In this guest article by Dean Chavooshian, author of The Pursuit of Wisdom, Dean answers questions about understanding our purpose in life and leading a meaningful life through the pursuit of wisdom.
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Pursuing Wisdom and Finding the Meaning of Life
How should we conduct ourselves in this world?
Are we able to understand our purpose in life?
Can we lead a meaningful life – with grace and dignity?
And, the most primordial question, is there a God?
The only way I know how to answer these questions is through an inquisitiveness that leads to knowledge, which in turn leads to wisdom: a wisdom that offers a pragmatic and rational understanding of life, an all-encompassing sense of social fairness, an inner awareness and self-understanding, and a wisdom that has the courage to pursue the unknown. Throughout the history of recorded history, mankind has been witness to pioneering thinking by individuals dedicated to expanding our awareness of the world around us in both the venerable worlds of theology and philosophy and the secular world of science. These harbingers of knowledge have shaped our character and belief systems as we try to understand the nature of human existence and the cosmos around us:
In theology, we learned how Abraham enlightened us through his undying faith in a singular, omnipotent God; Lao Tzu taught us creative quietism; Zoroaster revealed the dualistic struggle between good and evil; through Confucius we learned the importance of observing filial piety; we saw the enduring love and compassion of Jesus and Mother Teresa; Ramakrishna and the Vedas taught us the universality of religion; and, we were reminded of the unalienable right of freedom for all men championed by Martin Luther King Jr.
In philosophy, we first learned to think rationally and renounce imaginative explanations of the world through Thales; the nature of being from Parmenides; the logical thought and reasoning of Aristotle; the importance of Greek wisdom taught by 9th and 10th century Muslim polymaths; the courage to doubt from Descartes; the skepticism of God’s governance shared by Matthew Tindal; a theory on how we form ideas by Hume; the importance of morality inspired by Gandhi and, how to embrace life and accept responsibility for our own existence from Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre.
In science, we learned from Euclid that mathematical truths describe the world we live in; man’s mortality from Copernicus when he upended two thousand years of protocol by determining that the Earth was not the center of our world; from Darwin that life is formed through the gradual process of evolution; from Einstein on how space-time warps to form gravity; from Edwin Hubble how there are distant universes beyond our own; and, from Watson and Crick who discovered a genetic code system that uncovered the secret of recreation for all organic life.
Thus, the whole of world knowledge continues to evolve based on a foundation of truths and insightful thought pursued over centuries. Interestingly, many of the visionary thinkers throughout history had varying personality traits. Some, like Albert Einstein, had difficulty learning in school. Some, like Darwin and Isaac Newton, were challenged socially and avoided people. Some, like Spinoza and Thomas Jefferson, had great difficulty in public. Some, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, were quite eccentric and fostered violent, personal attacks on friends while professing a belief in the wisdom of kindness. Some, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa, were simple people of modest means – but contributed towards monumental societal changes.
Life poses a challenge to those who have internal struggles, behavioral disorders, or difficulty connecting to the outside world – but I am often reminded of Spinoza’s comment that “all things excellent are difficult of attainment as they are rare” (Spinoza, The Ethics, Part 5, Proposition 42). Regardless of one’s social, intellectual or interpersonal abilities, history proves that the way to becoming a person of wisdom is discoverable through “expansive thinking, rebuke of the scornful, and the courage to distrust convention and its yoke of conformity…History, illuminated, points to the future” (Dean Chavooshian, The Pursuit of Wisdom, Preface). Courage is the operative word – the courage to wonder, the courage to doubt, the courage to realize one’s potential, the courage to persevere in the presence of hardship, and the courage to fail. In the noble words of Lao Tzu who lived in 600 BC, “the way to do is to be” (Tao Te Ching, Verse 47).
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Dean Chavooshian is author of The Pursuit of Wisdom (www.thepursuitofwisdom.net). After earning a degree in Theology/Philosophy, Chavooshian received a Master’s Degree in Architecture and over 30 years worked with prominent New York architectural firms and international real estate developers.