Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Learn to fish....

"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Lao Tzu (I think...)

It seems to me that our best means of ascertaining the beliefs of those who have long ago shaken off the mortal coil is limited to reading and understanding their writings. What better way is there to try to understand a person with whom you cannot communicate with directly than to read his written work? This has been something that I have been trying to do much more of over the last two years, that is; READ the actual writings of the actual person rather than another person's interpretation of the same. Due to many factors this is decidedly the much more difficult path. However, is it not self evident that 'learning to fish' is much more rewarding and in the interest of self reliance and independence than being 'given a fish' by a fisherman of whose providence and motivations you cannot be sure? In 21st century America we now have MANY would-be 'fisherman' competing to provide many different kinds 'fish' to a population either unable or in most cases unwilling to provide for themselves. It's abundantly clear to me how dangerous such a state of affairs is. Most of this 'fish' is of, at best, dubious nutritional value and at worst distinctly harmful to the hungry.

I say all this as a preface to the following question:

Was the founding of the United States a manifestation of the divine working through humanity or.... not so much?

There seems to be an on going discussion as to whether or not our esteemed (yet seemingly in decline) republic was merely the journey work of enlightenment educated men or something decidedly more super-natural. Lately, I have learned not to polemically dismiss the supernatural out of hand for reasons relating to the limitations of what we can truly 'know' for certain and without appeal to other presuppositions (not much as it turns out). We ALL do this, it's human nature, the key is to acknowledge it and to be consistent. That said I am trying to base my thoughts and my actions on real world utility. That subject alone could probably fill volumes and this post is not really about that. What concerns me here is what the thoughts and views of the founders of our Republic really were and what they thought they were doing; not what a modern day revisionist/pundit/'theocrat' SAYS they were doing. I yearn to fish for myself. On a recent 'fishing trip' I caught this:

"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses."
Re-read it. Let it percolate for while. Go ahead I'll wait.

Does this passage not convey a sense of the secularist nature that this person felt embodied the government of the United States? Sadly, this person could not begin to imagine the extent to which Americans would descend into the revisionism and distortion of his and others motivations and beliefs.

There are pundits from both sides of the political divide that will knowingly or otherwise 'contextually twist' and 'quote mine' the work of persons long since dead to suit short-sighted and greed based personal or political ends. Most Americans are all too willing to accept these interpretations and feel no need whatever to fact check or to read the actual words of the long dead humans to understand for themselves what these people actually meant.

For the sake of our republic and our children we ALL need to learn to fish again.


To answer the inevitable question of the authorship of the above quote t'was:

John Adams, from his work- "A defense of the Constitution of the United States", 1786

No comments: