I'm currently reading the novel Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder. I read it before, about 8-10 years ago. And picking it up this time around confirms to me just how much I love this book. I'd definitely say it's in my top 10 (maybe top 5) best books ever list of favorites.
This story involves a series of mysterious philosophy lessons delivered to a teenaged girl named Sophie. As Sophie gets her lessons in philosophy, so does the reader. Thus, I'm getting very familiar with the teachings of many of history's great thinkers.
For example, I just read Sophie's lesson about Socrates. I've already studied Socrates in HS and college, but reading the information again in the context of this novel makes it all the more thought provoking, intriguing and exciting.
One of the theories Sophie's philosophy teacher explains to her through Socrates practices is the following: Wisest is she who knows she does not know. That is to say, Socrates knew he did not know everything. He accepted this, was troubled by it, and spent his days questioning and learning as much as he could.
Others in his time (and throughout history), by contrast, proclaimed that they knew everything. They touted their intelligence, having people give them money in exchange for just a little bit of this abundance of knowledge they had.
However, once Socrates confronted these self-proclaimed smarty pants, he started questioning them. Not abusively, but in a conversational way. He truly wanted to find out just how much they knew. But in doing so, because they couldn't answer all of Socrates' questions, he pointed out to them just how little they knew.
Again - Socrates was wise because he knew how little he knew. It troubled him that he knew so little, and therefore he was excited and genuinely interested in learning all that he could. He was a true philosopher.
Children are just like Socrates in many ways. They are little philosophers - always questioning, always seeking the truth, constantly learning, and always experimenting with what they know.
Little kids are the best at this. Some say that 9 or 10 year olds are the "best" age because they're old enough to reason with and carry on a good conversation. But I say younger kids - pre-school/kindergarten aged - are the best. Because no matter what, whether you like it or not, they will give you the truth (or at least the truth as they see it).
So often Sweetie will tell Hubby and I a complicated story about why something is the way it is. Many times this explanation will include some nonsense words and mumblings. She's trying to tell us why the situation is what it is, breezing past the vocabulary she doesn't yet have a firm hold on. That often leaves Hubby and I asking her,
What does that mean?
Her immediate and confident answer?
It doesn't mean anything!
She knows she just used a whole bunch of made up words. And she knows she doesn't exactly know what she's trying to express. And she's good with that. Eventually she'll get it and that's all that matters.
My niece is studying to be a teacher. She explained to me once how, up until the school-aged years, kids often seem to have such awesome memories. And they do - because they're trying to learn so much and they don't know yet what can be filtered out and what is more valuable knowledge to retain (please correct me, Abby, if I got that a little mixed up). They just keep it all with them. It's all important when you're just starting out in life, right?
I for one am thoroughly enjoying my Little Philosopher. My little Truth Seeker. She is honest in her quest for knowledge. For now at least she's giving us her honest opinions and living out the most honestly inquisitive life she can.
As the smarty pants grown ups that we are - sometimes her honesty is more than Hubby and I can handle or harder to swallow than we'd prefer.
But as philosophical parents who appreciate just how little we know - watching Sweetie grow, learn and love honestly is the best life lesson there can be.