The Hole In Reason’s Ceiling

It’s great fun to be part of lively debate and discussion; whenever there’s a gathering it’s enjoyable to join in, add your tuppence worth to the review and scrutiny of what’s going on in the world, but don’t you ever get tired with it all?  Don’t you ever get to a state of analysis paralysis where you end up thinking, ‘Actually, I hold no opinion, because I simply do not know the answer and all this speculation seems pointless.’  I do.  I don’t mean to sound defeatist and I’m not suggesting we should hold the ‘whatever’ attitude too close or adopt it too often, but there are times when shrugging one’s shoulders and accepting we that we simply haven’t a clue can be the wisest reaction.  I have always known C. to be a woman of insight and perception, but she further confirmed it when we last met at the end of June.  We were walking along a peaceful country lane on a still evening and we stopped to watch a barn owl on a gatepost when she told me with quiet and peaceful certitude, ‘The older I get the less I know.’  C. knows lots.  She has studied and read, travelled and questioned, watched and learned; yet at the end of it all, this is the conclusion she has reached.  Sixteenth century philosopher and essayist, Michel de Montaigne, is noted for his intellectual insights, one being, ‘Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.’  Makes me wonder if the corollary of Montaigne’s notion is that place to which C. has arrived: the more we know the fewer beliefs we hold firm.

In relation to the ultimate questions, those that distract and perplex us most – such as suffering, death, love, the meaning of life – reason and knowledge can only get us so far, they might unearth some truths but they can rarely determine it fully.  We desperately want to know the truth of what has caused a situation, we want someone to fully explain and rationalise how everything hangs together.  Holding people responsible, bringing governments to account, establishing tribunals, enquiries, quests for the truth are all essential – but there is a time when all the seeking in the world will not bear answers as there are none to be had, at least not such that words can be put to.  There has been much written around the balance of faith and reason.  We might do it consciously, or very quietly, but when there are gaps in the reason jigsaw I would say that many of us fill in the gaps with faith, and maybe too, a little imagination.

To Hell with Commonsense, by Patrick Kavanagh

More kicks than pence

We get from commonsense

Above its door is writ

All hope abandon. It

Is a bank will refuse a post

Dated cheque of the Holy Ghost.

Therefore I say to hell

With all reasonable

Poems in particular

We want no secular

Wisdom plodded together

By concerned fools.  Gather

No moss you rolling stones

Nothing thought out atones

For no flight

In the light.

Let them wear out nerve and bone

Those who would have it that way

But in the end nothing that they

Have achieved will be in the shake up

In the final Wake Up

And I have a feeling

That through the hole in reason’s ceiling

We can fly to knowledge

Without ever going to college.

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