"I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful." Oscar Wilde

Friday, October 23, 2009

Zeal Without Knowledge by Hugh Nibley

I do a lot of listening to audio books. I find it an easier way to obtain information. I've been listening lately to a series of talks given by Hugh Nibley.

How can we always keep reaching for the highest and best to the utmost of our capacity? This requires enormous motivation and religion and supplies it. Nothing can excite men to action like the contemplation of the eternities. This quality is zeal. Zeal is the engine that drives the whole vehicle: without it we would get nowhere. But without clutch, throttle, brakes, and steering wheel, our mighty engine becomes an instrument of destruction, and the more powerful the motor, the more disastrous the inevitable crack-up if the proper knowledge is lacking. There is a natural tendency to let the mighty motor carry us along, to give it its head, to open it up and see what it can do. We see this in our society today. Scientists tell us that the advancement of a civilization depends on two things: (1) the amount of energy at its disposal, and (2) the amount of information at its disposal (Carl Sagan, The Cosmic Connection (New York: Doubleday, 1973), ch. 34.). Today we have unlimited energy—nuclear power; but we still lack the necessary information to control and utilize it. We have the zeal but not the knowledge, so to speak, and this is a very dangerous situation. What good is the power without real intelligence and solid knowledge? Zeal makes us loyal and unflinching, but God wants more than that. We need to do our own thinking and discipline our minds. True knowledge can never serve that end. Knowledge is individual and if a person has it, "who would know it? Our search for knowledge should be ceaseless, which means that it is open-ended, never resting on laurels, degrees, or past achievements. True knowledge never shuts the door on more knowledge, but zeal often does. When we have limited knowledge, are particularly susceptible to excessive zeal. The things of knowledge require deep import, time, experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts to find them out. No shortcuts or easy lessons here! True zeal feeds on knowledge, true knowledge cannot exist without zeal. All knowledge must be a priority, proper degrees in the timing and emphasis of our learning, lest like the doctors of the Jews, we "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." We must be willing to have our knowledge tested. The emphasis is all on the continuous, conscientious, honest acquisition of knowledge.

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