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Chapter 10: Come What May, Allow

During the second world war a very famous philosopher was recruited for military service because there was a shortage of soldiers. Enlistment was compulsory, and so he was recruited against his will. He was a great philosopher. He had spent his life thinking and thinking, he had never put anything into practice, he had simply thought and thought.

This world of thoughts is quite a different world, it is quite distinct. Philosophy is a kind of exercise that pleases the mind greatly, because you never do anything so there is never any question of repentance. If you simply think of sin, no harm is done because no one is hurt, and if you think about some act of merit there is no problem either, because no one is benefited. You simply sit and think. Something only happens when there is action involved; nothing happens just by thinking. Philosophers think a lot. They waste their lives thinking, and do absolutely nothing. You will not find them among the sinners, or among good people either. They just stand on the side of the road. They do not walk, they think. And they make no decisions.

This particular recruit was a very famous philosopher. The general under whose command he had been put also knew of him - he had read the philosopher’s books. The general thought, “What can this man do? Before he has to shoot he will think about it a thousand times. And the enemy won’t wait for him.”

His training began. The first time the order “Left turn” was given everyone turned accordingly, but the philosopher stood where he was. He was asked, “What are you doing?” He answered, “I can’t do anything without thinking it over first. When I hear ‘Left turn’ I ask myself, ‘Why? What is the reason? What harm is there if I don’t turn left? What is the advantage if I do?’”

If all soldiers were to ask such questions you can imagine what would happen, but because he was a very famous philosopher and because he could see no other way out, the general decided to give him a very small and unimportant job. He sent him to work in the kitchen.

On the very first day the philosopher was given a dish of peas and told to separate them, to put the big peas on one side and the small peas on the other. After an hour the general went to check on his work. He found the philosopher sitting in front of the dish with his eyes closed. The peas were untouched. He was thinking. The general asked, “What are you doing?”

“A great problem has arisen,” he said. “If I put the big peas on one side and the small ones on the other, then where shall I put the medium-sized ones? It is not right to start anything until the whole thing has been settled.”

The mind is a great philosopher - it is unable to decide anything. Philosophers have never been able to decide anything.

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