The first lesson of philosophy is we cannot be wise about everything. We are fragments in infinity and moments in eternity; for such forked atoms to describe the universe, or the Supreme Being, must make the planets tremble with mirth.
– Will Durant
The Story of Civilization, Volume III, Caesar and Christ
Regular readers of The Thought for the Day know Will Durant is a regular contributor. Possessor of a working, persistent mind, Durant did an excellent job of making history and philosophy accessible to anyone willing to put a little work into reading his books. He rewards us with the first-class insights into our human experience we pay our very best writers for.
The first lesson of philosophy is we cannot be wise about everything…
This is a lesson that is not easily learned. It’s human nature to think we are standing astride the salt and summit of our human experience and the young are infamous for thinking they know everything. Only in middle age do we realize how much we don’t know because it takes the experience of the decades to realize we cannot know everything. All we can really do is take care to know what we should know and be relentless in knowing what we want to know.
We are fragments in infinity and moments in eternity…
Some say this points directly to the utter hopelessness of life, but let’s turn that over. Sure, if you look at earth from as a speck in the universe it’s easy to see our existence as insignificant. Heck, even a glance at a globe or a world map brings to mind the old saying that there a billion Chinese who couldn’t care less what happens to us.
But really, though, realizing we are mere moments in eternity can be liberating, releasing us from having to answer to outside influences. This frees us to look inside ourselves, maximize the talents we were issued at birth and get the most out of our time on this planet. Realizing we are mere travelers in a vast, impersonal and random ocean liberates us to make our time serve us, as opposed to merely serving time.
…for such forked atoms to describe the universe, or the Supreme Being, must make the planets tremble with mirth.
Forked atoms might be a harsh way of describing us humans, but our attempts to pass judgement on our human experience as if we really know what’s going on probably does make the planets tremble with mirth.
Let them tremble all they want. Then we are left alone to put the 24-hours each of us are issued everyday to good use and we can use our moments on this planet to live the life we were meant to live.
The Thought for the Day runs regularly. Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock.