“While there is a waxing and then a waning in action and efficiency, growth can be continual at the level of the heart, of wisdom and of communion with God and with people. There are some precise stages in the growth of the heart. Tiny children live by love and presence — the time of childhood is a time of trust. Adolescents live by generosity, utopian ideals and hope. Adults become realistic, commit themselves and assume responsibilities; this is the time of fidelity. Finally, old people refind the time of confidence which is also wisdom. They cannot be very active, so they have time to observe, to contemplate and to forgive. They have a whole sense of the meaning of human life, of acceptance and of realism. They know that living has not just to do with action and running; they know that it is also to do with welcome and loving. They have somehow got past the stage of proving themselves through efficiency.”
Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, 104-05.
By now I should be entering on the supreme stage
Of the whole walk, reserved for the late afternoon.
The heat was to be over now; the anxious mountains,
The airless valleys and the sun-baked rocks, behind me.
Now, or soon now, if all is well, come the majestic
Rivers of foamless charity that glide beneath
Forests of contemplation. In the grassy clearings
Humility with liquid eyes and damp, cool nose
Should come, half-tame, to eat bread from my hermit hand.
If storms arose, then in my tower of fortitude–
It ought to have been in sight by this–I would take refuge;
But I expected rather a pale mackerel sky,
Feather-like, perhaps shaking from a lower cloud
Light drops of silver temperance, and clovery earth
Sending up mists of chastity, a country smell,
Till earnest stars blaze out in the established sky
Rigid with justice; the streams audible; my rest secure.
I can see nothing like all this. Was the map wrong?
Maps can be wrong. But the experienced walker knows
That the other explanation is more often true.
Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension, 63-64.
“Let me display the inescapable need for a traditional framework first in one example of great modern endeavor, which may then serve as a paradigm for other intellectual and moral progress in a free, dynamic society. My example will be the pursuit of the natural sciences. This may be surprising, for modern science was founded through the violent rejection of authority. Throughout the formative centuries of modem science, the revolt against authority was its battle cry: it was sounded by Bacon and Descartes, and by the founders of the Royal Society in their device, Nullius in Verba, What these men said was true and important at the time, but once the adversaries they fought had been defeated, the repudiation of all authority or tradition by science became a misleading slogan.
“The popular conception of science teaches that science is a collection of observable facts, which any body can verify for himself. We have seen that this is not true in the case of expert knowledge, as in diagnosing a disease. But it is not true either in the physical sciences. In the first place, you cannot possibly get hold of the equipment for testing, for example, a statement of astronomy or of chemistry. And supposing you could somehow get the use of an observatory or a chemical laboratory, you would probably damage their instruments beyond repair before you ever made an observation. And even if you should succeed in carrying out an observation to check upon a statement of science and you found a result which contradicted it, you would rightly assume that you had made a mistake.
“The acceptance of scientific statements by lay men is based on authority, and this is true to nearly the same extent for scientists using results from branches of science other than their own. Scientists must rely heavily for their facts on the authority of fellow scientists.
“This authority is enforced in an even more personal manner in the control exercised by scientists over the channels through which contributions are submitted to all other scientists. Only offerings that are deemed sufficiently plausible are accepted for publication in scientific journals, and what is rejected will be ignored by science. Such decisions are based on fundamental convictions about the nature of things and about the method which is therefore likely to yield results of scientific merit. These beliefs and the art of scientific inquiry based on them are hardly codified: they are, in the main, tacitly implied in the traditional pursuit of scientific inquiry.”