The Strife is O’er

The strife is o’er, the battle done,
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.

Deep within the soul of every man and woman resides the spirit of God, burning like a fire to transform the man into the likeness of the Unknowable. But there is a struggle between our infinite, immortal selves and our finite, physical selves. Our finite, physical selves fight for our evolutionary urges to survive. Our infinite selves want us to embrace the paradoxes of living and put our survival concerns aside in favor of a higher and more spiritual way of existing.

This is why the Resurrection is so essential to embracing the mystical, immaterial way of living–if we fear death, our evolutionary impulses will always override our spiritual yearning. If we live in fear of the grave, or in its shadow, we are incapable of putting aside the gnawing concerns that lead us to seek self-preservation and immediate gratification. For death follows us from phase to phase in our life, reminding us that we have only a certain amount of time. Aging is a sort of slow death that pushes people to waste their youth in pursuit of the most vain pleasures. It pushes older people to go to extreme measures to recapture their youth. All of this is counter to a spiritual existence.

But the Resurrection frees us from these concerns. The reality that Death has been conquered for us, that the grave is not the end of our existence gives us hope eternal that we can quell our evolutionary urges since we can see them as the farce that they are. In the angelic light of the Empty Tomb, we can know that if we make the decision to live in mercy and love, yielding to others, lowering ourselves to serve, we are not actually sacrificing anything, but rather gaining everything by living and walking in unity with the Divine Presence of I AM THAT I AM.

25420_full_523x719 (1)

By forgoing all of the distractions and medications we normally employ to reduce the pains of existence, we paradoxically suffer more in order that we might eventually cease suffering altogether. The more unified we are with the spirit of the Unknowable dwelling inside of us, the more we give power to the Infinite and the more we see the absurdity of being governed by the Finite, the more we are able to embrace our true freedom, and the less our existential pains cause us to suffer.

Indeed, the Resurrection is the ultimate solution to the pains of existence, for those pains are brought about by our coming to terms with our smallness and limitedness. The Resurrection gives us insight into our Limitlessness through the Infinite existence of God who dwells within our soul and who is ever-present in our life and struggle. The Resurrection gives us new life because it bears witness to the gift of immortality bought for us by the suffering of the Living God Incarnate on Good Friday.

Living in the glory of the Resurrection our strife truly is over. Our battle and victory are truly won. But we must then become conscious of this blessed reality and begin living and moving in its Truth.

 

God is Love

We were born to love–to love unconditionally and without cease, to pour out ourselves to others and give from the limitless depths of our own soul the imitation of God’s divine love for us, a fountain of joy and a spring of refreshing hope. Our world knows very little of love. What we colloquially refer to as love, or falling in love, or being in love could hardly be farther from true love. We do not understand it. It would be wiser to avoid the pretenses of love if we are to be ignorant of its substance.

The substance of Love is conceptually easy to understand, but difficult to grasp through our life and action, harder still to feel deep within ourselves its truth. The ancient wisdom of what Love is comes to us through the words of St Paul, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not arrogant; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own things, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth; love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Everything else will fail. Money, power, status, health, life itself, but the Empire of Love reigns sovereign over the world forever. Love can, but need not be directed toward A Beloved, of course. Certainly such limitation would be an offensive reduction of that most infinite and irreducible universal quality, that singular beauty and magnificent Identity of God Himself–GOD IS LOVE. No other noun is so blessed with such an elevated place in language–no other noun is so enthroned in the Divine Dwelling. It is Love which as the noumenal identity of YHWH, is ALPHA AND OMEGA, it is Love that is BEGINNING AND END, FIRST AND LAST.

There is neither precedent nor subsequent to Love, as there is neither precedent nor subsequent to God. In the beginning there was Love and Logos, hovering over the waters in darkness. And then Love brought the Light to the world which would become Sun and Son, Light that would from all eternity adopt us in Love as sons of the Living Love, the ever-immanent, ever-transcendent God of Love who made the universe out of the compulsion of Love, for whom Creating was not one choice among many, but written into the Divine Character of Love. Love is always Creative, always Dynamic.

