Friday, January 27, 2006

The Metaphysical Club – Part 1 Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

What to say, what to say? I’m thinking that Oliver was a fine chap with an enchanted life, but for the fact that he had to go to war, which pretty much sucked. I’m feeling for him because he didn’t seem well-fitted for it emotionally, even though he seemed to have been somewhat successful. I am mostly speaking of his emotional state in regards to its impact on his belief system.
Homes recovered form the wounds (of war). The effects of the mental ordeal were permanent. He had gone off to fight because of his moral beliefs, which he had with singular fervor. The war did more than make him lose those beliefs. It made him lose his belief in beliefs.

So what were his beliefs to begin with? Well, he was idealistically anti-slavery which (thank goodness someone was) was fairly unique for the time. There were a lot of folks, from what I can tell, that were pragmatically anti-slavery - as long as it didn’t impact their way of life and what-nots. That’s why Olly was cool.

But rationally driven idealism is hard to maintain in the face of a war and death and Olly lost his. I’m not at all sure whether this changing from idealism to pragmatism represents a maturing or is it a “giving in”? So this is the question that I ask the readers, have you, like Oliver, become more pragmatic over your years or less? Is you idealism harder to hold as the years pass by, one after another? Has some event changed you entirely from believing in beliefs to believing in what works, tested throughout your life? The main question, I guess, is should we try to maintain our idealism or use our learning to become more concrete, more tempered, more consequence-driven?


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