Vizzini is blind*
I met a man, a brilliant man who had nearly a photographic memory. He was also a skeptic of everything. He had this way of taking anyone’s belief, be it simple like a favorite restaurant or metaphysically deep like the existence of God, and bombard it with random quotes or fact check them until he assumed his arrogant throne of superiority.
We use to call him Mr. Well Actually, because that’s what he always said. “Well actually….”
Have you ever met anyone like that? Professional analytical deconstructors**.
For years I thought of him as deeply intelligent, but then I realized something – he never really asserted his own belief.
The renowned literary expert C.S. Lewis in his book “The Abolition of Man” nails this type of person down.
“You can’t go on ‘seeing through’ things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”
This idea is quite interesting. The man who categorizes and dismisses every belief without searching for his own perspective doesn’t see the world clearer than everyone else, he is actually blind. Why? Because there is a huge difference between an individual who can memorize many facts and one who can work through them to arrive at a personal belief.
Mortimer Adler takes it further as he critiques our modern way of “speed-reading” life. “There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.” We don’t stick with an idea long enough to really own or understand it, we just quickly move on to the next thought.
(Warning: Nerdy paragraph ahead. Skip if you like.)
Knowledge is information. Wisdom uses knowledge (information) to arrive at something pragmatic. Yet it should go even further than objective pragmatism(s). Deep reflective analysis of life should produce SUBJECTIVE pragmatism i.e. YOUR working thoughts on the world. Even if the idea isn’t original when you take ownership and say “I believe…” YOU have more than just an idea that can be offered up to be refined and honed by the greater community of thinkers, YOU as a person can now be refined! Most online “scholars” today don’t offer anything other than regurgitated copied work from other sites. I can’t wrestle with what they think because they never offer what THEY think. They just take shots at ideas trying to deconstruct them. Though I don’t mind that, they almost always forget to say. “I personally believe in…” I get it, it really is difficult to try out your own personal ideas on the ontological field of play. All the sudden everything becomes personal, but that is kind of the point. It’s now your idea to own, work with, and grow through.
This isn’t new at all. This was quite common in Greek culture around the time of Christ. In fact, the famous ex-Pharisee and brilliant scholar Paul in his letter to his student Timothy said these types of people are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of truth.”
We should continue to push back, challenge presuppositions, wrestle through ideas, and yes even deconstruct them. I personally think that’s fun to do!
I do however challenge you to actually stop and write out what you truly believe about life’s purpose and meaning. Re-read it a few times and ask yourself “Does MY belief system really work pragmatically?” Is this who I really want to be? Very few take the time to do this in our day and age. There is little ownership of ideas, just knowledge about them.
I have chosen to put my trust in Jesus, his ways, his nature, and his hope. I believe Jesus is the most unique, special, and culturally transformative person that ever lived. The more I read the more convinced that Jesus works at a personal, cultural and metaphysical level. I believe in Jesus.
*If the title doesn’t make sense you will have to watch the movie The Princess Bride. It’s good!
**Yes I know I made that word up. De: the prefix used to mean down or away. Constructor: a person who builds or erects something. Therefore someone who builds backwards or strategically systematically takes things apart. 🙂 It’s a blog people!