Light laughter and genuine curiosity

There are two connected attitudes toward living a well-led life that cannot be adopted by anyone who believes that the mind is inherently sickly and prone to illness. (The sickly mind is consistent with the metaphysical view of the world as being bad and ugly.) These attitudes are light laughter and genuine curiosity, and both spring from a common source: the affirmation of life.

Yesterday, I opened a letter to one philosophical friend,

Our conversation began lightly, proceeded lightly, something that is only possible when the atmosphere of the world, the world perceived resplendently is light. Perceiving the world in itself lightly and beautifully, one responds immediately by smiling and laughing lightly. Only by affirming the world as basically good and beautiful does laughter come forth. I take this to be the logical point of the Book of Genesis: God created the world in its essence as good. Not this bit or that bit but the whole. Yet once this world in itself is no longer disclosed and darkness settles in, drawing our attention to some of its darkening parts, enveloping us in the particulars, the ‘ignorant armies clashing by night,’ laughter can no longer come forth. 

There is no light laughter, only aggression, cruelty and empathy elevated to an ascetic ideal, when the mind is held to sick and ill thoughts of itself, of other minds.

Nor is there curiosity as Vico understands it. In New Science, he elaborates,

Curiosity–that inborn property of man, daughter of ignorance and mother of knowledge–when wonder awakens our minds, has the habit, wherever it sees an extraordinary phenomenon of nature, a comet, for example, a sundog, or a midday start, of asking straight away what it means.

Ignorance comes from astoundment with what there is, how it is, and why it is. Perplexed or fascinated, we surround the occurrence or the phenomenon with plentiful questions. The world magnificently, deliciously reveals itself to be a more interesting place than we had conceived of or imagined. Experimenting, essaying, probing, inquiring, hypothesizing, postulating, meditating allow us to become better acquainted with the world. Then, a practice may emerge in which we inquire and meditate time and again so that the curiosity is channeled, educated, refined, cultivated into a way of thinking.

Light laughter deepens one, giving rise to silent appreciation. Curiosity, cultivated well, becomes a desire for wisdom.

Coming to an inquiring state of mind (Part 3)

How can we get the hang of being surprised?

In Part 1, I discuss the importance of being surprised, arguing that philosophical inquiring presents us with two kinds of surprises: perplexities and illuminations. In Part 2, I discuss the cultivation of lightness in the presence of surprise. Today, in the final part, I explore the difference between other states of mind and an inquiring state of mind.

An Inquiring State of Mind

Inquiring springs from a simple human urge: the desire to know something about ourselves that we do not already know. Once voiced, this sense of unknowing can repeat itself indefinitely in the guise of ‘I don’t know,’ can be denied and refused as though it had never been uttered or experienced, or, through proper training, can be transformed into a way of setting out. This last mode is an invitation to take a risk in the hope of finding something out together.

Continue reading “Coming to an inquiring state of mind (Part 3)”