Love can never know stasis, for stasis does not move and all that does not move is dead. Love, however, is eternally living, Eternal Life, and therefore must constantly be in motion. It is here we must pause to reflect on the great mystery of Time and Eternity. If what we say about God is true, if what we say about Love is true, then we must conclude that the universe and God have existed eternally together–that is, that time and space have themselves existed for all eternity as the creative work of the God of Love. For if God is Love, and if Love is eternally creative, then we cannot fathom a God prior to Creation, we cannot describe a God in stasis.

Our finite and limited minds cannot make sense of this. When the saints write of the depths of the mystery of God, this must certainly be among them. Rather than fleeing from such mystery, rather than vainly attempting to explain such mystery with science or philosophizing, let us rather revel in this Divine Mystery, absorb it through the pores of our hearts and permit it to fire betwixt the synapses of our minds, to permeate into the core of our being, to consume our every fiber, string, and cell, to overpower our will until our only thought, our only desire, our only consideration is to imitate the creative Love of the Divine Mystery, to make ourselves timeless through such acts of Love, to disappear from our mortality and become immortal by placing our being in the path of the breath of God so that our lungs may never fail in and through all eternity, with Love as our limitless respiration.

The self, the ego, the super ego fade into utter irrelevance under such conditions, they are suffocated by the pure oxygen of Love. “I need,” “I want,” “Give me,” “Mine,” lose their very meaning as the fiction of what they symbolize is exposed to us as we draw ever-nearer to the Spirit of God, as a mirage in the desert disappears as it is approached, as the representations of things in rocks and fogs and clouds reveal themselves as figments of our imagination with growing proximity–so are do our illusions of separation, alienation, distinction, boredom, absurdity, anxiety, meaninglessness disappear as we submerge ourselves in the depths of the river of life.

As we are baptized into the Grace of Eternity, the sufferings of the temporal life become not merely bearable, but joyful, for they occur to us as opportunities to expand our capacity to Love, to strengthen our ability to reach beyond ourselves, our own limitations, and tap into the ceaseless fountain of Love, that springs from the soul of God and extend it to all people with whom we interact, to expand the universe with such Love, to nurture and feed and thereby grow ourselves and one another, verifying and bearing witness to the Unknowable and Ineffable Spirit of All.

Indeed, if only we would be so bold, so brave, so daring to drown ourselves in this Love, we might find the anguish of existence to be fully extinguished. It is in this we find the merit of the paradox of death and rebirth. Only in dying may we awake to Life, only in ceasing to exist may we find vibrancy in existing in Love, in being connected eternally to the Spirit of God and our fellow man.

A Lenten Prayer

Loving God,

Awake my soul to your splendor, compassion, and Love.

Awake in my spirit the joy that exists deep within, but which has lied dormant for most of my life due to my laziness, vanity, and pride.

Renew my gratitude for all of the gifts you have bestowed upon me–

for my health, my mental acuity, my kind heart, my gentleness, my capacity to give and receive Love,

for my fortunate circumstances in having the support and confidence of others to build a place of healing for the world,

for my sweet mother, my loyal brother, my supportive friends, the affection and ever-present companionship of my dogs,

for the experiences that have led me to grow in mind and spirit–however chastising they may feel to be at times,

for a future I cannot know, except that it holds unimaginable opportunities to Live Fully, Love Unconditionally, to heal and to be healed,

and for the knowledge that I am never alone, never forgotten, never neglected in this life.

Grant me that in this day and all that are to come that I may be disciplined to improve my diligence in my labor and relationships,

that I never again take for granted the people who love me and give of themselves for my benefit,

that I may learn to be more sensitive and responsive to the needs of those most dear to me,

that I may be defended against my own proclivities toward self-pity and despair,

that I may strive in all of my comings and goings to be of a peaceful disposition, in times of both mirth and sadness,

ever-anchored in the knowledge that you have granted me agency over my actions, freedom of will, control of my emotions,

and it is only I, in my indolence and sloth, that allow myself to be discontented

only I that permit myself to endure the illegitimate suffering that vanquishes joy and alienates my loved ones.

May austerity, whether of material things, affection, companionship, or of any other kind never grieve me again,

May prosperity in these things never again lull me into complacence.

