All newborn homo sapiens, fortunate enough to be possessed of the appropriate range of relevant capabilities, are the rich legatees of a relentless, and successful evolutionary march in the direction of a sentient animal species. Most members of the species concurrently with their respective maturation, cash in (at least, in part) on such inheritance, the exercise of which potentiates a satisfying life and derivatively, a successful society.
Mankind has always valued reason and its ultimate goal, wisdom, as vital ingredients for successful existence. Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.” This pithy observation can logically be extended to a corollary viz., to the extent that man has the capacity and inclination to reason, he is an identifiable member of human society. Socrates, exercising even more economy of speech, taught, “Know thyself,” mandating man’s pursuit of identity, self-awareness and a true inner understanding of his capabilities and inclinations.
This most abundant cornucopia of potential skills, inherited by man by way of evolution, equips him potentially to attain a rich and satisfactory life experience and, as well, affords him the opportunity to contribute to his community. Growth from understood experience, from the study of the arts and sciences as well a plethora of available sources, each capable of augmenting human understanding and personal insight, is the path to the attainment of his potential and a fulfilling life.
Sadly, there exists a sizeable portion of our American population who seem to, perhaps unknowingly, squander these innate gifts and the resultant potential for that fuller and more satisfactory life; whether the causes are cultural, sociological or otherwise, is beyond the scope of this writing, and its author. It may simply be stated that the loss to the individual of his potential for a full and satisfying life, as well as the potential loss to society of some contribution by him is unnecessary, tragic and wasteful.
Most of those people are not aware of the possibility of the (universal) potential for meaningful living, the great pleasure in self-realization and the feeling of self- fulfillment. Such ignorance inexorably is predictable of the feeling of meaningless and disappointing existence; unfortunately, this limited lifestyle and vista are often passed on to offspring. As barren and empty as their life proves to be, the same is accepted, somehow, as (disappointingly) normal; it is, indeed, a wistful vista. Many attribute their unhappiness to some imagined cause that robbed them of happiness or project the blame and hatred outward to others, especially others who look or live differently. Additionally, many such people are ripe targets for demagogues and snake oil salesman of every conceivable stripe including, political, religious, racial or financial; anyone who promises” hope”. Such folks may be led to behaviors harmful to themselves or others.
Thomas Jefferson famously believed that for a democratic country to succeed, it must have a literate and informed citizenry; such informed citizens would debate the various issues, the outcome of which would be useful in making decisions. The non-participation of so many citizens with innate but unused potential for reason in lieu of ignorance amounts to a substantial potential loss to the country as well as the personal failure of potential on the part of the individual citizen.
We have never favored missionary activities. They usually have the religious goal of “saving” people by persuading them to worship identically as the missionary does, on pain of being “lost” and punished in a mythical after-life. As we have expressed in some of our writings, it is inarguable that people acquire their own religious persuasion and belief systems, randomly, though the accident of birth. The religious missionary, aside from causing much cultural distress and confusion, particularly abroad, has damaged an untold number of traditional and previously successful cultures and has been responsible for conflict and atrocities. The religious missionary has forgotten the random acquisition of his own particular religious belief in his misguided, egotistic and ethnocentric zeal.
We would however propose, by stark contrast in purpose, a (secular) missionary program dedicated to raising the awareness of those insular, limited American citizens, of the benefits to be derived from the revelation of new vistas, including an exposure to literature and the arts. Of course, it would be purely voluntary, and predictably at first, there would be only limited interest in the program. But there are possible routes of success despite difficulties in its initiation. When one considers the American genius for advertising and sales promotion, especially by means of the media, many possibilities seem to present themselves.
It seems to us that we do have some ethical and perhaps, patriotic obligation, affirmatively, to find a remedy for fellow Americans whose lives have unknowingly been squandered; people who only “inhabit a life” rather than live it, and fail in the fulfilment of any of their innate potential for the higher life as homo sapiens. Self- discovery and enrichment can fill previously empty and joyless lives with a new arousal, inner sight and newfound internal resources. We need to create more Jeffersonian citizens.
Those who would be able and willing to bear the cost of such a revolutionary program would be those financially capable Americans and commercial institutions who believe that the importance of opening doors to the world for so many to the purposeful and joyous acquisition of a real life is worth the money and effort.