By Armando Parantar
University of the Immaculate Conception
I have long contemplated on what to share in this gathering; the thoughts of astounding thinkers have enticed me to begin and proceed through others which have similar tenets and end with a grand finale most probably in the vein of Hegel. At one point I have resolved to stay suspended as if on air; I have no intention to stay on the grounds of any one philosopher if ever I may be found to sound like or echo the ideas of the likes of Heidegger. I don’t intend to speak for anyone of them. Why? I see them as (with respect to a few who have tried it) inutile and just as regular as you and me. At one time, I read about the paradox of modern life stating how human living has stretched the disparity between what should be and what is. I had once that thought that this only applied in politics and the secular and material lifestyles, but now I see that this also bodes true of Philosophy. We have a myriad of philosophical treatises and dissertations, theses in masters’ degrees, and countless term papers and reflections in many courses; libraries are in dire need of extensions to welcome newer books, or old books are burnt to create vacant shelves for newer ones, and more keep on coming.
We have too many intellectual giants in the classrooms with their mumbo-jumbo or simple prattle, but how many of us have actually gone out where these intellectualizations should lead us into? That is, into where we can make the fish, plant, or eke out a living on his own capacity or, for a start while he cannot, extend our extras to fill-in his emptiness.
I think that if beings hold on to what they are, the world always continues to suffer separation and division with which greed and hatred keep themselves well. The term being include ideas in its definition that are different from each other, and as long as they are beings keeping themselves as such in the mind or convictions of the owners, there shall always be clashing and bumping with one another. If they remain as they are, their makers will ever stand in arrogance and claim security wiyh how they think and live even if they are wrong. Or even if we say that they are logically or scholarly correct, the very simple question is ‘SO WHAT?’ If the clash between Parminedes and Hiraclitus, Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Heidegger, or Heidegger against Marx or Levinas or Habermas, Rawls and Nozick, or Sen and Nausbam and so on gets to be resolved with one as declared more sensible and splendid over the other, ‘SO WHAT?’ Can I have a plate of rice for my neighbor by that resolution? Ideas, I say should all melt into life itself; if not, we only perpetual the selfish maneuvers of money-makers as we consciously or unconsciously join them in writing and speaking just for money for our very own pockets.
My proposition is this: ideas don’t make any sense if they remained as they are without them incarnating into human possibilities.
We have a distinct separation between the lines of what we know to be fantastic and that which we call realistic. We define the realistic things as the concepts which we know to be attainable or the ideas which we know is possible in the easiest or most executable manner. Fantasy on the other hand is oftentimes relegated to things which are simply conceptual, or things which we desire but we know to be unattainable. However, what we fail to realize is that many of the ideas which we know to be attainable and possible have been conceived while they were still mere dreams. Knowing this, aren’t the lines of fantasy and reality therefore blurred?
The challenge for us individuals is to take ideas and bring them outside of the drawing board and into life. But we sadly remain stuck with mere conceptualization and planning, and what’s more, we even have the audacity to question every action and motive under guise of investigation. Whether this is stalling or true intellectual inquiry, it altogether results in inaction, and further chances are wasted inn endless and pointless intellectual discussions.
We ask, ‘how can we apply our philosophies outside the confines of education facilities?’, in the hopes that we can quell the growing tide of apathy and social decay that eats at the very fabric of our nation; but the application itself, though often discussed, is only rarely (if ever) executed. Social problems like housing, food for the needy, free medicines, education, and even the outreach of religion is discussed endlessly, but only rarely do we ever see anything being done about the problems themselves---and as we talk aimlessly, they worsen day by day. If we do not convert our ideas to actions, if they remain in the conceptual stage, there the endless discussions and surveys and moralizations of our philosophers will be nothing more than a pathetic farce.
We are a highly religious and strongly morally inclined country, but for our holier-than-thou attitude we sure do possess great amounts of hubris. It seems as though the majority of us find it perfectly laudible to preach about goodness, compassion, humility, et cetera ad nauseam, so long as they don’t have to get their hands dirty. While there are exceptions, the aforementioned traits are often what the majority of our leaders reflect – and we even decry the very corruption and decadence which is the hallmark of their hypocrisy. We have churches which teach us about humility, living simply, and living striving for Christ-likeness, but for all its philosophizing, these very same churches can’t even do anything to provide shelter for street children who sleep in front of their steps. This is living proof of inaction. So long as our ideas remain in the conceptual stage, every endeavor that we try to achieve will be pointless – pointless because we’re not even trying! We’re just talking, discussing, arguing, --- but to what end?
Rather than act like sophists or Pharisees of old, why don’t we follow the example of Christ and do more than just talk? Christ taught and influenced others not merely through words, but through actions. It was his reaching out to the masses which had the most impact, and that, alongside his teachings, made him the iconic and powerfully resonant figure that he remains to be up to this day. Acting out the goodness which we have within us may be hard, but nothing in this world is worthwhile without some blood, sweat, and tears. Instead of discussing philosophical minutiae, or prostrating ourselves on our knees waiting for miracles to happen, why don’t we be the miracle? If we want progress, if we desire change, let’s stop talking---we’ve talked for long enough. Let’s begin acting, it’s about time we started, and we have a lot of ground to cover behind us and before us. It is about time that we step outside of our campuses and our share of bread to the palms of those who cannot bake one, sit with them and discuss how they in their circumstances can possibly learn how, and hopefully as we walk their path they’ll be back to share by that time their own loaves of bread with perhaps some fish. Then being cmes into unison, owners and ideas alike, into what Gautama taught as the absolute oneness of the Kingdom of God (for Christians), or simply the Nothing of Heidegger from which all being flow and originate. Beings should flow and not restrain themselves.