I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

T. S. Elliot — Wait without hope

Thomas Sterns (TS) Elliot was ABD (all but dissertation defense) for a PhD in Philosophy at Harvard before he became world-renowned poet. I once read that, later in life, he stated that he did not understand a single word of his dissertation anymore. It’s a very interesting thing to consider why he would have given up philosophy for poetry.

Can philosophy help you navigate a happy life? Is there such a thing as philosophical therapy?  One must be very careful when bandying around the word “therapy.” Like chess, philosophy may indeed be therapeutic for the existentially bored; but philosophy has the potential to aggravate deep psychological wounds and thus one must be careful in its use. For example, discussing Sartre’s concept of meaninglessness to a person considering suicide is unconscionable; this “if the truth will kill them, let them die” attitude is a leftover vestige of the Protestant ethic which we would be better off discarding.  We must be careful in the use of “therapy” as a metaphor, lest we start to confuse the search for truth with actually helping someone.


“That’s interesting. You know what makes me sad? You Do! Maybe we should chug on over to mamby pamby land and maybe we can find some self confidence for you – you jack wagon! Tissue? Cry baby!”

As David Hume (and almost all of the philosophers that built upon his work) found out, if you maintain a rigid philosophical skepticism you eventually end up in a chasm of despair. At some point you have to find a bedrock — one thing — to believe. Descartes’s was “I think, therefore I am” (and also that God must must exist by definition). He was able to build up a philosophical system from there, saving himself from the fate of other skeptics. You can find a similar move in Spinoza and Kierkegaard.

In the end, we are the sum of our experiences, not our thoughts. To experience God, you must stop philosophizing, stop chattering; just … stop.

TAKE AWAY: Stop chattering to yourself. God is there. Be still and know (Psalm 46:10).

Image source (TS Elliot): https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Stearns_Eliot_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morrell_(1934).jpg

Image source (R Lee Ermey): https://youtu.be/APwfZYO1di4