I’m reading Thoreau’s Walden, and in so doing I am being reminded of the value of reading things which are not altogether as I think, and yet of value. It is the sorting out, the reaching through the bramble to collect the blackberries, which is of almost as much value as the fruit itself. To incur the minor scratches of impiety, even the more painful cuts of blasphemy, on the part of another, is not a fatal disease to be avoided like typhoid. Rather, taken in the context of what we do know, it builds the intellectual immune system, for it allows us to consider folly, to reject it, or more worthwhile, to understand its fault better. And best, to understand the basis for it, to recognize its wrong turning, that we may avoid a similar turning in my own track some distance down the road.
We should not be so quick to distance ourselves from writing not “Christian” in nature, from philosophy which may at points find itself disrespectful of — if not in precise opposition to– our faith. To do so is to hothouse ourselves, to remain in an intellectual cloister. A tree which grows up thus staked against the breeze will be bent double in the eventual high wind.
At times I fear we see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil at the expense of becoming blind, deaf and dumb in the process.
Thoreau reminds me of the value of impertinence, of challenging the status quo, of fearlessly questioning the unquestioned. Not for the mere purpose of challenge, mind you, but to make room for truly unfettered contemplation.