Monday, June 25, 2007

(14) Feeding our Mind

"In spite of their emphasis on self-examination and internal
dialogues, Stoics do not do away with teachers. They freely
admit that both initially and at recurring moments of weakness,
one needs teachers to provide assistance, to pull one out of
the bog mire of mistaken priorities, and to undermine one's
deceptive self-complacency."
[Gretchen Reydams-Schils, THE ROMAN STOICS: SELF,
Press, 2005, p. 18.]

Comment: Whew! I should hope so! Self-sufficiency is an
admirable condition, but only if it is not based on ignorance.
A person, like just about any other life-form, has to grow always
into a greater sense of completeness. And if we don't, we are
not altogether our true self.

To use the analogy of growth, of development, when it comes
to plants and animals, such growth is dependent upon many
variables. There's the proper climate, the conditions of the
habitat, relationship also. There's the main ingredients of
nourishment, food and water. And special fertilizers or
enhanced food--and even sometimes an artificial environment--
can advance the growth process. There's always room for

We humans endure under these very same conditions. But,
beyond the physical, we have attained to a higher mental
level. And our mind needs nourishment and special treatment
if we are to reach the fullness of our potential.

Sadly, I once met a young man in his 20s who refused to
trust in nor even read books. His parents did see to it that he
graduated from high school, but after that level he simply
decided to stop growing mentally. Ten years later he is still
down in the pits of the labor force. I felt bad about this fellow,
because he was very adept and smart. But he was so adamant
against book learning. He never exposed himself to teachers
or authors who might have expanded his horizon.

On the other hand, this young man was spiritually inclined.
He felt "different" from others, moving willy-nilly into magical
thinking, assuming that what came forth in his imagination was
pure knowledge. He needed no other "authority." He was his
own authority!

One doesn't have to undergo the rigors of higher education,
but there would seem a need to try to self-educate one's self
if at all possible. There are libraries, and there's the Web that
nearly serves as the world's "Great Library of Alexandria." It's
incredible what is available to us in today's electronic world.
Closing our eyes, our mind, to this great knowledge-base of
information is nearly tantamount to being negligent towards
one's self.

Beyond this, too, an educated mind is important for the
development of the Human Collective. We are constantly
pouring our minds into this Collective, through our work, through
our interactions, through our institutions. And for this Collective
to run effectively, it needs the proper fuel of information and
guidance. "Teachers" are not always those just in the schools,
but rather also reside in those corners where wisdom dwells.
Good guidance consistently remains desperately needed.

As for any well-formed person, after they are well-grounded in
inherited knowledge, after they have attended good counsel,
it is at this point that they can more effectively mine their soul.
Additionally, an enhanced mind can better bring forth the fruits
of its contemplation.