Have the courage to think for yourself....
Awaken thy mind! Today is a new day!
When we begin the journey of life we need people to help us to learn, grow and thrive. Those people to whom we have entrusted our care are our first teachers and we model ourselves after them. What they think, feel and say molds us into the beings we become. We accept their beliefs, their religions, their opinions, their likes and dislikes of food, drink and dress and we strive to become like them by emulating them.
After a few years, we assert our own unique likes, dislikes and personalities. We search for those things we enjoy and try to avoid those things we do not like. We come to a point where we also rail against the authority of which we once were so much aligned with. Once we go to school, we become the intellectual "property" of the teachers we have and the authority figures who keep order in community. We listen to the teachers and accept their wisdom as "law". If we are church-goers we accept our faith based on the credos presented to us in our houses of worship. Life is an unending series of letting others tell us what to do and how to be the "right" person.
Then, we leave home and head to college or out into the working world. Whether we choose to seek them or not, new ideas flood us and these new ideas stretch us to either think for ourselves, or remain a product of other thinking. This is not a new condition, in fact it is something that has been examined many times over the course of history.
In 1784, Prussian Immanuel Kant wrote an essay entitled: "What is Enlightenment?" In his essay he chronicles the idea of having the courage to think for ourselves and not allowing others to dictate our lives. The words he pens are universal and timeless. In the beginning of his essay he states" "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] "Have courage to use your own understanding!"--that is the motto of enlightenment."
So, are we all guilty of self imposed immaturity? It certainly makes sense that the less we know the less responsible we are, as once we know something, we can no longer "un-know" it. Kant implores us to seek the answers from our own wisdom. I do not think he tells us to ignore advice if we need it, say from a doctor or other professional. He is asking us to instead to be willing to seek the answers without having to ask others, or rely on others to be told what to do.
Why are we so reticent about making decisions?It may seem as though most people do this, but the truth is: most people LIKE to be told what to do. It then gives them the opportunity to blame others if something goes wrong. And we know in this society lawyers make a great living over suing others for bad advice, malpractice, and other litigation.
Kant wrote these words over 227 years ago "... He has even become fond of this state and for the time being is actually incapable of using his own understanding, for no one has ever allowed him to attempt it. Rules and formulas, those mechanical aids to the rational use, or rather misuse, of his natural gifts, are the shackles of a permanent immaturity". We all know that age does not determine the amount of wisdom and maturity of a person on this planet. There are wise souls who are under ten years old and idiots into their elderly age. The difference in enlightened maturity and immaturity exists in the world today as much as it did in 1784. It is time we embraced the idea of being authentic and wise individuals capable of taking responsibility for our thoughts ideas and actions. There are many people in the world today who will not take responsibility for anything, always blaming others for their misfortunes. And we are raising a whole new generation of un-enlightened children who follow the examples of their "teachers" without questioning what is right for them. It is time we all take responsibility for our own enlightenment and move forward into a society of brilliant and creative people who live authentic lives they choose for themselves.