Jiří Hermach - Reflections about Man, Life and Times
We picked a few selections from a popular book by the oldest living Czech philosopher from the chapter devoted to love. It was not meant to give the author’s complete view on this theme — but rather it was an attempt to acquaint the reader with some of the author’s thoughts and with his teaching style.
Life convinces us that love can touch every living being, every locality and that it can express itself in many forms. For example, man can love flowers, nature in general, or objects that are dear to him because they were made inviolable by some life happening, experience or reminiscence...
Once a physician and university professor told me about a life experience: His friends were traveling by car at night when they hit an owl flying about forty centimeters above the ground. The bird was practically dead when they brought it to him. I began sewing it up and treating it to the best of my ability. The owl slowly started to come back to life. It was interesting to observe how it allowed me to treat it without resistance. The restoration attempt was successful, the patient regained its health due to the doctor’s treatment, but it could not be released into the wild.
The owl turned into a devoted dog. It followed me around constantly — either flying or running. For example — when I sat down to write something at my desk, the owl flew to me and settled on my shoulder. Often when I woke up in the morning, I felt something warm on my face-the owl slept lying next to my cheek. That was the end of the doctor’s story.
Loving attentiveness, or just consideration for another human being has a beneficial influence that affects not only the one who is receiving the attention, but it also comes back to us. It is really a sort of interconnected current circulating between the two people which nourishes, restores and strengthens each one of them.
Love is a deep experience of a relationship which unites man with the loved being or object.
And because every little part of the world is interconnected by innumerable threads with the whole universe, every live and sufficiently deep love is connected to the total diversity of the world. Love’s companion is the joy of being alive which makes the world approachable, turning it into our friend; it creates in us a desire to learn more about it. One can say that we know really thoroughly only that what we love…
When we consider the love between man and woman, the kind that leads to living together, we are looking at one of the most substantial love relationships. This relationship shapes not only the kind of life of those two individuals, but it will also determine the basic nature of their children’s lives. It is not words, prohibitions and commands that will create the foundation for the future concept of life of their pre-school children — but the atmosphere which emanates from the parental relationship and their mutual love.
In a civilization which focuses on wealth, affluence and successes measurable by society’s recognition, love can easily be distorted into ownership — and, in reality, it is also in our country struggling through areas of deep misunderstanding and abusive degradation. The elusive instant of sexual closeness — often not even blissful but only gratifying the pressure of the sexual instinct — does not include a touch of love. It is one of the most significant warnings. It bears witness to the fact that our way of life is being frightfully distorted. Many people are feeling this already. But their thinking is constantly being manipulated by the ideology of abundance, consumerism, fleeting pleasures and fruitless entertainment, that they do not even notice how they are being alienated from their own lives. From the gift of love, from the love of life and from its enjoyment…
companion, it needs to be joined with truth. If this does not happen, then love starts to follow a path of illusions, of its own notions, a path which ignores reality. On the other hand one can say that when truth is separated from love, it turns into a merciless, exacting and unrelenting judge who gradually loses a vital understanding of human beings. In this sense - truth and love are a couplet whose unity is so very important in life. And therefore one must be very attentive to both, one must cultivate both love and truth and also their unity.
Reflections About Man, Life and Times (Praha, NLN 2006, www.nln.cz, ISBN 80- 7106-815-2). The book contains ten readable chapters by a philosopher who is still quite young in spirit. He complements his discussions about God, unity, relationships, man, nature, truth, pride, love and humanity with reminiscences and stories. He uses these to clarify for us some of his philosophical reflections, to challenge our thinking. He encourages us to become more gentle and refined, because he is convinced that just by using rough and rude speech we harm not only our environment, but also ourselves. Even in his written word we feel the author’s concern, the magic and vitality of the original spoken word, the spontaneity of the author’s lectures that have been — because of their great popularity — repeatedly broadcast since 1995 by Czech Radio, Station 3 — Vltava, a station that provides cultural programs (www.rozhlas.cz/vltava).
Reflections about Man
(Praha, Vladimír Kvasnička, nakladatelství Vodnář 2009, www.vodnar.eu, ISBN 978-80- 86226-94-1) is the title of the somewhat expanded second edition of Hermach’s book.
Doc. Ing. Jiři Hermach CSc.
was born in 1912 in Prague, where he also subsequently spent most of his life. Originally he worked as an engineer in the aviation industry. In addition to engineering and teaching at the university, he also devoted much time to physics, mathematics and to the philosophical problems of man. He worked more than ten years at the Philosophical Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. After having defended his thesis in philosophy (1967) he received his CSc. His work culminated in the Prague Spring in 1968. He had signed the Chart 77 — a critique of the regime — while already being employed as a factory worker together with thousands of other intellectuals who tried to regenerate Czech society. As a result of his political activity, he was not allowed to work in his chosen profession. Later he succeeded to emigrate to Austria. After November 1989 he lectured regularly on philosophy of man as a visiting professor at two colleges of Charles University in Prague.
In his most famous book Reflections he attempted to clarify and simplify rather difficult philosophical concepts for the general public. At present he lives in Hostivice near Prague. He is finishing another work called What Kind of Being Is Man?
The photograph taken by Jarmila Kutova shows Jiří Hermach and the editor of Reflections at a meeting held after a Czech Radio broadcast programs.Selected excerpts and following texts by Jarmila Lakosilova Translated by Marie Dolanska
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