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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Twenty-Seven

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Here are the words of the great Socrates about serving the omnipotent Creator, spoken in conversation with his pupil, the scholar Aristodemos, who frequently ridculed believers.

"Well, Aristodemos, do you think there are people in the world whose creations are worthy of admiration?"

"There are many of them, master," replied Aristodemos.

"Name at least one of them."

"I admire Homer and his epic poems, the tragedies of Sophocles, the ability of some people to be reincarnated in other forms; I also admire the paintings of Zeuxis." (Here Aristodemos cited several other great names.)

"Who, do you think, is more worthy of admiration: one who creates a lifeless image of man, or the Most High, who created man endowed with reason and a living soul?"

"The latter, certainly. But only if his creations are the product of reason, not pure chance."

"The world has many useful things. The purpose of some is obvious, while the purpose of others cannot be divined by their outward form. What do you think: which of them have been wrought by reason and which by chance?"

"Certainly, the things of which the purpose is obvious are created by reason," replied Aristodemos.

"Good. Creating man, the Most High endowed him with five senses, knowing they would be necessary for man. He gave him eyes to see and enjoy the beauty of the world. He provided eyelids to open and close the eyes, lashes to protect the eyes from wind arid dust, and eyebrows to divert the sweat trickling down from the forehead.

"Without ears," Socrates went on, "we would have been unable to hear either harsh or sweet sounds, and we would have been unable to enjoy singing and music. Without a nose, we would have been incapable of distinguishing different smells, we would have never been attracted by sweet fragrances and repelled by foul odors. Lacking a tongue and the roof of the mouth, we would have never been able to tell what is sweet from what is bitter, what is soft from what is hard.
"Is it not for a good purpose that all this has been granted us?
"Our eyes and our nose lie close to the mouth to enable us to see and smell what we are eating. The other essential, but repugnant orifices lie far from the noble organs that are found on the head.
"Does it not attest that God has created us with thought?

Pondering for a while, Aristodemos acknowledged that the Creator was truly omnipotent, and He wrought His works with great love.

"Then tell me," said Socrates, "why does every living creature have a tender love for its progeny, why does it hate death and endeavor to live as long as possible, and why is it concerned to perpetuate its kind? All living beings are created for the purpose of life and its continuation. Was it not out of love that God has made them capable of loving life and giving life?

"How can you believe, Aristodemos, that none save yourself, a man, can possess reason?" Socrates continued, "Does not the human body resemble the earth on which man treads? Is not the water of your body a drop of the earthly water? Where does your reason come from? Whatever its origin, it is thanks to the soul granted to you that you have become a vessel of such high intelligence. You perceive the perfection, wholeness and harmony of the law whereby nature is created, you see and wonder, but you cannot comprehend what you see.
"Now, what do you think, is nature the purposeless outcome of chance or begotten by the possessor of infinite reason? The mystery lying beyond human ken can be explained if not by the will of reason, then by the force of immutable laws, which wisely coordinated the purpose of all creation."

"You have spoken truly, master," replied the pupil. "It is clear that the Creator possesses sublime intelligence. I do not doubt His omnipotence. Yet I do not cease to wonder why the almighty Creator should need my prayers."

"You are mistaken, Aristodemos! If there is someone who cares for your well-being, you are beholden to him. Must such a simple truth be explained to you?"

"But I do not know whether he cares about me or not," said Aristodemos.

"Then look at the animals and look at yourself. Do we perceive reality in the same way? Man is capable of thinking about his past, present and future. An animal has but a vague idea of past and present, and it cannot think of the morrow. Compare the outward appearance of man and beast. Man stands upright on two legs, the better to see what surrounds him. He can subjugate any animal to his will. The animals, however, rely only on their limbs and wings, they are unable to subdue their own kind. Had God created man as helpless as animals, he would have been good for nothing. Man has been created the master of all living things upon earth. Even if animals possessed human intelligence, their outward form would have hardly matched the capacity to toil, or teach oratory and virtue. Think, can a bull build a town, make tools and become a skilled artisan? The fact that God has endowed man with high intelligence and has placed this intelligence in such a perfect body, combining both spiritual power and moral beauty, is proof that God made man with loving care. All that considered, is not humankind obliged to worship God?"

Thus the master concluded his speech.

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