Foolish All Alone

“He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not is a bigot. He that dare not is a slave.”–19th century industrialist, Andrew Carnegie

I stumbled across the Carnegie quote while skimming a yellowed, vintage Omaha newspaper to determine if there were any historical articles worth keeping. There was nothing, but the quotation, so I clipped it and placed it on the refrigerator so I could ponder it from time to time.

It’s good to reflect upon the musings of other people in order to put life into proper perspective. If one is all alone with no house-mates, it is easy to slip into exclusive, self-referential thinking.

Although it is wise to retain autonomy and independent thought, it is unwise to ignore the wisdom of our predecessors. Such knowledge should not be obeyed slavishly as dogma, but it is helpful to consult it to keep on steady footing. While a person can honestly be doctrinaire, it is unwise to adhere to dogma without honest, thorough evaluation of it.

While one can occasionally formulate wisdom on one’s own during solitary retreat or during quiet moments alone with one’s own thoughts, it’s easy to believe such solitary “wisdom” is not folly. When one takes the wrong fork in the road, it takes awhile to realize he’s off track. When he tries to justify taking himself down the garden path, he has become a fool.

Common is the person who seeks to be wise by chasing mirages. Humans flatter ourselves by believing we are reasonable, rational beings, yet when push comes to shove, our emotions tend to rule over logic. Our emotions often convince us to believe things that are demonstrably, utterly untrue.

Certainly our emotional intuition can, at times, help us navigate ourselves through difficult problem-solving. There have been mysteries solved by experimenting with unproven hypotheses. However, we tempt hubris by believing our intuition is infallible. When we enter such risky frontiers, it pays to balance daring with sober thought so as to not be swept away by wishful thinking. One must be willing to discard a failed hypothesis.

It has been said by some wise teachers that “to live entirely alone one must be like a god, or like a wild beast”. When a person believes him or herself to be like a deity, then one has entered shaky territory. Such is the stuff of narcissistic tomfoolery.

Yet, it is important to remember that it is unfortunate for the wise person and the unhappy fool to strictly rely upon conventional belief. There are times when risking becoming a fool leads to wisdom. Again, if one takes that path, it behooves us to remember that our emotions can mislead us into believing our own foolishness. Sometimes we need to remember that once in awhile, that the public possesses a little bit of wisdom. At those times it is better to merge with the many than to be a fool alone with oneself. The best course is to not go too far one way or the other. Temper alone-time by communing with others. It is best not to fetishize solitude when we go into retreat.

The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a verse from the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. “Whatever talents I possess may suddenly diminish or suddenly increase. I can with ease become an ordinary fool. I may be one now. But it doesn’t do to upset one’s own vanity.”  

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Contemplation, Meanderings, philosophy, Politics, religion, Science and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Foolish All Alone

  1. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    💜 Great Piece My Brother, My Friend; it Reminds Me of ‘Alone But NOT!!! Lonely’…solitude is My CHOICE!!! for Energetic Reasons around Physical Proximity so, perversely, Mandatory Social Distancing is a Boon for Me; it’s actually being Physically Solitary that connected Me with “Wise” Folk like YOURSELF!!! and Many Others while also becoming more tolerant of “Fools” and “Bigots” et al…so I Find MySelf with Renewed Faith in MySelf and Humanity at Large; the “Fools” I Used to Socialise with Do Have Capacity to become a Lot “Wiser”


  2. swabby429 says:

    Yes, I prefer solitude as well. However, after awhile it becomes stultifying and stale. Then I take a recess in order to keep from becoming too full of myself.

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