What is and What isn’t

There is what is. There is also what isn’t. We can think about what might or could be as well as notice what is so. It is this capacity for conjuring what doesn’t exist that is the basis of our creativity. That creativity is the power that transforms what is merely possible to what is actual in our lives.  An egg is a possible omelette.  Clay is the possibility of an unlimited number of shapes . An idea is a possible reality. Possibility is the space between what is and what isn’t.

The huge piece of Carrera marble was potentially the David to Michelangelo. When asked how he sculpted the David, Michelangelo replied that he just chipped away everything that wasn’t David. Each stroke of the chisel meant David was closer to existing. Each stroke was based on the David that existed in Michelangelo’s  imagination. Each stroke brought him closer to the finished sculpture.  So too, with all of us,  every action we take leads us somewhere. We have to take the actions that make that “somewhere”  where we want to be.

When I returned from my active military service I wanted to study philosophy. The requirements to be accepted into Fordham’s Master’s program in philosophy required at least 20 undergraduare credits in philosophy and at least a B+ average. I had zero philosophy credits and just barely a C average with my engineering degree from NYU. I met with the chairman of the philosophy department. I was 26 years old and had been out of school for 4 years. He kindly and politiely told me the requirements and suggested that perhaps I might want to consider some other option for my future.

That was the actuality, but I didn’t look at just that. I held in my mind where I wanted to be, and I knew I had to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. That was my commitment. I asked him if I went back to College and started all over again majoring in philosophy if I could then qualify for the MA program. I could see in his eyes he was mildly startled. He had told me a polite no, but I wasn’t listening. We stared at each other for a bit, but he could see I wasn’t going to go away. Finally, he said that if I took some undergraduate philosophy credits, and my grades were good enough, I could reapply. That’s what I did. I took 18 credits of undergraduate philosophy in a year and a half whle I was working two six day a week jobs, commuting 120 miles a day, buying our first home and adopting our first child. I got into the master’s program.

I tell this personal example in some detail because I think it illustrates what I mean about possibility. We have to accept where we are, that is true. But where we are is just that, a starting place. We can go wherever we choose from there to other places that we want to be, if we are willing to do what is required. You just have to choose the relevant possibilities from step to step, and choosing the right steps along the path of our lives gets us to the goals that we want.

It wasn’t instantaneous, but 6 years after that conversation with the chairman, I was teaching philosophy in a liberal arts school in New Jersey.

Look to what you want, find the steps you need to take to get there, and as Nike says, “Do it!”

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About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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