Think Critically, Be Happy

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.” -Isaiah 19:24-25

Dear members and friends of the Swedenborgian Church,

It is a commonly accepted fact that knowing is better than not knowing and/or being ignorant. In a very simple way, the purpose of education is about learning what to know and how to use what you know. A big problem in the modern world is that there is too much to know and not enough time for a single person to learn it all. Therefore, it has become mandatory to be selective about what to know, meaning that determining and prioritizing the most important knowledge is mandatory in all societies. Consequently, knowledge taught in schools has been prioritized by government and industry. What this means is that most of us were educated in such a way as to make us functional and useful workers to the community and industry. This is problematic because a human being cannot be content as simply being a functional part of a system. Self-contentment is important because this is how each individual measures one’s vale and one’s reason for existence. Consequently, one who is with self-contentment feels valuable and thus happy about one’s existence, while the one who is without self-contentment feels confused, lost and vain, and thus unhappy about one’s existence.

In Isaiah 19 we read about Egypt, Assyria and Israel. In a way, it could be a prophecy that in the future Israel will become as glorious as Egypt and Assyria. But, according to Swedenborg, each of these nations symbolize something that is very important in our spiritual growth, and all together the three nations describe the process of our spiritual growth. Briefly, Egypt symbolizes what we know or knowledge in general, Assyria the critical thinking that we gain out of learning the knowledge, and Israel the life we are able to live after discerning through the critical thinking. In other words, the very reason we gain knowledge is to cultivate our ability to think critically as well as to become a functional and useful worker in our socio-economic system. And, the ultimate purpose of gaining knowledge and cultivating critical thought is to find a way to live that is uniquely suitable to each individual, and thus to become content with the life one has chosen.

So, while it’s important to educate ourselves and gain the knowledge our society deems valuable, in order to find contentment we must cultivate our very ability to think and thus best utilize our knowledge.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee