There’s been a couple of unlikely elements popping up in my life lately. It is wonderful to have the time to even consider them. One is my penchant for online jigsaw puzzles and the other is the subject of philosophy.
I want to make it very clear that I am not a philosopher. I took one college course that almost did me in. If I would describe myself over the years I would say “practical.” But age sneaks up on us and life has a different tilt to it than it did twenty or thirty or more years ago. I have been reading a couple of novels by Marilynne Robinson, a Pulitzer prize winning author of fiction. Robinson teaches writing; she is a scientist and a philosopher and she admits, a Calvinist. To better understand her novels, which are unique, I started listening to some of her lectures on YouTube on the internet. One of the first I listened to, she was giving a lecture that required concentrated thinking to follow her line of thought. I am afraid I zoned out after catching only bits and pieces as she went along. But what I did glean from that talk was her perceptions of the brain, the mind and the soul. The brain she began explaining as the biological organ which can be measured and probed and dissected. Then she moved into the Mind which cannot be measured or really even understood, but it can sometimes be manipulated, i.e. controlled, by forces outside the physical body. The mind seems to be who we are, as vague as that word is. Next was the soul which is an essence that has been in philosophers’ sights for centuries. Greek philosophers tried to explain the soul. It seems to Robinson that the soul is that which gives rise to the need for God, to art, music, literature to all the higher things which grow out of human existence. In other words it is defining a culture, something even early man possessed with his cave art and artifacts found at prehistoric burial sites.
As I sit and work on my puzzles, I sometimes find my mind far away from the picture in front of me. Without my realizing, my hand guides the mouse and the pieces with their unique color and shape glide into the places they belong and gradually, as the pieces click together, the final picture emerges. My mind is multi-tasking, that is seeing the shape and color of the puzzle pieces, while it can also be thinking about other things
Too much of our lives are spent in the primal living of the brain -- the needs for existence. The mind is the next piece of the puzzle which gives some shape and purpose to our scrambling during our lifetime on this earth, but perhaps it is the soul that guides, without our even realizing the pieces of the puzzle of life into a picture that tells us there is more to all of this then just existing. The Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible has some of this philosophy in it.
I think the power of education to raise our minds to that higher plain is vital to a society that wants more for itself than just the reality of the moment. Anything that opens us into asking the bigger questions, of searching for answers to those questions and of catching a glimpse of the reason for existence is a good thing.