Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It is Difficult to be Naive

Chinese characters are seen on the walls of many houses and public buildings. They say much in few words. On the opinion page of the Catholic Times, the writer introduces us to the Chinese characters that mean: "It's difficult to be naive."

In this phrase the Chinese word used for naive or fool would mean in Korean "to gloss over." In the past when a Korean would apply the word intelligent to another, this person would usually refuse to accept the compliment by some appropriate response. For, as the writer states, if this person had not responded and refused the compliment, the gloss over, he would be seen as naive or a fool. But if we were to call someone a fool and the person does not respond, refusing to defend himself, who would think such a person a fool?  No one would be able to determine the depth of his or her thought. This is the reason, he believes, for preferring the saying: "Those who appear naive are the wise."

Relying on his own experience, he believes that when we speak we should reduce by half the number of words we habitually use. This would also reduce the number of mistakes we make in speaking. He believes this way of behaving has its roots in silence, and refers to the book "The World of Silence," by the Swiss philosopher Max Picard, who has written insightfully and lyrically about silence. He quotes  from the book:

Man is not even aware of the loss of silence: so much is the space formerly occupied by the silence so full of things that nothing seems to be missing.But where formerly the silence lay on a thing, now one thing lies on another. Where formerly an idea was covered by the silence, now a thousand associations speed along to it and bury it. In this world of today in which everything is reckoned in terms of immediate profit, there is no place for silence. Silence was expelled because it was unproductive, because it merely existed and seemed to have no purpose. Almost the only kind of silence that there is today is due to the loss of the faculty of speech. It is purely negative: the absence of speech. It is merely like a technical hitch in the continuous flow of noise."

There is also a worldly-wise way of being silent, an aggressive play acting of what is thought to be humility.  Why does one act in this way? It is seen as a way of disarming another so that a more devastating tactical offense can be applied. According to this thinking, to show our true self, jealousy or deference would likely be the expected response, thus removing the possibility of controlling the  situation and moving it in a direction more favorable to the individual.

Humility was  an unknown virtue in the cultures of Greece and Rome, and today possibly has a  meaning far removed from that  understood by Christians. Humility has nothing to do  with not appearing as proud in the presence of others, which some find attractive, but has everything to do with seeing oneself as nothing, but for the grace of God.

No comments:

Post a Comment