The Hidden World Around Us

Overstreet, H. A.
1951-11-26

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Harry Overstreet describes how Socrates has influenced his thinking, leading to the beliefs that truth must be sought out (rather than accepted) and that knowledge about the world can never be exhausted, and forming the foundation for his tolerant acceptance of his fellow human beings.

Subjects
Toleration
Socrates
Questioning
Empathy
UncertaintyReligious aspects
Respect for persons
United States
Permanent URL
http://hdl.handle.net/10427/75576
ID: tufts:MS025.006.001.00004.00001
To Cite: DCA Citation Guide
Usage: Detailed Rights
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I believe. Professor Harry Allen Overstreet is that rare article, a philosopher who talks so the rest of us can understand him. He proved it in his bestselling book “The Mature Mind.” Listen now to his mature beliefs.
Ever since I met Socrates, many years ago, I have found in him one chief master of my thinking. Socrates knew that he did not know. I have come to change his negative into a positive. I know that there is far more in this universe for me to know than I do know.
Recently my wife and I, driving through Arizona, stopped at a collector’s shop in Tucson, where stones
and minerals of many kinds were on display. In the course of the visit, we were taken into a small room where rocks were laid out on shelves. They were quite ordinary-looking rocks. Then the man closed the door so that the room was in darkness and turned on an ultraviolet lamp.
Instantly the prosaic rocks leaped into a kind of glory. Brilliant fluorescent colors of an indescribable beauty were there before our eyes.
A very simple thing, and yet a very tremendous thing, had happened. A certain power had been snapped on and a hidden world had leaped into life.
I believe, then, that my chief job in life is to snap on an extra power so that I can see what my naked
eyes—or my naked mind—cannot now see. I believe that I have to do this particularly with my human fellows. My ordinary eyes stop short at those opaque envelopes we call human bodies. But we have learned that by turning on a certain power we possess we can penetrate to the inside of these envelopes.
We call this extra power “imagination.” At its highest, we call it “empathy,” the power to feel through to the inner life of other human beings. It’s a kind of ultraviolet lamp of our psychological life. When we turn on this lamp of imaginative sensitivity, we make the prosaic human beings around us come excitingly alive.
Zona Gale once gave as the first article of her creed of life: “I believe in expanding the areas of my awareness.” This I too believe. If I expand the areas of my awareness, I move understandingly into realities beyond me. If I don’t do this, if I stay ignorantly on the outside, particularly on the outside of other people then, in all likelihood, I will do many mistaken things.
This is what love means. He who loves another moves into the inner life of the other. We can reverse this: he who moves into the inner life of another is not likely to hate that other.
Socrates gave no finished catalogue of the “truths” of the world. He gave, rather, the impulse to search. This is far better, I feel, than dogmatic certainty. When we are aware that there are glories
of life still hidden from us, we walk humbly before the Great Unknown. But we do more than this: we try to increase our own powers of seeing and feeling so that we can turn what is still unknown into what is warmly and understandingly known. This, I believe, is our great human privilege and our great human adventure.
That was Professor Harry Overstreet, author, lecturer, teacher, and we can authoritatively report, a happy man whose own mature mind has helped clarify the thinking and untangle the beliefs of an uncountable number of people in all walks of life.