A New Direction

I had an “a ha” moment today. I’m going to start blogging about a complex topic which I’ve only hinted at over the past six years. I don’t even know what to call it because I DO NOT want to be the next New Age self help guru; but there’s going to be times when I sound like I am. I plan on making NO money off this. Rather, it’s in the charitable spirit of good will and philosophy (discovery of truth).

You are going to hear names and terms like Deepak Chopra, Roy Masters, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Howard Stern, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, John Lennon, Frederick Von Hayek, Jesus, the Bible, Aristotle, Stoicism, Sam Harris, and Robert Wright, and many others (many esoteric ones), all tied together to support a comprehensive teaching.

None of them is an “authority” because, as we know (or should) appeal to authority is a logical fallacy. Indeed, I take issue with most of the above named on certain, sometimes many issues. All of this is, for the most part, compatible with Aristotle and philosophy 101.

Therefore, I am no authority. I say things that are true because they are and it’s up to you to “see” that. And if you don’t, oh well. You can’t push or bully people into truth, at least not in an emotionally healthy way for either party. That is, one of my truth discoveries.

There are emotionally healthy and unhealthy ways of accepting and living by truth.

I’ll give an example. Truth: It’s good to wash your hands a few times a day to avoid germs. The healthy way of living that truth: Wash your hands a few times a day on autopilot, unthinkingly. The unhealthy way: Worrying about getting sick and washing your hands, compulsively. An intrusive thought comes into your head: “You better wash your hands or else you are going to get sick!” Coupled with anxiety.

Truth: The voice in your head is unhealthy and unneeded. It is a metaphorical demon that needs to be exorcised.

And then the compulsive hand washer brags to everyone about how much he washes his hands and hasn’t had a cold in 5 years. The person accomplishes a positive result but for the wrong reasons. Something dark and unhealthy, evil indeed, motivates them and takes a psychological toll.

This is, I believe, a more dangerous form of obsessive compulsive “disorder” because the person who turns the lights on and off five times before entering the room or else something horrible will happen is (or usually is) consciously aware that no rhyme or reason justifies the ritual. Yet, the person who washes the hands can rationalize (the perfect tool for human delusion) the unhealthy way of ultimately, doing the responsible thing (washing your hands to avoid germs).

The right way to learn truth is for folks to accept it on their own, not as a response to emotional pressure. To have an “a ha” moment, precisely NOT because someone told them it was true and tried to bully them into it. The bully might be in possession of that aspect of truth (while simultaneously having something wrong with them that makes them bully). And if they succeed in bullying someone into accepting X, it comes with unhealthy resentment. Reverse psychological effects, also, abound precisely for this reason.

You may need to, because you have no other choice, humiliate someone who intends to harm you to protect yourself; and once out of the picture, they can figure things out themselves.

(The example I’m thinking of is a bully comes after you to impress his friends and you slap him down, if you can. Hopefully, he will eventually stop bullying people. If not, to Hell with him. God or Fate will get him in the end.)

Or, if he comes to you for help, you can help him (and you would if you didn’t resent him; resentment, as an emotion, we will later see, is never justified; you must forgive those who have done you wrong, for your sake more so than theirs).

But humiliation when you could have handled the situation patiently is wrong. In terms of the parent child model, it’s a form of imperfection that is endemic to much of middle class society who otherwise make “good” parents (that is, where the parents remain intact and otherwise provide for their children and do not physically abuse them; Howard Stern will provide a great example later).

Sam Harris and Robert Wright are an extremely important part of the mix because they too seem to be “on” to some of these things, but have credibility with hard nosed scientific, skeptically minded folks. Not that “credibility” with anyone matters in terms of truth discovery (that’s just another form of the appeal to authority logical fallacy). But I do want to show that these things are compatible with hard nosed scientific skepticism and philosophy 101.

Likewise, I will discuss what the West can learn from the East. Certainly, Western Civilization invented a disproportionate share of “modernity” that’s been exported to much of the non-Western world. Indeed, many Asian nations now seem to be beating the West at this game. Modernity, technology, scientific achievement. These are good. But the East has, I think, much it could teach the West in terms of “how to deal with things.”

And who knows, maybe this has been all part and parcel of the West all along, even “Judeo-Christianity.” One of the above mentioned names actually argues this IS authentic Judeo-Christianity, completely compatible with everything the Bible says and in fact, what Jesus is all about.

