Wow…heck of a title.
I finished reading “The Lessons of History,” by Will and Ariel Durant, about two weeks ago, and there are a few thoughts stuck in my head. The first is something shared in the first chapter, a quote from Pascal: “When the Universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the Universe knows nothing.”
This is a really powerful and empowering quote. Basically it relishes in the fact that we are the only beings in the world (maybe the universe) that has a consciousness. As far as we know, nothing else thinks quite like we do. We are self-aware, self-motivated, moral, and imaginative. We innovate, meander through conscious thought, and use logical reasoning in daily life.
On the one hand, that’s really “cool.” It’s incredible to think about the fact that nothing else we know of has this conscious ability. On the other hand, it’s troubling, because it makes us wonder about how this all came to be. For me, this line tossed me into philosophical thought for about an hour. Existence and being are things I think about quite often, but something about this quote hit me extra hard. Where are we from?
Another thing that stuck with me was the idea that cooperation among humans (or any other animal) is strictly for competition’s sake. In other words, we cooperate with one group, but only to compete with another. Once that other group is gone, we separate from the group which which we worked.
This is an idea you can probably absorb quite easily. I think back to high school and I remember that the entire school was split up into cliques that wanted nothing to do with each other. But when a rival school threatened us, we banded together against them. We see the same thing on an international level. We may not get along as a country, but during wartime we’re much more likely to take on a nationalistic view and band together against a common enemy. Or with other countries we don’t normally get along with against another country.
It’s an interesting idea that reminds us that we’re really only animals. We may have a consciousness, but our subconscious is still largely ruled by competition and self-preservation, just like any other animal.
This was a really interesting book, and I highly recommend reading it. I wrote up several pages of notes on the book to point out the most thought-provoking passages, quotes, and ideas. You can find a link to the book and a link to purchase my notes ($1) on my website (http://irrationalliving.com/learn/). I really want you to read the notes though, so if “free” will get you to read them, I don’t mind. I just want to spread knowledge and thought. Use coupon code “freeplease” to get those notes for free. I hope you enjoy!