In and Through, and ever-strengthened, edified, and uplifted by Christ the Archetype of all that is Good, all that is Love, all that is to be desired,

Now and Forever.

Amen.

What Tim Geithner’s New Book Should be Called

No interesting emails this week, so Inbox Wednesday is out the window in favor of something humorous. A friend of mine and I had a funny interchange on Facebook today about what outgoing Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner’s upcoming book about the financial crisis should be called. Enjoy.

geithner_rect

 

Dan: So Tim Geithner is writing a book about the financial crisis and the bailout? What’s he going to call it? The Yuan Also Rises?

Skinner: All the Gold’s Men

Dan: A Tale of Two Citis

Dan: The Interest They Carried

Skinner: Trouble with T-Bills

Dan: Tuesdays with Moral Hazard

Skinner: Fed Dawn

Skinner: Weekend at Bernanke’s

Dan: Loansome Dove

Skinner: Ben Fulds Five (Trillion)

Dan: What to Expect When Your Expecting…a Bailout. Chapter One: Libor Pain

Skinner: When Barney Met Sallie

Skinner: Crouching Libor, Hidden Lagging

Dan: Great Inflation Expectations

Skinner: The Fellowship of the Bling

Skinner: Bigger, Longer, and Unchecked

Dan: A Farewell to ARMs

Dan: Larry Summers Night’s Dream

Skinner: Illegally Bond

Dan: Lender’s Game

Skinner: Gore & Pieces

Dan: Paulson Shrugged

Skinner: Balk the Corzine

Dan: Fried Greenspan Tomatoes

Skinner: Crime & Punishment…oh…wait…

Dan: The Scum Diary

Skinner: The Diary of Barney Frank (with eerily similar ending…)

Skinner: The Greed Amigos

Dan: Dimons Are Forever

Dan: The AIG of Ignorance

Skinner: Point Blankfein

Skinner: Terror of MechaMozilo

Dan: Tango & Kashkari

 

 

You Can’t Love Ironically

There was an article in the NYT Opinionator blog that I read today entitled How to Live Without IronyI posted it to Facebook with an endorsement and one of my friends suggested that he would rather hear what I had to say on the subject. So this is a formulation of my own rejection of the ironic culture of Hipsterdom, which whether we like to admit it or not, has subsumed the rest of our culture.

The article talks about irony as being a self-defense mechanism and a manifestation of risk aversion. This is quite true, and it is for these reasons that we find the truly cancerous nature of it: it precludes the possibility of love.

Love cannot be defensive. Love cannot be averse to risk. Love cannot be ironic, because love requires authenticity. Love requires suffering, because love is oriented toward growth, and there can be no growth without suffering.

We are uncomfortable loving and expressing love, for many reasons. We fear it may not be reciprocated. We fear it makes us weaker. We fear its loss. And so, we armor ourselves against these outcomes, but in doing so, we armor ourselves against love itself.

Love is woundedness. Love cannot be disinterested. Love requires the focused and fused engagement of both intellect and compassion.

The ironic culture says “You can’t hurt me because I don’t care.” It says “Nothing human, so I don’t have to put out an effort.” It says “What matters are impersonal Others, the faceless corporations and governments I criticize, the impersonal ‘planet’ I say needs to be saved, the ‘peoples’ of different cultures I say are being oppressed.” These are as far removed from love as you can get.

There can be no love within the sterile confines of irony.

We say “Love you” instead of “I Love You”

We say “Thanks” instead of “Thank You”

We say “Appreciate it!” instead of “I appreciate You”

This is not mere short hand or convenience, it is the outworking of our fear to express genuinely, to bind ourselves, to commit ourselves. Indeed, the Ironic is the ultimate abdication of commitment, and we undoubtedly live in the least committed society the world has ever seen, with loose ties and fleeting interest dominating our human relationships, our careers, and even our perception of our own Identity.

Thinking does not precede Behavior, and Behavior does not precede Thinking. They are mutually reinforcing. If we behave a certain way over time, we will eventually think that way. If we think a certain way over time, we will eventually behave that way. I fear that we are losing the capacity to feel, to mourn, to yearn authentically enough to carry out the difficult business of love.

