Friday, September 28, 2012

What is Enlightenment?

Many times throughout my life, I’ve heard about this age called Enlightenment, and how important it was for the development of Western Civilization.  Whenever I hear the mentioning of that age, names like Descartes, Kant, Locke, Newton, Rousseau, and Voltaire jumble around my brain.  It’s well known that these people contributed much to our western, modern, rationalist ways of understanding the world around us. 

Kant, in particular, tried to describe the essence of Enlightenment in his essay “What is Enlightenment?”  The first sentence of that essay goes right to the point. “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage.”  With this, Kant says that Enlightenment has to do with the wherewithal and will of us, the people, to free ourselves from authoritative, institutionalized teachings that we allowed to dominate our thought processes throughout our lives.  It’s a call for us to throw off the shackles of society, to break the prison of tradition, and to embrace our own mental capacities.  This freeing of the mind isn’t something that will just spontaneously happen over time, it’s not something that’ll just be given to us.  It’s something we have to actualize through intellectual strength.  Reading Kant reminds me a lot of the Matrix movies because those stories show such a deep, existential struggle for freeing the mind, body, and spirit from the constraints of a computer generated world.  Unplugging yourself from an artificial life is one of the main themes, and that seems to echo what Kant is trying to get across to us.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


This Hercules of the Bible has intrigued me ever since I heard about him from my father when I was a little boy.  I remember being awed by his immense physical strength – slaying a lion with his bare hands, and defeating an army of one thousand men with just the jawbone of an ass.  Samson eventually loses all his strength after breaking the Nazirite vow three different times by touching an animal’s unsanctified dead carcass, drinking wine, and cutting his hair.  (By the way, I think I could be a good Nazirite.  I don’t enjoy touching dead animals.  I don’t drink alcohol.  And I don’t like cutting my hair.  Now if I could just get my hands on some super strength.)

Samson encapsulates the Jewish people and their relationship with God - their struggle of making and breaking covenants.  But what strikes me most about Samson is how he dies.  So dramatic.  Samson loses everything because he loses his relationship with God.  He stands blinded, shackled and powerless between pillars, before a mocking crowd of Philistines.  And at his most vulnerable moment he appeals to God for one last favor, asking Him to “remember me.”  God grants His spirit back to Samson, and in a he-man moment (“I have the power!”), Samson pulls down the pillars, destroying everyone, including himself.  Why God considered it right to allow Samson to kill everyone is beyond me, nonetheless it still makes for an epic ending.  

(Narrative found in the book of Judges chapters 13-16.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Cherokee Proverb

A Cherokee grandfather talking to his young grandson tells the boy he has two wolves inside of him struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. "Which wolf will win, grandfather?" asks the young boy. "Whichever one I feed," is the reply.

A friend passed this wisdom on to me.