On March 6, 1974 the Russian-born philosopher, Ayn Rand, addressed the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point. She began with a 'short short story' that began like this. Suppose that you are an astronaut whose spaceship gets out of control and crashes on an unknown planet. When you regain consciousness and find that you are not badly hurt, the first three questions in your mind would be: Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?
Now this is a very interesting series of questions which could lead to a very intense philosophical discussion. However, for my purposes here lets begin by visualizing ourselves in the same spaceship crashing on an unknown planet. But, this time, the impact of the crash has caused you to hit your head on the control panel which induces an immediate state of amnesia. Now, your first questions could very well become: Who am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?
As you begin to gain your wits, you start to take notice of your surroundings in search of clues. You gaze over the instrument panel where you find no encouraging help; and, in addition, quickly come to the realization that the readout dials could be faulty, from either the impact of the crash, or from your head having banged into the controls. With every passing minute and hour, the world around you is becoming more clear, but the questions: Who am I? How can I discover it? and What should I do? remain unanswered.
When I fast-forward to present day I find that these are the precise questions I have asked myself since I was maybe a boy of twelve; or basically all my life. These questions have pulled-at me, tantalized me, and, at times, haunted me to the point of abject frustration. I don't even bother with pondering why is it that I ask, as these questions seem most natural and self-evident. As self-evident as having two arms, which I have never spent a minute wondering about why I have them. And no matter how ardently I seek answers I still find myself spinning in a mental cul-de-sac of a blind alley.
Understanding that my answers probably will not come from the same mental plane that originated the questions in the first place, I begin to search elsewhere for direction. And knowing that it would not be very intelligent to listen to just anybody, on such important questions - as most appear to be as lost as I am - I fancied that it would be wise to seek advice from someone I respected. But Whom? Who could help me most directly in exiting and laying-to-rest my self-imposed three-faced dilemma. Eventually, after years of reading, I happened upon the writer, Lev Shestov, who put-forth the idea, he had found helpful along the lines of a task like mine, of 'taking a pilgrimage through great souls'.
So I began, at what I would describe as the top-end of a wide funnel, with the hope that my unique and personalized answers to: Who am I? How do I discover it? and What am I to do? would eventually, one day, squeeze themselves out of the small nozzle-end of my funnel: A funnel of knowledge I was eager to construct considering the weight of my three questions.
In the beginning what my search lacked in depth it compensated for in width as I read, rather indiscriminately, what many would consider works of some of the greatest souls of the ages. As my reading continued and especially by paying attention to what I was naturally attracted to, coupled with exercising and feeling the pull of my own Will, I began to enter into the depths, and more personally enlightened narrows, of my discovery funnel. I felt that I was closing in on my answers, or, at least, some concrete steps, that would eventually lead me to what I was seeking. And the common thread running through my journey, fast becoming a useable rope that I could really hold on to, (and the reason for this blog) was this: