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Fear is crippling. Fear of the future can convince us that there is no way out and nothing is ever going to get better. Fear is blinding; it can make us miss the warning signs flashing right in front of our eyes. It can also make you miss those brilliant flashes of color, when the world isn’t so gray. But, if you think about it, being afraid isn’t such a bad thing. Because fear is a reminder that you still have something to lose. Something worth holding onto.
Education doesn’t make you happy. Nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are. Or because we’ve been educated – if we have. But because education may be the means by which we realize we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.
One would suppose that the battle for religious liberty was won in the United States two hundred years ago. However, in the time since, and right now, powerful voices are always raised in favor of bigotry and thought control. It is useful, then, to have a compendium of the thoughts of great men and women of all faiths (and of none) on the subject, to convince us that we men and woman of freedom are not and never have been alone.
A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle… Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed.
Air travel reminds us who we are. It’s the means by which we recognize ourselves as modern. The process removes us from the world and sets us apart from each other. We wander in the ambient noise, checking one more time for the flight coupon, the boarding pass, the visa. The process convinces us that at any moment we may have to submit to the force that is implied in all this, the unknown authority behind it, behind the categories, the languages we don’t understand. This vast terminal has been erected to examine souls.
Strength is a capacity for endurance. One of the dividends of suffering is the universal discovery the we posses a strength within us we never knew we had. Navigating through a difficult episode not only shows us that inner strength is there but convinces us it will always be there to serve us in the future. Overcoming gives us an assurance of personal confidence and value that far exceeds what we thought we possessed before our struggles began.
Our normal expectations about reality are created by a social consensus. We are taught how to see and understand the world. The trick of socialization is to convince us that the descriptions we agree upon define the limits of the real world. What we call reality is only one way of seeing the world, a way that is supported by social consensus.
Nothing feeds forgetfulness better than war…. We all keep quiet and they try to convince us that what we’ve seen, what we’ve done, what we’ve learned about ourselves and about others, is an illusion, a passing nightmare. Wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there are no voices left to tell what happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour what they left behind.
Dissections daily convince us of our ignorance of the seats of diseases, and cause us to blush at our prescriptions. How often are we disappointed in our expectation from the most certain and powerful of our remedies, by the negligence or obstinacy of our patients! What mischief have we done under the belief of false facts and false theories! We have assisted in multiplying diseases. We have done more — we have increased their mortality.