Balance Of Power

The Balance of Power

Throughout the semester, a theme that has guided our thoughts has been the idea that the self is the capacity to have capacities. Through what we have read, written about, and discussed, we have been trying to come up with our own answers to the questions about the self; what a capacity is, how we find them, which ones are essential to human flourishing, what we do with them once they are found? Yet all of these questions lead us to answer that final and defining question of "what is the \'truth\'?"
A capacity is a capability or a realized power in a person. Some of the authors that we read throughout the semester believed that these capacities must be implanted into us, and then nurtured and trained. C.S. Lewis says that, "The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts."(1-p.27) However, in this statement he contradicts his own belief. In order for irrigation to work and make things grow, there must be something there beneath the surface to begin with. This is exactly my belief. I agree with Lewis that our capacities must be trained and educated, but those that are essential to human flourishing are inside our hearts waiting to be uncovered.
But how then, do we go about uncovering these capacities? The answer is so simple, and yet far to complex to completely explain in one paper. It takes thought. In fact, thought is the best example of a capacity. No one can teach thought. It is an innate quality of all human beings. However, thought is not complete in its original state. We must train and educate our ability to think. We can train it to be analytical, critical, evidential, logical, careful, clear, subjective, objective, etc. The list could go on and on. We can \'irrigate\' it and watch it grow. But that is assuming that it is there in the first place. Kierkegaard was on the right track to uncovering what is inside of us. He believed that it would take subjective thought about ourselves, not being detached from our feelings, but letting our emotions be our guide to what we truly believe.
However, subjective thinking alone cannot decipher what capacities are essential to our lives. It gives us a place to start from with what really matters to us in our hearts, but it is clouded by our biases and prejudgements. We must sift through our conclusions from subjective thinking with our capability to think objectively. Martha Nussbaum, in her lecture on "Liberal Education and the Cultivation of Humanity", spoke of three things that are essential to being human. One of them was the "capacity for critical examination of oneself." She says that we need to "question all beliefs and reason logically", taking "responsibilty for our own reasoning." It is necessary to take what we have come to believe through our subjective thinking and question that through reasoning and examination of why we believe these things.
One example of this is in our capacity for religion. One theme that has been common throughout several of the writers we have engaged this semester, is the importance of religion to human flourishing. Kierkegaard says that "man\'s only salvation lies in the reality of religion for each individual."(2-p.56) Evelyn Underhill also states that, "we are not happy, we are not secure, we are not fully alive until our life has an inside as well as an outside."(3-p.96, italics me) Our humanity hinges on the gift we are given which is the human soul. If we lose touch with that we have no meaning to life, no direction, no answers to the unending questions that plague our minds, no depth, no truth. We therefore need that capacity for spiritual life to be able to flourish. Underhill also says, we need the outside as well. "We all begin as tadpoles; but we ought to end as frogs- equally at home in both worlds (meaning spiritual and intellectual), both elements."(3-p.98) We need to find a way to combine both of these \'worlds\' so that they can coexist. This is a difficult task because at times they can contradict each other. There is, however, a way to do this. Imagine that there are