Lost Wit

This is an article I wrote for an online magazine for young ladies called Verita. I am honoured to be a regular writer for this magazine.  If you have a moment, take a look! Verita is a wonderful website with varied, good, and creative writers. Enjoy!

Wit is a lost word, a word that has no bearing on today’s society.  However, in the time of the Puritans, wit was regarded as a virtue, and if you had it, you would be respected and revered.  In Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice’s sour and fiery attitude are forgiven because her wit is so clever: “My, but she has a fine wit,” they usually say about her.  Also, in Shakespearian times, there were five wits, parallel to the five senses.  They were imagination, common sense, fantasy, estimation, and memory.  It is rare to find someone nowadays with an abundance of these five wits.  Speech begins with thought (or it should) and the realm of thought includes the five wits. What our society and culture needs first and foremost is a Reformation of Speech, or, like William Wilberforce pursued, the Reformation of Manners, which would include speech.

Not only do we speak carelessly and without thought, but we speak too much. Henry David Thoreau said: “The tragedy in human intercourse begins, not when there is a misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.”  And I recently read in a book something about the “silence that is communion still.” Most assuredly, there is a time to speak, but also a time to keep silent.  Speech should come from a well-informed, or a questioning mind. I would venture to say that the main problem is that we are not pursuing wisdom; we are not wishing to be wise and acting accordingly.  We are more concerned with… well, with nothing.

Do we listen?

Do we think?

Do we ask questions?

If the answer is no, our desire is not to learn, but to gain a certain end.  You see this apparent in education, in the work force, the political systems, etc.  There are levels of achievement.  And everyone is studying their hardest to get to the next level, the higher level.  Think of the information—the history, literature, science, anything you learn—as a human body thrust across a chasm, serving its only purpose as a bridge, and pretend you stomp over that bridge, and perhaps some of Education’s ribs get broken. Education, work, politics, sports, etc. have become machines, and if we are involved in them, they simply transport us to the next level, and leave no lasting idea or impression on us.

So little occurs within us that we have become, let’s be honest, stupid.  We can’t begin to understand Beatrice’s wit, for example, which comes from a well-informed mind, much less speak it fluently.  How do we fix this? We must begin by controlling ourselves.

Think about the meaningless exclamations you utter every day.  Things like: “Crap!” “Darn!” “Shoot!” “Rats!” “Snap!” “Oh my gosh!” “Oh my goodness!” “Wow!” “Holy cow!” “Cool!” “Like, like, like, umm, like…” the list could go on and on.  These things have no importance, they are merely hand-me-down, worn out phrases that we use in place of a genuine expression of how we feel about something.  I am not speaking in ignorance when I say that sometimes they come from a feeling of having to speak. From the beginning of August a friend and I have been trying to refrain from exclaiming, and I realize when I’m refraining that I feel lost for words, and I wondered: “Do I even need to say anything? Maybe a smile will say more than anything.” Perhaps not everyone feels this way, though.

First things first, we need to cut out the exclamations.  They are meaningless and most of the time, insincere, especially with the youth in America.  Then we need to start systematically sorting through our thoughts, and if we have questions, ask them.  And if we have no questions, then listen, and really, truly, think ten times before we speak, but perhaps ten quick times or one slow time so we don’t lose the opportunity if it’s right. Next we need to exercise our imagination, our common sense, our fantasy, our estimation, and our memory.

  • Imagination – Imagination is the ability to draw up an image of something external that is not present to the senses.  Imagination allows us to picture something somebody tells us, without ever actually having seen it.
  • Common sense – Good sense and sound judgement in practical matters.  Pretty basic, isn’t it? But most people allow anger, fear, and other emotions to get in the way of their common sense; we do it more often than we know.
  • Fantasy – The ability to imagine things impossible or improbable.  Close to imagination, but a bit different.  In Cyrano de Bergerac, there is a passage where Cyrano sinks into a reverie about how he might grow soft in the evening, how he might fall in love, what he might see, how everything might seem. His ability to fantasize enables him to draw up images for the audience.
  • Estimation – Being able to value and calculate something, typically a person and their character.  This is truly a lost art.  We get too caught up in impressions, especially first impressions (and I am very guilty of this), to use our common sense and try to judge fairly and soundly.  However, at the same time, we fail to take the little signs of the impressions that may give a clue as to the real character of someone.
  • Memory – The faculty used to remember information. Sure we remember things.  All the unimportant, juicy facts.  What was that about education? It’s only a bridge, that, when crossed, is forgotten? No, education should be stored in the memory, ready for reference, ready for support, ready for ideas and structure of thought.  Memory can quickly draw up something learned long ago, and apply it.
And after that, I see how far our society has really digressed.
J.B. Priestly said, “The more we elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”  Technology is a good example of this.  We use worn out phrases on the internet all the time (e.g. omg, lol, btw, brb, ttyl, np), we say unimportant things so often, that when something important does happen to us, it gets lost in the endless stream of people who are just like us: recording and saying meaningless things that are of no benefit to the people around them.  I have found that letter writing, even as opposed to emails and phone calls, regulates thoughts and ideas because it takes a longer time to write, and your mind has time to work through things.  I find my writing is much more coherent, much cleaner when I write with a pen.  But, truthfully, I don’t do it often enough.
Sometimes I believe we need to shut our eyes, for there is too much to see, and focus on what we have in our heads already.  We have so much information—if only we could shut our eyes, and live by faith, not by sight.  If we were so focused on living righteous and godly lives, I doubt we would have the time to talk and prattle and in doing so be unkind to others.  Say things that, no matter whether or not they’re overheard by anyone, will not hurt anyone. “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato.
Think more, listen more, speak less, and be care-taker of your speech.
Let’s start a reformation, shall we?
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What Changes The World