We cannot love humanity, only humans. And we can only love humans by extending ourselves for the benefit of their growth. It’s simply something that cannot be done ironically.

Distilled Philosophy Digest Issue #1

brevity

Welcome to the first installment of Distilled Philosophy. This one is going to be a lot longer than it will usually be, because it is a digest of my distilled philosophical reflections since the beginning of January, and usually it will be just for the preceding week. Please leave your thoughts, responses, etc., and if you like anything in particular, please Tweet and/or Share on Facebook. Although not required, I would love it if you would give me a shout out– @skinnerlayne on Twitter and “Skinner Layne” on Facebook.

I

To relate is to heal, and to be healed.

II

Always think well. If you are endowed with great mental faculties, it is a waste to spend them any other way. And if you aren’t, you don’t have anything to spare on anything else.

III

One need not be passive in order to be a pacifist.

IV

To be willing to die for freedom is brave. To refuse to kill for it is virtuous. May we all learn to be both brave and virtuous.

V

The design mind is beautiful. It can articulate what to the rest of us are just vague impressions about aesthetic life.

VI

Humility does not mean that you must think poorly of yourself, but rather that you must defer your own needs in favor of others’.

VII

Envy arises from laziness in doing the work you need to achieve, and from ignorance of what you should uniquely want for yourself that nobody else already has.

VIII

Self-deprecation is often the falsest form of humility.

IX

Lend your books without reservation, don’t worry if you won’t get them back. A book worth sharing is a book worth re-purchasing.

X

A man can only be truly free when he accepts both that he has nothing of value anybody can take away from him and incalculable value he can create for others.

XI

Institutions cannot develop human potential, but people can. Institutions must create the space for that to happen.

XII

People are like plants: in order to bear fruit, they must be rooted in something.

XIII

If you really do “have it all together,” chances are you are totally miserable.

XIV

The Old Testament is man’s response to God. The New Testament is God’s response to man.

XV

To decide to live is to not commit suicide today. To decide to be alive is to not commit suicide gradually every day.

XVI

There is a life experiment most people are trying but shouldn’t: Do what everybody else is doing and hope to come out ahead.

XVII

Without radical doubt, there cannot be radical faith.

XVIII

A just and orderly society should be characterized by laws that are thusly made: Everything not explicitly prohibited is permitted. Very few things are explicitly prohibited and any reasonable man of average intelligence and little study could at all times be aware of those things that are.

XIX

Beyond the human toll of the tragedy of the 20th century’s experimentation with totalitarianism, the worst lasting impact of it is that it raised the bar for what people are willing to call tyranny.

XX

The future will be determined by those who are conscious of, but not tied to the past.

XXI

The hypocrisy of disarmament is that it would be enforced by people who are heavily armed.

XXII

Most people learn the wrong lessons from failed experiments. This is rooted in the mistaken belief that an experiment with an other-than-desired outcome is a failure.

XXIII

Don’t over-think. Experiment. There is no such thing as over-experimenting.

XXIV

The truly radical reformer is not the man who wants to change everything about the world, but who wants to change just the one thing that matters, knowing that everything else will change as a result.

XXV

It is a dangerously slippery slope from “Some things could be known a priori” to “Many things are.”

XXVI

The medicalization of the mind is among the 3 most disastrous sociological trends of the second half of the 20th Century.

XXVII

Depending on context, “That is so American of you” can be the finest compliment or the gravest insult.

XXVIII

Most of the time it’s not that people make the wrong kinds of sacrifices for those they love, but they make them toward the wrong ends. They sacrifice so that their loved ones may have more, instead of so they can become more.

XXIX

Liberty does not guarantee virtue. If you want a world characterized by liberty, you would do well to first build a world characterized by virtue.

XXX

Contemporary “mental health” professionals are just legalized drug dealers in most cases.

XXXI

A tribe is an identity without Community.

XXXII

Free Markets eventually zero out economic profit. If you want to eliminate the super wealthy, you have to eliminate the artificial barriers to entry in the market that prevent this from happening.

XXXIII

Linear-thinking is the best way to ensure that your life will flat-line.

