I wrote this brief piece in my early twenties. It was not meant for public consumption and in retrospect it reads like the typical ramblings of a self-absorbed youth. However, it does concisely convey an intellectual journey and as such has some wider relevance. As a youngster and well into manhood, I lived almost exclusively in my head, encouraged by the ivory tower existence I led for many years. Intellectuals who have few contacts with the outside world where ordinary people live and work are dangerous. They tend to be arrogant, deficient in empathy and detached from everyday realities. Moreover, especially if they are in an ivy league environment, they often have undue influence as a result of their contacts with the political and corporate elite. The personal journey described below was from a pretentious intellectualism which deified theory over practice, to a humbler one which recognized the primacy of practice over theory.
Learning to fly was easy. Soaring almost vertically and drawn to the heavens by a powerful attraction, I toured the lonely skies intoxicated by the sights below. Day after day I saw the entanglements of men and laughed and cried because they could not see themselves from my dizzying heights. If they could, they would see why the markets would not clear, why the crops failed, why the child died of hunger and why half the world was still in chains.
Every day I flew higher and faster wanting to cover the world with my wings so that I could say that I had reached into its every corner. Occasionally I would see a kindred spirit so intent on his studies that he passed me by as if in a dream. Day and night I was caught up in the frenzy of discovery, new thoughts, new sights, new fights. Year after year I flew in ever widening circles until…one day I returned home, to an empty nest.
There was no indication of what had happened or where they had gone. No sign of struggle, no explanation, just emptiness. I lived in that emptiness for many years, wondering, as one does, why, when and how. I fell deeper into a despair born of the craving to understand that which must first be lived.
The search for daily bread brought me into contact with souls who felt no need to soar into the infinite blue. What, I wondered, was the source of their spirit, their enthusiasm, their life force? When eventually, I too felt the spark light within me, I knew that I had begun to understand.