There is a rather large, bulging problem that is about to burst through our culture and overtake the world.  The problem has many aspects to it.  Humanism.  Marxism.  Darwinism. Pantheism. Atheism. Socialism.  The underlying issue is that people in societies around the world are drifting further and further away from truth.  It’s happening in our government, politics, literature, music, art.  Anything that defines our culture.  But the worst part of it is this.  Our culture is shaped by smart people who know what they want, and our culture is made up of people who are blindly following the smart people around, because they think the smart people are wise.

But there is a difference between being wise and being smart.  Wisdom is founded in truth; smartness is founded in how quickly our brain functions, how we size people up, our intuition.

Our presupposition is that truth is something external, something that’s not found inside ourselves.

Napoleon didn’t change the world.  He wanted to, but he only ended up changing France, really.   Darwin changed the world.  Marx changed the world. Voltaire changed the world.  Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, all these philosophers changed the world by their influencing thought.

Many of these philosophers had a problem.  They did not believe that truth was external.  They looked inside themselves for the answer.  It reminds me of when G.K. Chesterton talked about the Hindoo saints.  Their eyes were closed, looking inward.  The Christian saint’s eyes were opened wide, looking for truth without.

Now, I need to say something about Darwin here, because I listed him as one of the greatest influences.  You may say that he was looking for truth externally, because he was studying the natural world.  The thing about looking for truth internally is saying: “I will explain truth, what I think truth is.”  Which is what Darwin basically did with his ideas.  He used evidence to explain his ideas (granted he explained the evidence against his ideas.)  But the Christian saint who is looking with eyes wide open for truth externally is looking for something that is not explained by him, but is explained to him by the source of Truth

Changing the world does not begin with finding one good person and getting him into government.  It starts with making influences that will make better people.  It doesn’t start with a general who thinks he might be able to overrun the world and rule it.  That ends in chaos.

No, changing the world starts with our literature, our music, our art.  If you want to change the world by being a politician, that’s fine.  But do something that influences the young generation.  We need to be a generation producing books, music, art, philosophies, that point to ultimate truth, so the next generation can be better.

We can’t be the people blindly following the smart people around.  We have to be the smart people.  And even if you’re the follower, be a smart follower.  Be smart enough to resist the flow of culture.

But don’t be proud.  Pride is what makes us fall, pride is what leads us away from truth, down our own path.  Remember that life every is a struggle, a fight.  It has its moments of bliss and joy, but overall, we are struggling for what is right.  We are fighting the world, the flesh, the devil, and the fight never ceases, especially in this reformation of our culture.

We must go through some of the pain of learning.  I would like to say now that we’ve become pretty stupid people.  Here we have a wonderful brain and only use a small fraction of it.  The temptation is to use less and less of it.  But let’s take care of our bodies and our minds.  It’s not easy, it’s hard.  We don’t feel like doing these things.

But really, we live in an education driven society where no one learns anything.  Let’s change that, please.  Love learning, love studies, love the hard, laborious work.  It will do you good in the end.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  You don’t have to be a rich city kid who always got straight A’s in school.  You don’t have to be a grown up.  It starts now, with whoever you are, and however old you are.

But just remember something.  We can only know the extent of something to an extent.  Learning is a frustration.  It takes faith to learn, so if you have any, expect to use it.  We will never know the full extent of something.  But as long as these other smart people are shaping our culture, we have to be just as smart to counterbalance them.  We must be strong, confident, courageous, but we must be humble, accepting the fact that our bodies are finite, that our minds are limited, that we can’t know everything, or know everything about everything.

Just remember it starts with the books.  The latest song.  The newest painting in the art museum.  That’s where you start.  Be a painter, an architect, a writer, a musician and reform our culture.  That’s where it starts, with ideas.