Thursday, April 28, 2011

grinding the ax

I have to admit that I admire those who have an ax to grind, but grind it quietly ... because, after all, it is just their ax. They do not say that they are right. They do not say that you are wrong. They simply tell you what they think and, if you like, what they do. They are pleasantly and unsurpisingly naked.

Stephen Colbert's television show, "The Colbert Report," is premised on humorous and sometimes pointed observations of the society in which we live. Yesterday, I watched an interview with A.C. Grayling, a philosophy professor at the University of London and author of "The Good Book: A Humanist Bible." The book is a  treatise, as far as I could determine from the quasi-conversation with Colbert, on how to approach this life we live.

Colbert, of course, is in the humor/commentary business, so he poked and prodded and fairly begged Grayling to come out and fight about God or to posit a philosophy that dismissed God. Lord knows there are enough humanists out there who might have bitten down on this bait. Loud-mouthed humanists are about as available as loud-mouthed, card-carrying religion advocates. It makes for a pretty good shouting match: My views are important-er than your views.

For all I know, Grayling can be as vitriolic and outraged as any other humanist when it comes to the God premise. But sitting across from Colbert, he seemed willing to allow his interviewer all the noise he wanted to make. Grayling didn't say yes and he didn't say no. He didn't say he was right and he didn't say Colbert was wrong. He didn't defend and he didn't exalt. Occasionally he smiled pleasantly at Colbert's showman gyrations.

It was as if he were saying, "Look. You do/think/believe your thing and I'll do mine. What's wrong with that?" And the answer in my mind was, "Nothing whatsoever." We can learn from each other and perhaps do something about our mistakes, but working to assure our own peace and clarity is the only thing that makes very good sense. You drive a Toyota and I drive a Buick ... is transportation something that requires a debate or oratory?

Of course it's not as easy as it sounds -- doing your own thing -- because it requires reflection and effort. And it does seem to fly in the face of social connections. But that's what it is to be alive, isn't it -- doing your own thing and clarifying who, precisely, is doing it?

PS. I did wonder anew why it was that philosophy teachers were granted the title of "philosopher," when philosophy as a topic can hardly be seen as the same as philosophy on the hoof.

1 comment:

  1. Ah. Good to hear your 'voice' again. Was missing your posts at *cough* 'e-sangha'. :)