School may be out, but learning goes on. At the risk of sounding simplistic, when Protagoras asserted that “man is the measure of all things” he opened a Pandora’s Box of potential mischief.
Alexander Pope in 1733 picked up on this when he said that “the proper study of mankind is man.” In 1883, Nietzsche touted the Ubermensch (superior man) and in 1943 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs culminated with our being self-actualized, to be all that we can be. No, the Army did not invent that slogan.
And now we have “my truth,’ which may not be the same as “your truth,” as if truth is some subjective commodity that we can choose to affirm or deny. Philosophically it’s not that simple, but still.
In contrast, the Hebrew poet looked at the starry skies and asked, “What is man that you (God) are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). Between being Gods or being Devils, we are, as Steeler’s Wheel sang, “stuck in the middle with you,” perhaps a little bit of both.
Michael Patrick Lynch recently wrote an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Teaching humility in an age of arrogance.” As so many do these days, he decries “the personalized internet, with its carefully curated social-media feeds and individualized search results.” Knowing, he says, is not just an individual phenomenon.
He goes on to say that “the Internet of us becomes one big reinforcement mechanism, getting us all the information we are already biased to believe.” If we are not careful, George Carlin’s words will come to pass – “our dull, meaningless lives are being stolen from us by soulless corporations.”
Here’s a lengthy thought from Adbusters, a quirky journal I read – “Social media works like a mirror. It reflects back to us what we already know. By sheltering ourselves from everything that lives outside our ‘likes,’ we end up living inside a Filter Bubble – a narrow slice of reality where we are isolated from anything that doesn’t reify our established identity. We stare into the screens and see only our reflection and then we think this is ‘reality.’”
Thomas Huxley motivates me when he says, “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” What is your “something” about which you want to learn “everything?” My closest “something” is the Bible.
Find and pursue for a lifetime, your something!
Tom Rupp is a resident of Folsom and a weekly columnist in the Folsom Telegraph. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.