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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Philosopher for a Day

by Bitner (bio)

My final class at business school was a unique leadership course called Leadership & Diversity Through Literature. It was taught by one of the sages of the school who hand-picked various iconic stories to use as case studies for leadership. We read about Chief Joseph, Don Quixote, King David, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Joan of Arc, and many others. It was a really fun exercise.

The classroom experience was heavily dependent upon class participation -- it was often half our grade, if not more. During one discussion about Joan of Arc, someone in class was discussing Joan's claim to be called of God. "I can't think of anything that we can be absolutely sure of, so it's hard for me to imagine myself being that certain that I was right [if I were Joan and thought I had received a 'call'.]"

Surprisingly, the professor did not drill down on the point of whether or not we can be certain of anything. And the idea that we are sure of nothing struck me as a non-truth.

I sat there stewing on it for a few minutes while the class discussion quickly moved on to other topics.

Soon, the professor called on me for my thoughts on 'what we can take away from the story of Saint Joan.' My response (it's not verbatim, but it's pretty close):

"For me the salient message of Joan of Arc is that she was certain about what she was called to do and she had the courage to act on that thing about which she was certain. Now, the question was raised earlier, 'Can we be sure of anything?' and I think the only answer to that question is, 'Yes!' because if the answer is 'No' then in the very act of saying we cannot be sure of anything, we are, therefore, saying that we are sure of something! (lots of laughs erupt, not sure if they are at me or not). I believe that we can be sure of some things. And that gives me hope."

[Sidenote: My mind must have been so drained from philosphizing that I failed to wrap up the comment by neatly tying it back to Joan and leadership.]

It may never happen again, but on that day I was a philosopher.

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