I used to think of really smart people as walking encyclopedias. But I’ve come to believe that’s entirely wrong. Really brilliant people are more like very powerful calculators. They have the capacity to consider a question and produce a good answer. Instead of a huge collection of facts stored and waiting to be regurgitated, these people have minds which have been trained how to think, how to reckon with conundrums, how to articulate insightful conclusions to difficult matters. And this is a much nicer way of framing the situation; after all, who likes to memorize stuff?
It raises the question, what of those like me who don’t know very much about how to think. What of us who’s calculating ability is still rather small? If wisdom was rote memory, we’d just have to set out memorizing. Wisdom isn’t that easy. It stands to reason that, on the whole, the answers put froth by those who haven’t developed their ability to think will be mostly useless to anyone else.
And this is why we ought to be grateful for the impeachment, for new movies, for controversy, for the events transpiring daily. They provide us with new things to think about, new problems to be reckoned with, new space to articulate answers. The point of our answering is not that we’ll get it right – let’s be honest, who among us really knows anything about the impeachment? Have any of us formally studied constitutional law, been privy to the crucial conversations, read the academic literature? Almost certainly not. The point is that we enter in the conversational space and become something more for having been there. And if that’s the goal, to become more through communication, then I’d wager it’s not a waste of time (entirely) to be in the comment threads.
If the goal is to persuade the other to see the truth you are adamant you’ve attained, it’s probably a waste of time. When you come to the table looking to educate the other and “win him over,” treating him as an “it” instead of a “thou,” it’s doubtful you’ve become anything more for having been there.
Personally, the end of the impeachment hearings begs a reflection. What was gained or lost over the course of the hearings? And forget what it means for the country, forget what I think actually happened on a national scale. I can pretend to know, but I don’t. But I can observe what happened up close. My friends view me differently now than they did two weeks ago, what’s changed? Was I graceful? Winsome? Arrogant? Helpful? Honest? Humble? Have I become more through my interaction with current events? How have I treated the other? How did I react in victory? Defeat? Perhaps these sorts of questions are more worthwhile than some others I tend to dwell on.
Did I make the most of the impeachment hearings? Did my presence in the conversation glorify God? Was I neighborly across the channels? The proceedings are over, but the words I’ve written and spoken have shaped a new reality, for me and for others. Am I proud of my contributions to this newly constructed place, albeit a strange place: where presidents stand trial, it’s seventy degrees in February, where I’ve spoken more to that raging idiot on Facebook than some of my own family, where people like you read stuff like this, and where the young can speak freely. What a wonderful world.
“Since the will extends further than the intellect, I do not contain the will within the same boundaries; rather, I extend it to things I do not understand. Because the will is indifferent in regards to such matters, it easily turns away from the true and the good; and in this way I am deceived and I sin.”
– Rene Descartes (Meditations of First Philosophy, 58)