I’m not sold that this is Judeo-Christianity, but it may well be authentically Western. I had another “a ha” moment when teaching Buddhism to my international business class. (Again, I doubt I am the first, in fact, I am almost certain I am not, to make this connection; but the fact that I had the “a ha” moment made the discovery all the more valuable.)

So much of Buddhism with its idea of resigning oneself to Fate sounds like Stoicism (the philosophy of the pre-Imperial, pre-Christian, noble pagan republican Romans). And indeed we get much of this Stoicism synthesized with Judeo-Christian Providence in the American Founding. As George Washington said: “the ways of Providence [are] inscrutable….” More modern folks have said, “let go and let God.” God might not exist. To the atheist or agnostic, “let go and let Fate.” As Neil Peart put it: Roll the Bones.

In many ways, this is something that I’ve been looking into my entire life; but for years my mind was undisciplined, unaware of the logical fallacies in philosophy. I might go off half cocked and sometimes half joking during a drunken college bull session, seeking to get at the truth, but find out years later that I was full of shit.

I am at a point now where I think I’ve found a great deal of truth that I am ready to discuss. Though admittedly, I have much to learn. I am wise enough to know I don’t have the whole truth.

What the Hell am I talking about? You are going to have to wait and see as this unfolds.

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6 Responses to A New Direction

  1. One brief and possibly irrelevant comment on Christianity and Buddhism (and I am probably making mistakes here in my characterization of both):

    It seems to me that one essential feature that Christianity and Buddhism have in common is the rejection of the self. For Buddhism, it is the rejection of the ego and for Christianity it is the rejection of pride.

    I have no idea if this has anything to do with the new direction you are going. I just thought I’d pass this (probably unoriginal) thought along.

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    Thanks for this. Yes, it certainly does have something to do with the direction. This philosophy is certainly anti-egotistical. It may well be, to the chagrin of my Randian friends, selfless.

  3. Yahzi says:

    There is only one truth, and it is several thousand years old:

    All that exists are atoms and the void; all else is opinion.

    Your faith in “Fate” is childish. Fate doesn’t exist, unless you mean to refer to the laws of physics; and they manifestly do not care about you. To the Laws of Physics, there is only a trivial difference between you as a functioning organism and you as a bag of rotting meat; whereas to you, one assumes, the difference is rather dramatic.

    The LoP do not share your concerns; “letting go and letting Fate” is another way of saying, “Fuck it, I quit.” The purpose of human life is to produce more human life; one aspect of that is the production of human goods such as Justice. We care about justice; we must struggle and fight to create justice, just as we must struggle to survive. The LoP, on the other hand, are serenely unconcerned with such petty human issues.

    Surrendering yourself to the inevitable may make you feel good, but it is ultimately a betrayal of the human condition. You, like all the god-botherers, are not actually on our side; you are on the side of your own convenience, and if that means taking your direction from non-human powers, you’re more than happy to do so – as long as it’s easy, of course.

    Go tell the rape victims in Darfur to “let go and let Fate.” Just because you are a member of the tiny minority of humans who managed to survive without having to make hard decisions or sacrifices does not give you a priviliged view of truth; it just reveals your privilege.

    Life is a struggle to create justice, meaning, and beauty. It is only a pleasure cruise for the handful lucky enough to float on the top of everyone else’s efforts, and the last thing we want to hear from you aristocrats is how much Truth you’ve discovered in your well-fed navel.

  4. Jon Rowe says:

    “Go tell the rape victims in Darfur to ‘let go and let Fate.'”

    Well you are just going to have to stick with me and see if you can see this yourself, which, I am trying to present in a way that is 100% compatible with atheism.

    Let go and let Fate is completely compatible with, and in fact, the best, most efficient way to achieve “Justice,” as you would most likely understand it, for this rape victim.

    It does not, as you will see, equate with apathy in action.

  5. Heidegger says:

    Yahzi,

    Do you by chance know where I can cop some good cyanide? Desperately need a long nap. Oh, and Dr. Einstein said God doesn’t play dice with this universe. I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’re not a member of the Tea Party. And what is this, “floating on top of everyone’s efforts”? We create our own misery and ecstasy. Aristocrats? HA!

  6. AMW says:

    Heidegger,

    I’ll cop to being among the world’s aristocrats. My standard of living beats a good 99.5% of the world’s population (but I’d wager it only beats 75% of my countrymen’s standard of living).

    What I don’t accept is the notion that I uniquely stand atop the efforts of others. Every person who isn’t a hermit, no matter how poor, requires the effort of others for his very sustenance. If he’s trading value for value, there’s nothing shameful or sinister about that.

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