Aphorisms for Living
Aphorism is dictionary defined as “a short saying embodying a general truth”. I have a penchant for aphorisms and had a number of them attached to the wall in front of my first student desk. One of them was “It’s amazing how much you have to know before you know how little you know”. Of later days I have been impressed with one by Richard Rohr : “Jesus gives us real eyes to realise where the real lies”. Another that has been pivotal for my spiritual bent is “God is not a being but the ground of our being.” It is probably attributable to Paul Tillich whom if memory serves me right gave us the classic “One cannot grasp the future but one can be grasped by it”. Another noteworthy aphorism, which I associate with a murder in a cathedral, is “To do the right thing for the wrong reason is the greatest treason”.
The fact that the source of some aphorisms are identifiable and some are not set me thinking the other day whether I have any aphorisms to contribute to the human story. I can think of two through which I might enter aphoristic history. I think they are original but recognise that such a claim can well be an expression of ignorance.
The first is religious in nature. “Creation is in the future and we are called to love it into being.” This ties in with my current metaphor for God as the desire for fulfilment that exists in every living creature. It also references Jesus of Nazareth as one concerned with “fullness of life” (John 10:10)
The second resulted from a long discussion with one of my spiritual mentors “When you take a part of the truth and make it the whole truth it ceases to be the truth”. There was a good example of this a few weeks ago. The Catalyst programme on the ABC ran a session questioning the extensive use of anti cholesterol drugs today. They maintained that it was an example of bad science in that it considered only the evidence supporting the theory and disregarded the evidence that opposed it. The programme asserted that just because cholesterol is present in heart failure doesn’t mean that it caused the heart failure. . As one of the presenters said “Because firemen are found at the scene of fires doesn’t mean they caused it”. The reaction to the programme was predictable in so far as anti cholesterol drugs are the main stay of many pharmaceutical companies, and the Heart Foundation supports the use of anti cholesterol drugs. Norman Swan, as might be expected, also got into the picture and pointed out that other factors such as diabetes, blood pressure etc enter into the question of primary risk factor. The programme for me was a good example of my aphorism ‘When you take a part of the truth and make it the whole truth it ceases to be the truth.
A personal note on which to conclude. Do I then cease taking the statins recently described by my doctor? I have decided to cease taking them but not because of any of the reasons stated in the debate. At eighty four years of age and having friends deeply affected by dementia, I have decided that a heart attack may well be a preferable way to go! On the other hand, in stopping statins it may well be that I will contribute to vascular dementia. It really is amazing how much you have to know before how little you know!