Smart or Pleasant

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Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say, "In this world, Elwood" -- she'd always call me Elwood -- "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh, so smart, or oh, so pleasant."

A professor, whom I deeply respect and admire, once told me that the goal of life was to have your beliefs about life be as close to the truth as possible. Or something to that effect. And that something is something I've believed for a long time: that belief is King, that knowledge is something important to strive for above all else. Well, I don't know if I ever beleived it was to be above all else. But it was up there.

In the Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself (you know, the good ol' Golden Rule). There isn't much in there about wisdom, knowledge, or belief.

Of course, commandments and goals are not exactly the same thing, but it seems there is a connection to be reasonably made here. If the greatest commandment is to love God and your neighbor -- where love is clearly an action, not a feeling -- could it also be said that the goal of life is to love? Or is loving merely, or in part, an action that has as one of its by-products the learning of the nature of being, of truth, of God?

It goes without saying (well, for most of us) that knowledge and love of others are both important. The Bible is clear on this. Is it a mistake to even try to separate them? Does knowledge of truth lead to love, and love lead to knowledge? Hm. Probably.

Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.

But sometimes they seem to be at odds. Sometimes, in order to enunciate truth, you have to be unpleasant. Jesus was not being pleasant when he called the Pharisees a brood of vipers. Sometimes I think that if Jesus hadn't done that, Christians would never be allowed to attack anyone. Sometimes I think that because Jesus did that, Christians seem to have license to attack people at will.

As with anything, there must be a balance. When we encounter especially ignorant and hateful people, the balance is hard to find, either because the tight wire is narrow, or because we are too blinded by our own disgust to see it. But it must be there. We have to remember that even Pharisees are worthy of love. We have to remember that love isn't necessarily pleasant, but that it usually is.

And you may quote me.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on July 4, 1999 12:00 PM.

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