From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
I came across this speech given by Ayn Rand at the United States Military Academy on March 6, 1974. It argues that philosophy plays a central role in all human activities, that every action or thought has at its root certain assumptions, and that humans need to examine those assumptions to live a full, meaningful life. Below is the full text.
Since I am a fiction writer, let us start with a short short story. Suppose that you are an astronaut whose spaceship gets out of control and crashes on an unknown planet. When you regain consciousness and find that you are not hurt badly, the first three questions in or mind would be: Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?
You see unfamiliar vegetation outside, and there is air to breathe; the sunlight seems paler than you remember it and colder. You turn to look at the sky, but stop. You are struck by a sudden feeling: if you don’t look, you won’t have to know that you are, perhaps, too far from the earth and no return is possible; so long as you don’t know it, you are free to believe what you wish–and you experience a foggy, pleasant, but somehow guilty, kind of hope.
You turn to your instruments: they may be damaged, you don’t know how seriously. But you stop, struck by a sudden fear: how can you trust these instruments? How can you be sure that they won’t mislead you? How can you know whether they will work in a different world? You turn away from the instruments.
Now you begin to wonder why you have no desire to do anything. It seems so much safer just to wait for something to turn up somehow; it is better, you tell yourself, not to rock the spaceship. Far in the distance, you see some sort of living creatures approaching; you don’t know whether they are human, but they walk on two feet. They, you decide, will tell you what to do.
You are never heard from again.
This is fantasy, you say? You would not act like that and no astronaut ever would? Perhaps not. But this is the way most men live their lives, here, on earth.
Most men spend their days struggling to evade three questions, the answers to which underlie man’s every thought, feeling and action, whether he is consciously aware of it or not: Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?
On Thinking For Oneself by Arthur Schopenhauer (1851)
A library may be very large; but if it is in disorder, it is not so useful as one that is small but well arranged. In the same way, a man may have a great mass of knowledge, but if he has not worked it up by thinking it over for himself, it has much less value than a far smaller amount which he has thoroughly pondered. For it is only when a man looks at his knowledge from all sides, and combines the things he knows by comparing truth with truth, that he obtains a complete hold over it and gets it into his power. A man cannot turn over anything in his mind unless he knows it; he should, therefore, learn something; but it is only when he has turned it over that he can be said to know it.
I read this book for the first time as I was traveling through Mexico and it made a lot of sense. I was at a strange place in my life reexamining faith and superstition and reading Jiddu Krishnamurti’s book Freedom From The Known was liberating. A lot of these excerpts still ring true.
What follows is a collection of Jiddu Krishnamurti quotes taken from the book Freedom From The Known (you can purchase it by clicking here).
Faith invariably breeds violence. (p.9)
The primary cause of disorder is the seeking of reality promised by another. (p.11)
Immaturity lies only in total ignorance of self. (p.12)
The whole history of man is written in ourselves. (p.13)
We are each one of us responsible for every war because of the aggressiveness of our own lives. (p.14)
Truth has no path, and that is the beauty of truth, it is living. (p.15)
It seems to me that all ideologies are utterly idiotic. (p.16)
If I were foolish enough to give you a system and if you were foolish enough to follow it, you would merely be copying, imitating, conforming, accepting, and when you do that you have set up in yourself the authority of another and hence the conflict between you and that authority. (p.17)
If you try to study yourself according to another you will always be a secondhand human being. (p.17)
Order imposed from without must always breed disorder. (p.17)
If you reject all authority it means you are no longer afraid. (p.18)
When you reject something false which you have been carrying about with you for generations, …you have more energy, you have more capacity, you have more drive. …if you do not feel this, then you have not thrown off the burden, you have not discarded the dead weight of authority. But when you have thrown it off you have ….no fear of making a mistake, no fear of doing right or wrong. (p.18)
We need tremendous amount of energy and we dissipate it through fear but when there is this energy which comes from throwing off every form of fear, that energy itself produces the radical inward revolution. You don’t have to do a thing about it. (p.18)
Freedom is entirely different from revolt. (p.19)
All authority of any kind, especially in the field of thought and understanding, is the most destructive, evil thing. Leaders destroy the followers and followers destroy the leaders. (p.21)
If you do not follow somebody you feel very lonely. Be lonely then. Why are you frightened of being alone? Because you are faced with yourself as you are. (p.21)
I have to study myself in actuality – as I am, not as I wish to be. (p.22)
Learning is a constant movement without the past. (p.23)
We may be sensitive about certain things that touch us personally but to be completely sensitive to all the implications of life demands that there be no separation between the organism and the psyche. It is a total movement. (p.23)
As I was reading Alfred Korzybski’s The Manhood of Humanity I came across this very interesting passage. I thought it appropriate to share it with my readers.
In our relationship to the past there are three wide-open ways in which one may be a fool.