Connection Problems, and What to Take Seriously

I have not been able to get on the Internet since early yesterday morning because of my ISP (Verizon) – now, for whatever reason, I am on, so I’d better make full use of this time. My apologies to those of you who commented awaiting a response. I expect the rest of the day will be problematic with regards to being online. My apologies for the length of what follows; I wanted it to be shorter.

I’ve been thinking about what to take seriously, and what shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are people who are full of themselves, and make points that are almost laughable. But there’s a risk in laughing at some people who have pride, because they do know better sometimes, and one would want to learn from them as opposed to asserting one’s independence and then finding out that one was really just being stupid.

Now that statement above is how I want to set up the problem – the problem of knowledge (or lack thereof) and having pride. The next thing to do is examine common opinion on the matter.

There are people who we say don’t take anything seriously, and we have an admiration for them, as they are lots of fun to be around. Some of these people have a deep sense of morality, and don’t take trivial things seriously because they know what counts and have readied themselves for those things.

Then there are those who discovered that being petty about small things wasn’t a good way to win friends or start conversations. They may not have a deep sense of morality – or, at least, that consideration is irrelevant to their seriousness. They’re more interested in being social, and a lack of seriousness seems to be the way to influence people.

Finally, there’s a group that really doesn’t take anything seriously. This is a very dangerous group, because they are empowered by the fact that the other two groups are after goods, but are after no such good except the fulfillment of their own desire in any and all circumstances. This group divides into two: there are those that take nothing seriously and tag along and always seem OK, or maybe they even get popular to a degree. Deep friendships are beyond their ken, even though they might have longtime acquaintances, and their popularity, if they have it, is more passive than active. Then there are those who are more obviously bad, because they seem to take everything seriously. In truth, they only take one thing seriously: themselves.

It is obvious that the way we use the expression “takes themselves too seriously” is to indicate that there is something higher, but another has to convince us of that or be rightly kept aside. It is clear 2 of the 4 groups listed above take either virtue or social graces pretty seriously. It is the latter two groups, particularly the one that seems to be “OK,” that’s an enormous problem.

And I don’t think I need to tell you that third group emerges more often than not in a democracy, at full strength, and is responsible for that phenomenon deTocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority.” Plato seems to argue in the Republic that knowledge of ignorance is a pain, a pain that many can’t stand – most people are happy to be ignorant. That third group is very easily led by the 4th when they have something they want. But to have virtues or social graces, one might actually want to know something, and actually, that’s the solution to this problem.

The problem is how do we sort out the dross from the gold on the Internet, where everyone spouts off (yeah, I’m doing this right now, I know) and because of the frequency of discussion here, will occasionally say something way out of line.

I think the answer can be evaluated thus: look at what people want. Christ says where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. If people are looking to hook up with girls and will say anything to impress in public, they’re probably not going to be terribly serious conversation, even if they sound good. Look at how the knowledge they have or don’t have relates to their pride, and whether or not there’s something they really want to give or have. Now that word “real,” implying the “authentic,” has been coming up a lot, and I think a quick comment on that is needed.

The Christian teaching on this matter and the classical teaching, I think, are in accordance. The fundamental Platonic teaching seems to be that opinions are intimately linked to Truth – we know there is Truth because otherwise, opinions couldn’t be valid in any way. This not only decimates the extreme relativism that plagues the academy and our sense of the ethical, but it also validates the idea that we perceive our happiness in a diversity of forms. That “diversity of goods” means that there are many legitimate ways to live one’s life. What constitutes the group of people that take nothing seriously but themselves is that they have hit on the one illegitimate way of leading life. Both in the last group are fake, the one from seeming like they’re OK but really being clueless and maybe even vicious, and the other by thinking “seriousness” was hearing the sound of their own voice followed by assent only (whistling).

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1 Comment

  1. I know what you are saying, but a wise man never says that he is wise. My complaint is with these people that claim to be wise. They take themselves too seriously. Too seriously in that they have never stopped to contemplate if they do indeed know all that they claim to know. You know about whom I speak, and who brought this rant on. That bombastic fool….

    Any way. Glad that your connections is up. With all the ice and snow it may not have been V’s fault. But then again never trust whitey!!

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