Let us all pause and ponder on this deep existential question. We may all be tempted to exercise this precious little faculty known as “critical thinking.” David, for example, calls us to engage critically with the world to be alert and stay conscious….”This is water, this is water.” This speaks to the age-old saying from the West “I think, therefore I am.” One cannot underestimate the value of critical reason in human life and so much has been said bout “critical thinking”.
I would like to point to the value of another much-maligned and classically misunderstood faculty in human life…”emotion”…critical human emotions or critical feeling as a counterpoint or counterpart to critical thinking. . . Thinking and feeling are twins adjoined at the bosoms. Scholars are now making claims that some emotions are rooted in cognitions (Tears is an intellectual thing…i.e.…how you feel about something is based on who you are, your social and cultural beliefs and your interpretation of the world and cognitions are often shaped and colored by emotions. . .
In the pantheon of emotions, I feel that there are two emotions or social expression of two emotions that are most pertinent to our times. The first word is Courage...a derivate of a Latin word “cor”…meaning heart…. or physical courage…it means the ability to maintain your mental equilibrium in the face of fear, pain or danger…For example, someone running to a fiery building to save a fellow human being. Moral courage is the courage of holding onto one’s values…it may be equivalent to throwing your mind and your life into myriad fires to fight for your convictions and beliefs. Humanity has exercised moral courage continuously throughout all ages and places as people getting burned at the stakes for refusing to renounce their beliefs, Socrates choosing death with poison, Spinoza choosing polishing lens over most prestigious academic jobs in Europe and an anonymous guy standing in the front of a tank in Tiananmen square…etc. Sometimes, moral courage behooves us to have unpopular haircuts and unpopular ideas while shaking our defiant fists against the oppression of popularity and majority…in ideas and in actions.
Another emotion that struts along courage is compassion. Compassion is the ability to participate in the experience of others and to share their suffering. A person may aspire to build a good life with the power of intellect and strength of moral courage. But all human beings are commonly vulnerable to missiles and silos (slings and arrows) of fate. The fragility of our moral goodness stands in the tempest of moral luck that has thrown against us. Our common human bodies, destinies and vulnerability to human conditions (vagaries of fate, certainty of death) should sensitize us to a whole spectrum of humane responses to the universe such as the joy and happiness as well as pains and sufferings of other fellow beings in both familiar and strange shores of the earth. . .
As your fellow slightingly aging fish traveling along the same water, I would like to go with you on a journey towards ennoblement and enlargement rather than denigration and diminution of humanity.