Monday 17 September 2018

The Way of Completeness

To mark its approach to 200 000 Pageviews, Pi is pleased to feature a Pi Special by Sifiso Mkhonto of South Africa.  Sifiso helps Pi to celebrate:
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Colour Study Quadrate, by Wassily Kandinsky, 1913
Posted by Sifiso Mkhonto
Completeness: some regard it as a state of being, where one flourishes in his or her way of living life the way one deems fit  without any restrictions, exceptions, or qualifications which invalidate one's being. Many people search for its true meaning. Many die without finding out. Some claim to be in this state.
However, can one be complete alone? If freedom is taken as the foundational value, then a society will seek to allow individuals to maximise their life opportunities without hindrance from government, political ideologies, religious beliefs, classism, and all sub-cultures in society.

The danger with this form of completeness: it creates many truths, and we know that what is good for me might not be good for the other. How then do we answer the question: does completeness reduce or increase the harm done to one, and to society at large?

The cultures and sub-cultures of wealth, politics, pleasure, knowledge, morality, science, human rights, worship, and classism are not entirely harmless nor harmful. They are convenient to each person.

Convenience, therefore, is a language spoken and understood in each of these cultures, yet does not lead to completeness. It focuses on our own experience and prospects. We speak in reality the language of convenience – not completeness.

Allow me briefly to expand on a few cultures and sub-cultures of convenience – taking a list of points outlined by socialist clergyman Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey on March 20, 1925. They are named ‘social sins’.
Wealth without work - it leads to greed, including corruption, crime, social injustice, and colonisation.
Pleasure without conscience – where those actions which are morally required are evaded.
Knowledge without character – knowledge of anything without conscience and good character has often granted societies the ‘dangerous man’.
Commerce without morality – exploits both individual and environment, to the point of social and ecological ruin.
Science without humanity – to deny humanity in the service of science is to destroy the very thing you need to serve. You cannot deny yourself.
Worship without sacrifice – which is the opium of the people wherever it serves to suppress the poor, to hold them in the same position.
Politics without principle – has lost its purpose, having become politics for its own sake, and for the sake of those who use it.
The common element found in such ‘social sins’ is the convenience that leads to the illusion of completeness – in spite of the fact that we are aware of this illusion. In the interests of completeness, therefore, we should keep our mind always open to receive truth.

The logician and theologian Isaac Watts once said: ‘Be ready always to hear what may be objected even against your favourite opinions, and those which have had longest possession of your assent.’ Adding:
‘And if there should be any new and uncontrollable evidence brought against these old or beloved sentiments, do not wink your eyes fast against the light, but part with anything for the sake of truth: remember when you overcome an error, you gain truth; the victory is on your side and the advantages are all your own.’


docmartincohen said...

It's a thoughtful post, as I would expect from Sifiso - but I still don't rush to agree. Yes, "We speak in reality the language of convenience – not completeness" but that word "conveneince" is maybe dragging the argument along behind it. How about "practicality"?

It all reminds me of philosophers insisting that we don't know if we exist and so on. Our truth is always limited, isn't it dangerous to imagine we can transcend that?

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

The point of the post is, it seems to me, the need for holistic thinking, which so often seems hard to find. I like the original terms that Sifiso brings to the discussion, and the way he draws out the contrasts.

Practicality ... one then asks 'Practicality for whom?' whereas convenience implies 'Practicality for me'. Thus we are not seeking practicality for me, but completeness for all. The question then is, why not convenience?

Keith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
docmartincohen said...

Keith, your reversed list may provide insights, but it surely requires a lot of work on the part of the reader!

Keith said...

No problem, Martin. Took 'hint' and deleted the comment.

Sifiso Mkhonto said...

Thanks for comments, Martin and Thomas. The term practicality shifts the point I am making. Practicality can be uncomfortable and thus distorts completeness.

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