XXXIV

Forget life plans. Forget “where do you want to be in 10 years?” All of that is complete bullshit and is making you miserable. Think about what you want to be doing tomorrow. Then figure out how to do that thing and do it amazingly well. Then, in 5 years, when you don’t want to do that anymore, you can figure out what you want to do next.

XXXV

On Facebook, ignorance usually triumphs.

XXXVI

There is only one path toward giving unconditional love: doing the daily work of identifying and expunging conditions, one by one.

XXXVII

There is a big difference between communities and Community.

XXXVIII

There are two kinds of days worth living: days of inspiration and days of perspiration. If you aren’t having the former, make sure you have the latter.

XXXIX

Finding happiness is like finding the end of a rainbow. Better look for something more useful instead.

XL

Forget discovering your passion. This is the wrong way to think about the question. We must determine our passion. It’s up to us. We aren’t born with it. It’s not ingrained our genetics. It is up to us to choose. Choose wisely.

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

Nineteenth century evangelical preacher D.L. Moody once told the following story,

On a dark, stormy, night, when the waves rolled like mount­ains, and not a star was to be seen, a boat, rock­ing and plung­ing, neared the Cleve­land har­bor. “Are you sure this is Cleve­land?” asked the cap­tain, see­ing only one light from the light-house.
“Quite sure, sir,” re­plied the pi­lot.
“Where are the low­er lights?”
“Gone out, sir.”
“Can you make the har­bor?”
“We must, or per­ish, sir!”
And with a strong hand and a brave heart, the old pi­lot turned the wheel. But alas, in the dark­ness he missed the channel, and with a crash upon the rocks the boat was shiv­ered, and ma­ny a life lost in a wat­ery grave. Breth­ren, the Mas­ter will take care of the great light-house: let us keep the low­er lights burn­ing!

I have no context for the original telling of the story, so I don’t know what Moody was subsequently using it to say (a safe bet I probably wouldn’t have agreed), but it is a powerful gem of a story. Contemporary Christians in the West are preoccupied with trying to manage the great light-house–“saving” society from the great “evils” that modernity and post-modernity have brought in the wake of social progress. They are busy being cultural warriors when we should all be resolutely committed to being humble servants. Yet we find little such service and even less humility amongst our ranks.

It seems that the reason for this is we have been wrongly led toward false vocations within our Christian life. Our job is not to save other people’s souls. We can’t even save our own. Salvation seems like a great light-house kind of matter to me.

Our job is not to keep society from “going to hell in a hand-basket,” the public life of billions of people around the globe sounds like great-light house stuff too.

But the lower lights, those we can turn on anew each morning. We can show kindness to friend and stranger. We can yield our own interests to the needs of others. We can humbly serve the people around us. We can be beacons of peace in a world torn apart by violence. Yet all too often we do not do these things, because as it turns out, keeping these lower lights aflame is a lot harder than it sounds. So we would rather give up trying entirely or else dress up in spiritual warfare fatigues that make us look like some sort of Christian Don Quixotes and pretend we are holy and righteous in the way that we wring our hands about the loss of God in society.

This is a grave hypocrisy, the gravest hypocrisy of the Christian today, and it is no wonder that the Church is being evacuated en masse in the West. The outside of the bowl is clean, but the inside is filthy. We must reconsider what it means to be a Christian, because our current Western cultural conception of it is bankrupt both spiritually and ethically.

We need a more humble Christian to match the humility of the suffering God we find on the Cross at Calvary.

We need a more loving Christian to match the sacrificial love of our Lord in his death.

We need a more accepting Christian to match the way Jesus kept company with tax collectors and prostitutes.

We need a more meditative Christian to match the Christ who withdrew himself from the presence of others in order to defeat the temptations of Sin.

We need a more giving Christian, one who can keep the lower lights burning as Jesus himself met the temporal needs of the hungry, the sick, and the lonely.

If we do not become this kind of Christian, the Church will fade from memory within another generation. If the leaders of the institutional Church led the way, much of the remaining membership would no doubt make their way to the exits. This kind of Christianity will run off most church-attending Christians in the West. But such a purge is urgently necessary. The dead branches must be pruned away. The demagogues and pharisees need to be shown the door.

