Morning Coffee with Dave & Waldo

My reasoning faculty is proportionably weak, nor can I ever hope to write a Butler’s Analogy or an essay of Hume.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journal, April 18, 1824.

And so scribbled the young Waldo in his private journal, while a young student at Harvard Divinity School. He soberly assessed his intellectual boundaries: vast on imagination and narrow on logic. Twenty years later, around the age of forty, and after numerous publications, he published the following:

“Illusion, Temperament, Succession, Surface, Surprise, Reality, Subjectiveness,–these are threads on the loom of time, these are the lords of life. I dare not assume to give their order, but I name them as I find them in my way. I know better than to claim any completeness for my picture. I am a fragment, and this is a fragment of me. I can very confidently announce one or another law, which throws itself into relief and form, but I am too young yet by some ages to compile a code” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”).

Since 1990, I have read Emerson’s works more than any other author because I recognized in him a kindred spirit. When I was a student in seminary, I recognized my strength as one of memory, recalling facts and ideas from texts, but my weakness in the discipline of logic. As years went by, my thirst for knowledge, along with my study habits, increased, and I am aware that over the decades I have developed a substantial reservoir of ideas, but still haven’t changed my machinery for thought; I still regard my thinking as more organic and additive than systematic.

I recall an observation the artist Robert Motherwell made concerning his friend and colleague Mark Rothko, another Abstract Expressionist painter. Rothko taught at City College and was abruptly asked to teach a Design course. It was observed that, due to his mysticism, it was like asking a rabbi to design a modular building. And that describes my disposition. I know after all these years my intellectual strengths and weaknesses. And I no longer chafe at lacking certain abilities, but have come to appreciate what I am, and what I am able to accomplish.

With that being written, I now confess that I am intrigued by the notion of composing and writing my personal philosophy. I have more leisure time than I have ever had before, and I do have the interest. But the ability? Not so certain. We shall see in the days ahead. But for now, I have a Logic class beginning in twenty-five minutes.

Thanks for reading.

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