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Week 1, Reading Material


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Read the following short passages, slow down and read several times, think and wrestle with them, ask yourself the following questions while you are reading each passage: (1) What is its point/purpose? (2) What could be its assumption, implication, or consequence? (3) How can it relate to other ideas I know? (4) Do I agree with it, why or why not? (5) What does it mean to me, personally?—Can it change my way of seeing and doing things?


Regarding each passage below, you can write down notes of what you think on one or two of these questions listed above, as preparation for Major Project No.1 (the commentary part).



Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)


Do you still ride a horse if you know you might be thrown at any time?


I [Wittgenstein] am very much in love with R. [Marguerite Respinger], have been for a long time of course, but it is especially strong now. And yet I know that the matter is in all probability hopeless. That is, I must be braced that she might get engaged & married any moment. And I know that this will be very painful for me. I therefore know that I should not hang my whole weight on this one rope since I know that eventually it will give. That is, I should remain standing with both feet on firm ground & only hold the rope but not hand on it. But that is difficult. It is difficult to love so unselfishly that one holds on to love & does not want to be held by it.—it is difficult to hold on to love in such a way that, when things go wrong one does not have to consider it a lost game but can say: I was prepared for that & this is also alright. One could say “if you never sit on the horse and thus entrust yourself to it completely, then of course you can never be thrown but also never hope ever to ride. And all one can say to that is: You must wholly dedicate yourself to the horse & yet be braced that you may be thrown at any time. ( Ludwig Wittgenstein, Public and Private Occasions (PPO), ed. James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Movements of Thought: Diaries 1930-1932, 1936-1937, pp.33-34)


Have reasons to suppose now that Marguerite does not particularly care for me. And that is very strange for me. One voice in me says: Then it’s over, & you must lose heart. –And another one says: That must not get you down, you had to anticipate it, & your life cannot be founded upon the occurrence of some, even if greatly desired case.

And the latter voice is right, but then this is the case of a human being who lives & is tormented by pain. He must struggle so that the pain does not spoil life for him. And then one is anxious about times of weakness.


This anxiety is of course only a weakness itself, or cowardice. For one always likes to rest, not having to fight. God be with her! (Wittgenstein, PPO, p.79)


Believe that at any moment God can demand everything from you! Be truly aware of this! Then ask that he grant you the gift of life! For you can fall into madness at any time or become unhappy through & through if you don’t do something that is demanded of you!

It is one thing to talk to God & another to talk of God to others. (PPO, p.183)



Matthew Henry (1662-1714)



What if you were robbed


One day, having been robbed, the Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote: “I thank Thee [God] first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” (see http://thinkexist.com/quotes/matthew_henry/ or http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Matthew_Henry)



Job (in the Book of Job)


How to cope with suffering

1:13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,     and naked I will depart.[ c] The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;     may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

2 On another day the angels[ a] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

6 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish[ b] woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

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