U.S. President Truman was once asked if he made mistakes. “You’re damn right I did,” he said, “And it didn’t take me all day to do it either.”
Having just reached my 76th birthday and considering this blog which I began over ten years ago, I wholeheartedly concur with Truman’s statement.
In these essays are chronological errors, misguided opinions, stupid observations and displays of ego but throughout their writing and postings, I have tried to understand the whole of Spinoza’s ideas, not just the part. I shall leave that to academics.
However, like academics, I thought I could get a Toe Hold (Theory of Everything) – on life. But the academics under whom I studied wanted me to use their toeholds, not mine. My pride rebelled.
Discouraged with academia, I left it to become a federal prison guard for 18 years. I retired stress damaged,labeled with PTSD, wanting to kill myself. It was then I rediscovered Spinoza to whom I had been briefly introduced in grad school.
Since then in daily meditations and repeated readings, I have lived in Spinoza’s project to ‘heal the intellect.’ Spinoza taught me that my biggest mistake was in thinking I had any answers. This kind of thinking is the con job that humanists have perpetuated.
I could not heal my intellect until I could find my answers in the whole of truth (which Spinoza called, ‘god’). He said, when I think I have all the answers, I steal from god and from myself. This makes me a thief, (which is rather galling to a retired prison guard).
Samuel Shirley, the translator of Spinoza’s Complete Works (Hackett Publishing), understood this when he said:
“Can the essence of God be seen as the source of the ill-understood
phenomena that we call ‘artistic creativity?’ In the conatus of human
beings, a conatus that derives from God’s potentia do we see a
shadow, an image of God’s creativity, finding expression most markedly
in the process of ‘artistic creativity?’ (p. viii)
This is the essence that has driven my blog, that has freed me from agnosticism to an understanding that truth or god, is, as Spinoza demonstrated, our ability to think anything.
Spinoza has laid the foundations of this understanding but in the process, I have also found practical steps to explain; ‘Now I know how to go on,” (Wittgenstein) – from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the AA 12 x 12 and The Steps We Took by Joe McQ.
Spinoza says we are blessed, not because of our virtue but rather because we are blessed, we are virtuous. Because of truth’s blessedness, I no longer wish to kill myself, nor do I see death as escape from life but only a next step in the continuous joy of living. “Eternity…the infinite enjoyment of existence.” (Letter 12 Infinity, Complete Works p. 788)
So as you read this blog, seek the whole that I am trying to understand and forgive my limitations on expressing the parts. “The whole is greater than the part,” (Euclid)