Uncommon Sense

May 11, 2021

A Life Filling Boxes (Check Boxes Anyway)

Filed under: Philosophy — Steve Ruis @ 11:05 am
Tags: , , ,

I have been reading an interesting book “Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing” by Arthur M. Melzer. One section struck me as I am quite long in the tooth and just spent some time in a hospital emergency room two days ago, so my “end of life experience is much closer than farther away. Here it is (the section, not my end of life experience):

“The crucial point concerns what is meant by a ‘philosopher.’1 In the older view, it is not simply a person like “you and me,” only with a particular interest in philosophy (although there are such people too, of course), any more than a saint is a person with a peculiar liking for religion. Again, philosophy is not a specific subject matter like botany or geology, or a particular technique or expertise, as in the contemporary phrase ‘a professional philosopher.’ It is above all a distinct way of life—something that makes one a different type of human being. One is a philosopher not so much because of what one does or is able to do as because of what one most fundamentally loves and lives for. The philosopher is the person who, through a long dialectical journey, has come to see through the illusory goods for which others live and die. Freed from illusion—and from the distortion of experience that illusion produces—he is able, for the first time, to know himself, to be himself, and to fully experience his deepest longing, which is to comprehend the necessities that structure the universe and human life as part of that universe. This is the famous vita contemplativa, an ideal of life found, in one form or another, among virtually all classical and medieval thinkers and still powerful among many modern thinkers as well.”

“We of course know all about this contemplative ideal but have a tendency to misunderstand by assimilating it to the intellectual models that dominate today, such as the scientist, the scholar, and the intellectual. ones. Today, we admire the great scientist, scholar, and intellectual primarily for their extraordinary ability, for what they can do, not for their unique way of living and being.”

What struck me is that in my life I have been a scientist, a scholar, and an intellectual, as well as a philosopher. So, these categories are not mutually exclusive.

I trained from high school onward to become a chemist, a scientist, and became a professor of chemistry, so I think that qualifies me as being a scientist (at a bare minimum my advanced degree required original research, so I did contribute a tidbit of scientific knowledge to the pool).

I have been a scholar of education, producing papers on the status of general education and one on chemical education. Currently I am a scholar of archery, specifically the coaching of archery and have close to a dozen books in my name on that topic.

I have made my living since college with my mind and rarely my body, so that is somewhat of a qualification for being an intellectual. Currently I write and edit magazines and books for publication.

And, as to being a philosopher, I have studied philosophy for long. I had a minor in it in college and have read on the topic continuously ever since. This, as mentioned above, does not make me a philosopher (maybe an academic one) as I like the definition provided, a philosopher who has a philosophy guiding their life, and I do have that.

A quote provided in the book above hammers this home “Michel de Montaigne, who began to philosophise when he lost a dear friend, wrote an essay entitled “That to Study Philosophy is to Learn How to Die.” This is really an extreme way of saying that we can use our reason to quell our fears, but also take back control of our lives from fear and sadness. ‘A man who has learned to die,’ he wrote, ‘has unlearned how to be a slave.’”

As I told the techs in the emergency room, “People my age look at this as a dress rehearsal,” which says something about me in that I was having a great deal of trouble breathing, due to asthma, but not too much to make quips to entertain “my audience.” (An audience is a group of people who “hear” and this was a captive audience, but an audience nonetheless.)

I can’t wait to see that the bill will be for the EMTs and hospital for a three hour period of their services. That will probably provide fodder for another post. And, I may continue my slide into arrogance and post on my personal philosophy, but probably only if I get provoked to do so by comments! :o)


  1. Glad it was just a rehearsal. Hope you’re okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by SelfAwarePatterns — May 11, 2021 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

    • Doing fine but I had never had an asthma attack like that one. Scary but not life-threatening.

      Liked by 2 people

      Comment by Steve Ruis — May 11, 2021 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  2. I just got a new Martin takedown for beating around the bushes. I’ve never shot competition but have scored well in the field over the years.
    How did I not know this about you? Great sport!


    Comment by jim- — May 11, 2021 @ 11:59 pm | Reply

    • And, I answer questions! (I keep a coaching blog which is followed by a few archers I am told and you can send me questions which I try to answer there.) You can find it here: https://archerycoach.wordpress.com/.

      I think archery is a great sport especially for stressed out adults! In order to function and shoot well, one must clear one’s mind, so the target gives you feedback and subconsciously “things go away.” The fascinating thing I find is that when you stop shooting, your cares and concerns come back to you, *seemingly in order of their importance*! Somehow we subconsciously rank concerns we have this way, but usually we are so busy chewing on issues consciously we do not allow this function room to work.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — May 12, 2021 @ 10:06 am | Reply

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