Keep your eyes open. Continue to be human ”“ that is to recognise how many ways there are of asking intelligent questions. Remember that Wisdom’s house is built with many and diverse pillars. To remember this is to guard ourselves against one of the persistent temptations of science and indeed of all scholarship, the temptation””expressed once again in the words of Joseph Margolis””of thinking that the human is dispensable: When the conclusions have been reached and the formulae settled, the human, the unfinished, the time-bound is somehow brushed aside.
The early exuberance of the Royal Society””and exuberance is not I think an unfair word for it””the voracious appetite for the trivial and the metaphysical together, is a very good reminder of the origins of science in the human ”“ human curiosity, yes, and the human willingness to be surprised and to begin again. Which perhaps gives a bit of context to that text with which I began: ‘Whoever finds me finds life’. Searching for and finding wisdom is a process of moving into life, a self-aware life, a self-questioning life, above all a life that is a growing in mind and emotion. Curious that when we speak of finding or discovering life these days we very often mean one of two things at least. We talk of finding life elsewhere in the galaxy or indeed the universe. We talk of finding and forming life in the laboratory. Great and controversial enterprises; and yet to find life for ourselves and our immediate neighbours and our human society is not simply a matter of uncovering mysteries at which we wonder, not simply a matter of finding new means of control. It is surely above all a finding joy in the sheer process of finding, recognising that our unfinished business as human beings is one of the things that gives us fulfilment as human beings. An extraordinary, but a life-giving paradox ”“ joy and fulfilment in not having finished, not having drawn a line, but recognising that another question looms on the horizon; not to have found once and for all the single set of questions whose answer will finish our seeking, but to be gratefully, humbly, and sometimes just a bit jealously, aware that next door another set of questions is in operation bringing a new kind of joy and fulfilment in the unfinished-ness of our business.
Science needs to remain human in that sense, to be self-aware of itself as human science, aware of incompleteness, aware of the joy of non-fulfilment.
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