Who am I? Of all the thoughts that I expected to flood my head when The Quill approached me with writing a Beliefs Column, this one rang out above the others. Who am I to be writing about religion? What special hold do I have on truth and wisdom that makes me qualified to be writing about it? What place do any of us have talking about these monumental concepts? Let’s be honest; my little sphere of knowledge is like a grain of sand in an endless desert of ideas and beliefs. Is it worth anything? Can it be worth anything?
I mean, truth has existed since time immemorial. Scholars and philosophers have endlessly debated truth since man uttered his first infantile words. Every generation has had a generous helping of thinkers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Rousseau, Descartes, Nietzsche, Chesterton, Lewis, and more than I can ever hope to know. Will I really bring something to the table that these Titans have not? Those are mighty big shoes to fill, and my feet are feeling smaller than ever.
What piece do I play in the Great Conversation? I’m Josh Novalis, that guy who sits in the Academic Center and reads essays for a living. I’m that guy who helps lead a small Bible study on Thursday nights with Campus Crusade. I’m that guy who pays too much for coffee and spends his weekends playing video games and sleeping in. What place does “that guy” have with “those guys?”
Yet here I am: halfway down a blinding white page with a Coke Zero to my left and a notebook of musings to my right. That endless “Who am I?” is still ringing in my ears. However, as I dangle in front of that all too familiar pit of existential anguish and epistemological inadequacy, another three-word phrase, a small, but powerful line from Elizabeth Browning’s Aurora Leigh, is holding me back from falling in.
“Yet we aspire.”
One of the greatest gifts we have as men and women is our ability to think. Despite our unbelievably small range of experience and knowledge, we all contribute to the ever-growing marketplace of ideas and worldviews available in this world. We may not consider ourselves a Socrates of any sort, but we ask the same exact questions that he did. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to live rightly? Is there a God?
Who am I?
These past philosophers did their best to find answers, but none of them finished the job. Socrates came and went and the world still asked the same questions. He probably wondered, just as we do now, what role he had to play in answering these big questions. But, and this is crucial to the issue, We got a little closer. Despite any of our inabilities to tackle the great questions of life on our own, thinkers like us have been working together, building off each other’s ideas, and slowly coming to deeper and fuller understandings of truth. What we forget is that those little grains of sand–You, me, and Socrates–work together to create vast and unfathomably long stretches of land. We collaborate and commune together as we work to find truth.
Who am I? I’m just a guy trying to find the truth; but that’s all that any of us have ever been. I hope that through this column, all of us can come a little closer to that goal. Will we? I’m not sure.
But we will aspire.
(Staff Logo/Sarah Brannon)