Find solitude, be skeptical, then act


“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell

I’d like to address the ladder part of this quote.

Having taken plenty of philosophy classes at Bucknell, I have read much of Plato’s work and have learned the ways of Socrates. Dialogues such as Paremenides, Philebus, and Phaedo exhibit the Socratic method, which focuses less on answering questions, and more on asking them.

Many of the people in our world today have become far too comfortable with routines and going through the motions. They fail to ask why they are doing what it is they are doing. Not enough of the time do people take risks in an attempt to change how such things are done. Whether it is in our own personal lives or society as a whole, most routines just keep on going, fueled by the opinions of others.

Unfortunately, that is how mankind works. We come together. We form groups and organizations and identify ourselves with them. We become apart of a herd, and become subjected to groupthink. Our values morph into our friend’s values, both of our values mold into our group’s values, and our group’s values suddenly seem the same as our company’s values. In the world today, this type of conformity is rewarded. “Jumping through hoops” is how we climb to the top in society. The vast majority of us have done it our whole lives. We see it everyday at Bucknell. We build up our resumes full of stuff we might not be passionate about, but looks good on paper. We take classes that might not interest us, but are practical. Often, individuals lose themselves in the scene inside our private school bubble. From fashion styles to career choices. Sometimes masses of people with shared values and goals becomes so large, that individuals consciously or subconsciously, feel as though they cannot fight against them.

Essentially, for those people who doubt themselves up against larger numbers, don’t. Always be skeptical and question the norms of society. Find solitude and think for yourself, and more importantly, act on that skepticism. If that means trusting your instincts and going with your gut then do it. That is what leads to happiness in our personal lives or on a bigger scale. Once we change ourselves by staying true to our values, passions, and beliefs, we will become leaders that can change the world we live in.

Much of what I speak of comes from probably the best lecture I have ever read, delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point a few years ago. Myself, Kehrli, and Wald read it this summer after one of our fraternity brothers posted it in our articles email chain.

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2 thoughts on “Find solitude, be skeptical, then act

  1. I think being skeptical is one of the best qualities. As humans, we have a tendency to believe everything we hear and see. Only the wisest of people ask questions because they are so aware of how little they actually know.

  2. AS a teen-ager, I did two Outward Bounds. In each, we had a solo of 3-4 days. Me, alone, in the wilderness. No books. Just water (I fasted both times). A journal. It wasn’t about survival. It was about solitude and listening to that innermost voice.

    I miss them badly. I need a new one.

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