One of the great joys of life is to know great men, not necessarily personally, but through looking at their art or reading their ideas, Obert C. Tanner told members of the Salt Lake Rotary Club this week.
A Rotary member for 40 years, founder and chairman of the O.C. Tanner Co., a well-known philanthropist and emeritus philosophy professor at the University of Utah, Tanner was the second speaker of the club's Statesmen of Utah series and spoke about listening."It is easy to listen to other men and more difficult to listen to ourselves, but the most difficult task is to listen when no one seems to be answering our questions," Tanner said.
Describing himself as a lifelong listener who has learned a host of lessons from other men and women, both great and common, and from great nations, religions, governments and historic events, Tanner said he believes the three greatest values in Western civilization are the Judeo-Christian ethic, the scientific method and the democratic way of life.
"The Judeo-Christian ethic teaches us that to hurt someone is wrong and to help someone is right and good. The scientific method, which was not fully realized until the time of Galileo, is man's greatest discovery and consists of, in essence, controlled experiments that are both publicly verifiable and repeatable.
"Democracy celebrates the spirit of the individual and is embodied in our Constitution, which is a document about human freedom."
If we listen to history, he said, we can learn a great deal. "We can learn about immortality from the Egyptians; reason from the ancient Greeks; law from the Romans; moderation from the Chinese; non-violence from India; and about peace of mind from the Orient; action and adventure from the Occident.
"The lesson of America," he said, "is freedom of opportunity."
Human life on earth is a great adventure, he said, just as leaving it when death calls is an adventure. "I have learned to live with probabilities. I have given up the search for absolutes. I live in a mood of tentative, provisional hypotheses.
"I have learned one important lesson," he told the Rotarians: "that moral values are more enduring than scientific probabilities."