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I have always been fascinated by the era where Europeans embraced the Enlightenment, new ideas, and innovation. It is so difficult to turn away from tradition, but I am so encouraged by this era because an entire society decided to ask questions and to seek answers. Rousseau’s analogy to man being born free but everywhere he is in chains speaks volumes even to this day. Whether it be mental illness, social media, organized religion, or anything else – we are prisoners to society and the rules we willingly accept without question. I believe skepticism, the belief that there may be some sort of absolute truth or truths is very plausible. I agree that there are questions we as humans will never be able to comprehend and it is important that we learn to accept that fact of life. Just as many philosophers during this time, learning to pursue faith and continue to seek truth in other fields was vital for growth. If we are consumed by the unanswered questions we have, we may miss what is in front of us, what exists in the present.
I have always had an admiration of Rousseau for trying to find a middle ground between Church absolutism and rational secularism. There is a channel on YouTube called Middle Ground where two different groups come together to engage in conversation over a polarized topic. I find it very interesting to watch these videos because not only are you able to hear other sides to a topic, but these individuals are so open and educated on their side. As a “natural man” Rousseau saw the world in a very beautiful way. He spent his time in nature, being connected to the small truths of life untouched by the lies of society and corruption. I value the advances we have made in communication and technology, but in a way I wish we would have listened to Rousseau when he saw the power of media as a problem. It is so unhealthy how we allow the words on a screen affect us, influence us, and force us to compare. Nature is so good – untouched beauty, wonderful sights that have lasted centuries, and a moment to escape the i-society we are caught in. My father has been an outdoor sales rep for my entire life and as a result I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in nature, camping. There have never been moments more blissful than spending time in nature with loved ones without phones and any distractions of our daily lives. My hope is that one day, our society is able to embrace the beauty of nature and will embrace the disconnect from our phones and tablets. Moments on these trips have made me see the world in a different way because I was able to experience the present without feeling the need to capture a photo or to control what was occurring around me.
Rousseau’s notion of natural religion is very beautiful. Although I am technically Catholic, I always tell people that I am defined by my faith and in no way my religion – they are two very different aspects of being a believer. I believe living in faith is expressed in our interactions and our actions when others aren’t watching. I appreciate how so many philosophers had so many perspectives to religion – some like Pluto thought it was good for society and others rejected the idea. In this period, we find philosophers that are leading away from the idea of divine establishment of government and instead focus on the people. I admire how politics is a topic we are learning about in this course because politics and social constructs play such a big role in our daily lives today. We have so much reform to grow though, but it is essential that we as citizens speak up for what we believe in. Rights were not rights until it was agreed upon by the people. In order for those rights to come about, however, there needs to be a push back, a progressive movement such as the Civil Rights Movement that began in the 1960s. Our primary goal should be to promote quality and liberty, but isn’t the only way we can achieve that is if everyone agrees by these standards? How can we teach our nation to love one another and to respond in compassion and not hate? As a student teacher for two-year olds, it is so true that children see the most beauty in the world. If we somehow encouraged education to allow children to grow in their authenticity, I think our society would be very different than today.
I love the idea that in Romanticism, the philosopher became a poet. Embracing beauty, imagination, and creativity is so important in order to experience our self worth. I agree that the wisest people are those who combine their intellect and heart in a seamless way. Compassion is something we are often lacking in such a rational world and we would benefit greatly. Rousseau’s rebellion against the hierarchies and religious institutions played an integral role in seeking out new ideas and seeing religion in a different way. I think this rediscovery of God was so essential to individuals understanding that they can have a personal relationship with God outside of the church setting. Another field the Romantics influenced, was an influence on art in all disciplines from music, literature, drama, and painting. This past year I took a music appreciation course and I studied the composers, music, and genres of each era while learning a little about art as well. The Romantic era was my favorite art period because paintings were so realistic and so intricately painted. I love the phrase Tarnas used “the pursuit of beauty for its own sake” because beauty is something meant to be pursued. We are given so much beauty in the world from physical nature to random acts of kindness and we have the capability to seek that beauty out in every situation! How amazing is that simple truth – we have that power if we actively choose it. I think choosing to see beauty is very difficult when we sway to one extreme because we aren’t able to see the space and opportunity in the unknown. Similar to politics, it is often difficult to listen to opinions when you sway so heavily to one side. When we open up to ideas and philosophies we are unfamiliar with, we are giving those ideas a chance to be heard and listened to instead of shut down immediately.
I think liberalism in its most simplest definition is so beautiful because it emphasizes education, tolerance, and equality. In the past, the true standard for equality was not met and is still not met today. The Frederick Douglass documentary uncovers the truth behind our countries past and discriminatory ways. Although there were some people of color who were free, they were treated very poorly and not given the chance to be seen as human beings. It is so imperative, even today to approach racial justice and equality with a future and progressive mindset. Many philosophies that made the biggest impacts over time have always been those with a more progressive or forward thinking agenda because they saw a way to make change. It is very difficult to break tradition, but it is very important to question why we have accepted these notions and ideas. As Locke acknowledges, I agree that it is important to “hold conclusions with gentleness” because we are continuously changing and adapting in each stage of our lives. Truth is just as important to me as honesty because truth unlocks possibilities, perspectives, and new awakenings. It is fascinating that throughout this course we continuously find ourselves coming back to Plato and Aristotle’s way of thinking. Locke thinks of life as a clean sheet of paper, we are given opportunities, interactions, and experiences to color the scenery. It is important to acknowledge that all of our experiences are taking part in creating who we are and how we live each day. It is beautiful to witness how Locke’s ideas influenced our society and beliefs today.
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