The Limits of My Language Define the Limits of My World
Channel: Hamza Yusuf
With Thomas Hibbs
Episode Transcript ©
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I know you're a scholar of Pascal. And my father said that everybody should read the 72nd. Ponce, at least once in his life. And, and as you're well aware, I mean, that's the one that deals with proportionality. And this idea that the human being straddles, these two are besides the abyss of nothingness, and front from which he came, and the abyss of infinity by whom he came. And he argues in there that only God can know both nothing. And infinity. We're incapable of that. And it seems to me that Neil ism is people that are looking at the nothing and forget about the infinity. And they've, in a sense, turned their back on that. And frost has a wonderful poem about the people that
look out at the sea, they cannot look out far they cannot look in deep. But what whenever whenever was that any any thing that prevented them from doing it? And it seems to me that you know, that the Neil list is looking instead of looking at the ocean of infinity, he's looking at the the wasteland on the shore, he's, he's looking the other way. And I think,
you know, what you've pointed out and this is that our children, and Plato reminded us that give me the stories you tell your children and I'll give you your culture that our children are growing up on a type of,
of popular culture that that is so corrosive.
And over time, I can't see how they could not fall into a type of despair. That the the the the meaninglessness of life that's presented to them constantly. that that would be the result. And so I'm just I'm curious how you see in terms of our institutions, these liberal arts institutions, how, how can we be better at doing what I think comped has an essay on a pirate Kalia. And Leo Strauss uses that term, when he talks about liberal education the idea that vulgarity which our culture has become very vulgar, and and and vulgarity for the Greeks was a pirate Kalia. It was inexperience in things beautiful. How do we restore beauty to our to a culture that seems to have really lost it?
That's a great question that the first thing I want to say is that one of my favorite things about being with President Hamza is though, the way he weaves long quotations from poetry into all that he does, I mean, there's a there's, there's an eloquence and beauty. And that is one of the ways right, it's by adults speaking to young people, especially in our educational institutions, but more broadly, in ways that give them an appreciation of the beauty of language. Right, we're using language all the time, and our language has become so coarsened that we don't experience beauty in it, they, the German philosopher vidkun, Stein, has a great line, the limits of my language mark the
limits of my world. And what liberal education offers to young people, is an expansion of their vocabulary. So they can actually not just impress people at cocktail parties and talk intelligently in meetings, but so that they can actually see the world in a richer way. You can look at something a painting, a beautiful, a beautiful building
a great work of art. And if you don't have the vocabulary to describe what you're experiencing, you are to some extent insensitive to what you're experiencing, or at least you can't experience it on the deepest level. So giving students a vocabulary so that they can more richly perceive and understand and express their own experiences is one of the keys. It's also that vocabulary.
And the stories and texts that we read in our curriculum, give students standards give students a sense of what it would mean to pursue the truth, to pursue goodness to pursue beauty. And at least after they've had that. They will have the grounds in everything else their experience for saying something's missing nihilism.
is being unable to say something's missing. There's a great line in Shakespeare's King Lear. This is not the worst, so long as we can say, this is the worst. The worst would be to experience something that's horrible, and not even know that it's horrible.
Right? So to give our young people at a minimum, the ability to know that something's missing, and to be able to start to articulate what that is from the resources that we've given them through our education. The real danger in our culture is that we sense that things are a mess, but we can't really name what's missing. And without an education, especially a deeply spiritual education, you lack the resources to identify what's missing. And you can even begin to lack the sense that something is missing at all.