Born in a new world
In his book Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder writes, "the
only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder."
By this definition, we are all philosophers at birth. Whether we remain
so seems to be a matter of little more than chance or fate, but there
are times in our individual lives that thrust us back into that original
state. We wonder at the world around us and at ourselves, and we question.
Now is perhaps such a time for us, not only as individuals but also as
a human race, to return to our philosophical beginnings. Our foundations
have been shaken, as we have watched the foundations of our modern world
tremble in the face of what will surely go down as one of the most momentous
occurrences in history.
As we emerge from the wreckage, we are facing a changed world, a world
in which many of our previous notions and beliefs no longer hold true.
Many of us have spent the last week wondering what comes next. How can
we pick ourselves up? How can we regain our strength? How can we prevent
this tragedy from happening again?
These questions are part of an important philosophical question: how
ought we to live? In the past, generations have been able to avoid answering
this question, because modern society was formed with great care, so that
we didn't have to answer it time and time again. Instead, we have cycled
through society, finding our places, fulfilling our duties, and keeping
the society alive, somewhat blindly and at a great cost.
Many people have suggested that we deal with this crisis with the same
tools we have used in the past to deal with other crises- nationalism,
alliances, politics, retaliation, war. These tactics may seem logical
and reasonable, but, in reality, trying to use methods of the past to
address the concerns of our new world is like trying to apply the Pythagorean
theorem to a circle.
It is far easier to call on things that we know than it is to risk learning
something new, and it would be so much easier for President Bush and for
our nation, to go to war, rather than to take the risk of finding a different
way. If we listen for a while, though, and if we take the time to look
around and actually see this new world, we will see that for the first
time in our history as a country we are being asked to do something that
no one has ever done.
We are being asked not simply to acknowledge the media's comments that
the world has changed, but to act on it. We are being asked to wake from
our sleep of complacency and to cease being indifferent to what goes on
in the world. We are being asked to wipe the glazed look from our eyes.
In essence, we are being asked to voluntarily regain the "faculty
of wonder" that was taken from us so early in our lives.
If we choose to respond positively, we will be given a chance that no
country and no human being has ever had before. We will be given the chance
to be reborn alongside the new world. We will be given a chance to create
the world, rather than to have it create us.
We can be leaders in this new world if we choose to be. We can be leaders
who are neither threatening, nor intimidating, nor dominating. We can
be leaders by giving the world a tabula rasa, an empty slate, upon which
it may grow again and upon which the nations of the world can grow again,
can have another chance at childhood, another chance to wonder, and another
chance to not let our ability to wonder slip away.
We are members of a country, the United States of America. We have a chance now, with this new world to become members of a new union, a union that will bind together all the countries and all the people of this planet. It is a risk to take that chance, to chose love over hate and peace over war, but it will be far more costly not to take that risk, for, as the poet W.H. Auden once said, "Love each other or perish."