Philosophical advice: stay grounded

Books enhance our minds and encourage self-reflection, but we need to learn to ground our knowledge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As college students, we constantly think about our next move. We ask ourselves, when is my next test? When can I take a nap? Where do I want to go to graduate school?

Although important questions, many of us forget to stop thinking. We keep pushing ourselves toward the next goal, whatever that may be, and end up circling in our own thoughts and losing our ground.

At the University of Dallas, students are goal-driven, independent thinkers who are known for making a way for themselves through higher education and hard work. We get good grades, we befriend our professors, and we establish friendships of virtue with our classmates.

But what if none of those things satisfy us? What if we take the core classes, get good grades, make friends and still are not fulfilled?

Maybe it’s because we’re too focused on “what’s next.”

My friends and I often have heart-to-heart talks about how each of us is trying to figure out who we are and what we feel called to do later in life. While that is a healthy conversation to have with one another, we can at times neglect to see the obvious: life is ever-changing.

As a philosophy major, I plead guilty to contemplating “the meaning of it all” and thus attempting to know the unknowable, which is ironically what my philosophical studies have instructed me not to do.

But as human beings, as rational animals exercising our reason in a regulative sense, we search for meaning. When this instinct is used correctly, we step toward virtue, as many of us learned in Philosophy and the Ethical Life.

If we devote too much energy towards what Dutch philosopher Kierkegaard would call “infinite,” that is, in the realm of cognition and reflective thoughts, we will lose ourselves. We will sink into despair from our lack of foundation in what is finite, that is, what is grounded.

Life is ever-changing. Trying to “figure out life” is like trying to grasp the waves as they retreat down the sand. Rather than running after the waves, maybe we should play in their movement.

Kierkegaard tells us in his work “Sickness unto Death” that despair is cured through balancing the finite and the infinite. He also teaches us that the opposite of despair is faith.

So let us embrace the harmonious scale of the finite and the infinite that is apparent in the world. Let us allow ourselves to embrace the unknown and find virtue in the balance.


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