Be patient, for the world is broad and wide. The words of the friar to Romeo upon his banishment from Verona, which serve to remind us that the world is full of beautiful thought, beyond the suffocating dogmas of a culture of abuse.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
(January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972)
Born in Warsaw, Poland in the early twentieth century, Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish rabbi, theologian, and philosopher notable for his beautiful and accessible writing on spirituality and faith. Heschel eventually resettled in the United States in 1940 after being persecuted by the Nazi Regime in Germany during the lead up to World War II. Heschel was active in the American civil rights movement and believed that Jewish scriptures were underpinned by a call for the freedom and equality of all people. He marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma regarding which he later stated, "When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying." His most famous works argued that faith and spirituality are fundamentally human endeavors and that no religion or theology had a specific claim on absolute truth. His words have inspired millions and provided a depth and grace to American spirituality, Jewish or otherwise.
The Search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh. We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath.
Man is Not Alone
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I will meet you there.
(September 30, 1207 – December 17, 1273)
Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī - or simply Rumi - was a thirteenth century Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic widely recognized today for his poetry which has transcended national, spiritual, and religious boundaries by speaking directly to the heart of his readers. Rumi's poetry is distinctly religious in nature, but developed an enduring appeal as an insightful contemplation of love, suffering, weakness, strength, and growth. That a medieval Sufi poet has touched the lives of millions of contemporary readers is in itself a testimony to the sacred and universal character of his subject matter. Rumi strips away race, class, gender, politics, and creed to remind us of what unites, rather than divides, us.
(April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
Renowned for her poetry as well as a collection of memoirs reflecting on her early childhood and adolescence, Maya Angelou was an inspirational figure to an entire nation. Her intimate recollections serve as a poignant illustration of the landscape of culture, intimacy, identity, and love as experienced in her own life as well as the coming-of-age of an entire country. Active as a figurehead for diversity, Angelou's contributions to the literary and spiritual realm are difficult to overstate. She spoke boldly from her own perspective as a black woman on issues that resonated with readers around the world. Her words serve as a heartfelt reminder that real love does not bind, it liberates.
It does not bind.
The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never travelled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.
The Value of Philosophy
(May 18, 1872 - February 2, 1970)
Lord Bertrand Russell was a prominent early twentieth century analytic philosopher, mathematician, and logician whose life and work spanned two world wars as well as tremendous technological and societal upheaval. Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950 "in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought." An outspoken critic of religion, particularly Christianity, Russell described himself philosophically as an agnostic but practically as an atheist, stating that there was no more evidence for the gods of Olympus than the God of Abraham. He robustly encouraged critical thought and proudly represented his opinions as evolving and changing over time with new information. Russell spoke and wrote adamantly against dogmatic belief in favor of liberating doubt with the humble recognition that the sum of human knowledge was still no more than a best guess.