Years ago when I was around seven I ran across the first printing of this enormous book in a bookstore in my home town. It was the same year I left Sunday school. I had too many questions that they either wouldn’t or couldn’t answer. I was experiencing things none of my friends experienced and the stories I was being spoon fed about the nature of the universe did not make any sense to me in lieu of my strange out of the ordinary experiences.
When I was young, I had vivid memories of having previously been alive. I experienced visions of landscapes that had decades of overgrowth after some cataclysmic event. I saw spirits of the Indigenous people’s of America, my ancestors, walking in the woods hunting. I saw dead people on the battlefields at Gettysburg and when I started asking questions, people had a hard time answering them. So… I retreated into my own and began studying.
So, there was this huge book, 980 pages of awe-inspiring enormousness with a title to match; Philosophy, History and Problems. By Samuel Enoch Stumpf. WOW! That was a mouthful. But it spoke to me. I had an idea of what Philosophy was, I knew it referred to how people deal with their beliefs and reality. I knew History was important because the Bible was supposed to be things that happened in History, and the title had “Problems” in it and boy did I have a problem with Religion and History.
I saw it as the answer to all my questions. Questions that I was afraid to ask of my family, my clergy, friends… anyone. I had a very real fear about questioning what was being taught, yet here was this book. Just a book, and though I didn’t have the money at the time, I saved every nickel and I snuck away one day and walked what I imagined at that age was going to be an arduous trek through a bazillion miles of suburban streets (actually only 3.3) and purchased the book. I had a quest… so I found the golden ring and I tucked it away in a hidden place in my room for fear that I would get in some kind of trouble for looking for answers to life the universe and everything outside the Bible… I was petrified and exhilarated, inspired and curious.
I can’t for the life of me remember the teacher’s name name but I certainly had some doozies of questions for her. These lessons they were so adamantly presenting were in conflict with everything I was learning in public school, and the rational part of my young being. In school I learned about the scientific method and how theories can be proven. I understood, more or less how logic and reason can lead you to answers, I loved Spock. Yes, I know its an odd thing for a seven year old to think but I was not your average kid… I knew I was different.
Again there was this book. When I opened it and skimmed the table of contents I saw these strange names, Plato, Aristotle, The Medieval Period, and the chapter that made me have to have this book St. Augustine’s Christian Philosophy. There were these strange dates I didn’t completely understand. Why was every time listed with BC and AD? Before Christ… and as I understood it at the time AD to me was always After Death [referring to Christ’s’ death] aka Anno Domini or Year of our lord from Medieval Latin. Fascination, awe, I was filled with questions that no one could answer, because I knew none of them could. At this young age, even then I knew I had to pursue my questions to fruition and I would have to find my own answers.
So I complained incessantly to my parents to allow me stop going to Church all together, and by the time I was nine I had finally convinced them I would continue reading the Bible, which I did, on my own… many, many times. They let me stop attending Sunday School shortly after I posed two simple questions; “Why do I have to go to a building to be with God? Isn’t God everywhere and in everything?”
I had been stumping the dear sweet lady at Sunday School with these questions and I’m sure my folks had gotten an ear full. No one could answer me when I asked these simple questions either, and to this day, people still base their beliefs on facts that are just not there. I’m sure there were more, but looking back I distinctly remember these Seven:
- Who married Kane?
- How did Noah fit 260,000,000 animals on a boat with only enough space for 500?
- When you have a “Big Bang” isn’t there usually a very bright light?
- Why is it okay to trade your daughter for a goat?
- Why does that Jewish man have blonde hair and blue eyes?
- Why was Abraham going to kill his son, and why is everyone okay with God telling him to cut the tip of his wee wee off?
- How could Adam have named ALL the animals, scientists are still discovering hundreds of new ones all the time?
While it took me many years to finish that ginormous philosophy book, it certainly did set me straight on some concepts that I have found to be proven correct in my life. The foundation for understanding the nature of the universe is directly bound to the progressive spiritual, philosophical, comprehensive evolutionary state of the individual experiencing the universe in any given lifetime. What I suppose I am saying is, I can’t explain my fascination with anthropological data, but I can say this, I’ve sure learned a great deal about the human condition. We should all pay attention to the ancient thinkers, and try thinking for ourselves for a change.
If you don’t have enough time to read 980 pages… There is a book that’s a great synopsis at only 289 pages:
Essentials of Philosophy by James Mannoin
And remember, if I ever say I want to “whack someone upside their head with my philosophy book” now you know which one I am talking about and that it weights over 2lbs.