I ran across this today, and felt it was worth sharing. I’ve been thinking a good deal about what it means to claim “goodness”, or to claim to have knowledge and the value or lack of it, if you don’t actually practice the goodness or act with the knowledge. ACT, that is the key word. I found this post by Eknath Easwaran at The Daily Good to hold a few answers and in an attempt tp be both good, and to share the knowledge, I thought I’d share them.
[A] faith in the power of the individual formed the foundation for Gandhi’s extremely compassionate view of the industrial era’s large-scale problems, as well as of the smaller but no less urgent troubles we found in our own lives. Our problems, he would say, are not inevitable; they are not, as some historians and biologists have suggested, a necessary side effect of civilization.
On the contrary, war, economic injustice, and pollution arise because we have not yet learned to make use of our most civilizing capacities: the creativity and wisdom we all have as our birthright. When even one person comes into full possession of these capacities, our problems are shown in their true light: they are simply the results of avoidable—though deadly—errors of judgment.
Gandhi formulated a series of diagnoses of the modern world’s seemingly perpetual state of crisis, which he called “the seven social sins.” I prefer to think of them as seven social ailments, since the problems they address are not crimes calling for punishment but crippling diseases that are punishment enough in themselves. The first—and the one we will focus on here—is knowledge without character. It traces all our difficulties to a simple lack of connection between what we know is good for us and our ability to act on that knowledge.
Knowledge Without Character
To me, the central paradox of our time is that despite our powerful intellectual skills and our ingenious engineering and medical achievements, we still lack the ability to live wisely. We send sophisticated satellites into space that beam us startling information about the destruction of the environment, yet we do little, if anything, to stop that destruction.
As Martin Luther King, Jr., put it, we live in a world of “guided missiles and misguided men,” where few technical problems are too complex to solve but we find it impossible to cope with the most basic of life’s challenges: how to live together in peace and health. In our lucid moments we see that we are doing great harm to ourselves and our planet, but somehow, for all our intellectual understanding, we cannot seem to change the way we think and live.
This is not to say we are bad people. The problem is simply that we have not yet completed our education. When Gandhi speaks of knowledge without character, he is not implying that we know too much for our own good. He is saying that because we do not understand what our real needs are, we are unable to use our tremendous technical expertise in a way that might make our lives more secure and fulfilling. Instead, we treat every problem as if it were a matter for technology, or chemistry, or economics, even when it has nothing to do with these things.
Every day, for example, dozens of new products appear, promising to satisfy our deepest desires. We are barraged with messages—subliminal and otherwise—on billboards and in magazines, on television and in the movies, telling us that everything we are looking for in life can be found in a car or a bowl of ice cream or a cigarette.
You can read the remainder of the article at The Daily Good. Please do.