Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seek Wisdom - A Parable

A week ago, I was debating with my (non-christian) friend as to whether or not we should say the Pledge of Allegiance. I invoked the poet Wendell Berry's line, that we should "love the flag and hate the government," as evidence that it might be good to pledge allegiance to the flag. Nick asked what Wendell Berry had to do with any of it and why should we listen to him? I said we should listen to him because he is wise. Nick remained unconvinced.

It later occurred to me that "wisdom" might not be something universally meaningful or valued among all people everywhere at all times. There's something intrinsically "Christian" about wisdom that escapes the mind of the run-of-the-mill modern secularist and it's as if it's not naturally an ethical/epistemological category - and perhaps its not.


Thomas said...

Then, too, Wendell might simply be *wrong*. I would also caution against just dropping a pleasing aphorism with a Big Name attached. I would have asked you the same question - what does Wendell have to do with it? Is he right or wrong? Does he have an argument to support that suggestion, one you find compelling, or is this a sort of argument from authority? Don't get me wrong, I like the argument from authority - it just has to be a bona fide authority, not just an author we happen to like.

As for wisdom being somehow intrinsically 'Christian', I suppose it depends on whether it's wisdom from the Kingdom of the Right Hand or the Kingdom of the Left.... Really, though, I kept Wendell around for over a decade, and still I wouldn't just take your word that he is *wise*. What is 'wisdom'? Do we say Wendell is 'wise' because we find what he says agreeable? Mayhap he's wise about some things and foolish (in the wrong way) about others. So, I return again to the point above - it was meet and right for your friend to dismiss the bon mot from Wendell. Come to think of it, in this case, Wendell's down right idiotic....

Peace out.

epeuthutebetes said...

What kind of ethical appeal will work here?