What is your personal philosophy?
Rob Riemen is the Founder, President, and CEO of the Nexus Institute, a leading international center for intellectual reflection to inspire the Western cultural and philosophical debate. Mr. Riemen is also the editor of the essay journal "Nexus."
He is the author of Nobility of Spirit: A Forgotten Ideal (2008), which has been translated into eighteen languages, and the new international bestseller To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism (2018)
Question: What is your personal philosophy?
Rob Riemen: Look, I don’t think I’m a true philosophical mind. I cannot be in those footsteps. But of course yes, I read things; and read things I became convinced about on certain levels. I mean related to philosophy of society, yes. Indeed this is the mindset of, I would like to say, liberal conservatives; liberal conservatives who . . . who are quintessential democratic minds, but do realize that the democracy cannot survive without a certain sense of aristocracy and a certain sense of – which is the title of my book – “The Nobility of Spirit”. “The Nobility of Spirit is the . . . it’s more fundementals. And yes, for that you need education, you need __________ and so on and so forth. So that’s . . . that’s . . . that’s one approach. The second, my more personal outlook of . . . of life and what can happen in life, Thomas Mann would say it’s a . . . it’s a pessimistic religious form of humanism – the fragility, the brokenness of our existence; and realizing as in ___________ of Wagner or if in India Jones and the Last Crusade, which is a retelling of the _______ for me – quite brilliantly done, I must say – life is a quest. Life is quintessentially a quest. And the meaning of life starts with the understanding that life is a quest. Now according to this myth of _________; according to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it’s the quest for the grail, right? Because with the grail it’s eternal life and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Now brilliantly done by Spielberg . . . Brilliantly done by Spielberg is the ordeals of Indiana Jones to, I presume, that most of the people __________ watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Before he can get to the cup, he has to do three tests. The first test is to show courage or something like that; then to understand the name of God; but the third is that he is tested on faith. And so he is . . . You might remember he is on this Grand Canyon, and he has to make a step. And he . . . Nobody . . . You know if you do a step in the Grand Canyon, you fall to your death. At that very moment there is “zip!” a kind of bridge and he can walk. It’s a beautiful metaphor of what faith is. Faith is trust, nothing else. It’s trust – the ultimate form of trust. And then when he is there he finds the cup. Of course it’s not very beautiful. It’s a very simple wooden thing. It’s been told look, this is not for us human beings. We . . . We are . . . Eternal life here on earth is not for us. Now Thomas Mann has something more profound to say about this grail quest in the line of ___________. Because he says the grail is nothing else than an understanding that the quintessence of our life is an ________; is . . . are questions to which we will never find a definite answer. And everybody who promises you to give you the definite answer is a liar. Don’t listen to him or her. Now again, as long as we keep in mind that we will not . . . that the questions are essential, our __________; and what is it that we have to do; and how can I make my life meaningful; but that we will never find a true, complete, definitive answer to it. As long as that is the case, we will remain aware of, you know, that we . . . that we . . . that we should find out okay, so what is freedom? What is true love? What is true friendship, and so on and so forth? And will also be the big warning against all those fundamentalists, or idiots, or liars who one way or the other want to say, you know, I can promise you this or that. There are no promises. There are no promises. And then maybe . . . And the last thing is, and it’s the most personal level, Thomas Mann also wrote . . . He retold the story of Joseph and his brothers – the biblical story of Joseph who went down into the jail, ____________ went to Egypt and then saved the Jewish people. And Joseph has to learn in his life three things. The first thing is that he has to have the intelligence to understand the signs. Because next to all the facts we are dealing with, we have to deal with there is a kind of super reality which speaks to you in signs. Understand the signs. The second thing is you must have the strength to resist temptations, because there is always the temptation of take the easy way; don’t do this; be rational; don’t take this risk. Resist the temptations. That is the first thing he has to learn. Then you will have to have the courage to follow your path. Do what you have to do. Don’t compromise. Don’t listen. Have confidence and just go for it. That’s how I try. Mentally I’m pessimistic. By nature I’m optimistic. If I were really pessimistic, I would try to start a restaurant, or try to become a banker, or you know do something to get myself a nice or whatever life. No, listen. I don’t believe . . . This is what I learned from Popper the great philosopher on the open society. I don’t believe in historical ____________. I don’t believe that by necessity everything will go down. I don’t believe that by necessary . . . that by necessity . . . that by necessity all things will be eternal progress and all will be well. I don’t believe it. As I said, “we the people”. I believe in the concept of responsibility; and that at any moment as long as we are still a free and democratic society – which again America and the west is, right? I mean you can get rid of your administration. People risk justice. It’s still there. We have to use it right now, take our responsibility, and you know on all kind of levels start to do the work. And then of course well there is . . . then at least there is some hope. There must be hope.
Recorded on: 10/3/07
Riemen invokes Indiana Jones to explain his personal philosophy of life.
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