Only by standing on their shoulders can we build a better world, but we should use the wise as advisers, not masters.
For many, the knowledge of a Jesus, a Lao-tzu, a Buddha, or a Gandhi is complete and unassailable. But we do them and their vision a disservice when we follow them rather than using what they have taught to build upon as we strive toward our goal of a better society.
Those who guide us, who inspire us, having gone our way before, are now partners with us in building a better world. Any success we have is theirs as well as ours. To copy or imitate them should be only the beginning—the apprentice stage of life. It is fine to think, ‘what will a Shaker do? What would Scott Nearing have said? What would Gandhi have thought?’ These are good exercises for the mind, a way of weighing ideas and contemplated actions, valuable so long as we do not follow anyone blindly.
When we merely follow another, we take a potentially creative mind out of service-our own.
It is always easier to take the words of a Jesus, a Gandhi, a Marx, or a Confucius as constituting Holy Writ. This involves less reading, less study, less thought, less conflict, and less independent searching, but it also means less growth toward maturity.
Each of us tries to live in the best way we know how. I want to contribute to the problems of the world as little as possible. I really believe we must find simpler ways to live or society will collapse.
Good apprentices know that they are in the process of becoming masters and that as responsible artisans they must seek to improve upon the knowledge entrusted to them and go further.
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