixed pathways of the brain pudding. The researchers cannot tell me if my actions are pre-baked into the cake of my being. My choices would only seem voluntary.
I search for comprehension, even so, but the morning’s newspapers cause mourning.
I’m distressed by the factual reports I find in these venerable, award-winning periodicals. I’m disturbed by elected and appointed officials — the kind who offer self-serving opinions without evidence and often without truth — who lack either conscience or courage. I’m troubled by the sightless idolators who follow these Pied Pipers toward the cliff. I’m unsettled by the thoughtlessness of some in opposition to them; and those citizens who complain or worry, but do nothing to defend the democratic republic.
What then is the explanation of the Bizzaro World at the tippy-top of the federal government’s executive branch?
In one sentence, here is the best I can do. This 17th-century wisdom fits into the first and last categories above. Over simplistic, for sure. Perhaps tongue-in-cheek or maybe dead serious.
Sometimes an idea waits nearly 400-years for a person who embodies it:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
― Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées
The image at the top is Paul Klee’s 1921 Portrait of a Yellow Man. The 1978 painting that follows is called Loneliness, by George Stefanescu. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.