Friday, November 27, 2009

Anaxagoras in NYC

Anaxagoras was the first pre-Socratic Greek philosopher to identify nous, or mind as a separate concept from the broadly woven fabric of daily human life. He also stated that the hands are the source of all human wisdom.

Today I'll be tourist in New York. I know that what I'll see are the same things Anaxagoras would have noticed... hands and mind. Certainly the mind of humanity is expanded in ways that a pre-Socratic philosopher would find dizzying. But the hands will be the same... As I walked to Teachers College on Wednesday, I saw what I'll see and what he saw. Parents holding the hands of their children. Merchants and customers exchanging money for goods. There is one thing I likely won't see that he saw, a thing to which he would have hardly paid nous... There will be few craftsmen engaged in hands-on labors. We have largely forgotten and ignored that one thing, and with it one thing more... the wisdom that arises from craftsmanship. Caring and dignity are expressed through the hands-on self-forging of human spirit. For it is when the hands and mind are united that the spirit is formed. Birds are defined by having wings. We are blessed with hands.

And so to New York, I offer greetings from Anaxagoras. As long as there are a few craftsmen still at work, fixing and attempting to maintain the works of the earlier craftsmen who built this fine city, there is mind in the workings of the world and there is great hope. When we return to the age old understanding of the role that hands play in the development of intellect and character, we will have our hands on the power of renewal and restoration.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:47 AM

    "He also stated that the hands are the source of all human wisdom."

    I will drink a toast in honor of Anaxagoras, as I work on the mass of Thanksgiving leftovers.