Then, perhaps, the ear of the world will be open to the message of love, forgiveness, and adoption of the Jesus I know.

The Dangers of Anesthesia

An unusually high rate of complications and even spiritual deaths associated with general anesthesia have been reported in people using specific anesthetics common in contemporary life, including: Facebook, Video Games, iPhones, Alcohol, Recreational Drugs, Vacation, Serf Labor, and Dogmatic Religion. These anesthetics may prove highly addictive, sought out to ward off the pain of existence and preventing one from confronting the meaninglessness of his or her life.

It is reported that most people use one or more of these anesthetics for hours each day, distracting themselves from their suffering, loneliness, disappointment, and failure. Most users will not even recognize the root causes of their habitual abuse of these anesthetics due to the widespread social acceptance of their use.

Symptoms indicating over-reliance and abuse of anesthetics may include: use of fatalistic language to describe one’s circumstances, frequent reference to the necessity of one’s actions and the disclaiming of one’s freedom of choice in most or all matters, the denial of viable alternatives, and ascribing outcomes to something other than the natural consequences of one’s own actions.

Sustained excessive usage of anesthetics may cause permanent damage to one’s ability to feel emotion, relate to other people, achieve one’s own goals and aspirations in life, and will in almost all cases severely stunt spiritual and emotional growth. Substituting these anesthetics for legitimate experience with the outside world is not only harmful to the health of the user, but to everybody around them.

Recommended treatment for anesthetic abuse is the immediate cessation of use for a period of time for detoxification. After sustained detoxification has been achieved, it is recommended that appropriate use of any common anesthetic be limited only to narrow and specific, non-anesthetic use. Relapse is all but guaranteed in most patients, and therefore must be guarded against with great care.

To assist with detoxification, it is recommended that the user undergo self-therapy through reading, journaling, and productive, life-affirming work that is consistent with the user’s legitimate internal wants and desires for his or her life. Philosophy, psychology, prayer/meditation, and authentic conversation with others is highly recommended to insure against relapse and to improve the overall health of the patient during recovery.

Necessity is a Pitiful Excuse for Anything

We frequently describe our actions and desires in terms of needs or necessities. “I have to do ______” is one of the most common linguistic formulations in the English language. Living in Latin America, I can also attest to the equivalent in Spanish being quite common. When asked to explain the assumptions behind such a statement, a person will often answer that they must do something because somebody else expects it of them, or because they will be punished by somebody or God for not doing it. They might explain that they have a physical or biological necessity that compels them to do it. Or they might reason that they must do something because it is part of their identity as a person, and to not do it would be to violate their own identity.

For the most part, this is all garbage. When you justify your actions by necessity (excluding the most basic, true necessities–breathing, drinking water, minimal sleeping, and sustenance eating), you are attempting to disclaim responsibility for your actions, to borrow a phrase from Eric Fromm, you are attempting to escape from freedom. This attempted escape leaves you much worse off than you would be if you embraced your freedom of choice in matters that you normally ascribe to necessity because it means that your actions are predicated on unexamined assumptions that may turn out to be false.

Let’s take the family expectations example and work through it. “I have to do X because my family expects me to.” This is a common one in Latin American culture. Imagine, though, if you rephrased the statement honestly:

“I am doing X because if I don’t my family will be disappointed with me and I am afraid of the pain I will experience by being rejected by my family.”

In this formulation, you are accepting that you are free not to do X, but the reason you freely choose to do X is your fear of rejection. Once you understand the reason for your historic pattern of choices in this regard, you are able to determine whether or not this is a sufficient justification for present and future action, embracing your freedom to disappoint your family and determining how you can overcome the pain of rejection. Then, in cases where you want to do what your family expects, you do so with great joy, because it is what you truly want to do. And in cases where you want to do something other than what your family expects, you are freed to do so because you have no longer reduced your action to brutish necessity.

We’ll examine one more example for this post and then hopefully if anybody has any other examples or counter-examples they can share them in the comments section for further discussion.

This one is intentionally controversially and provocative, and I have selected it because I believe it will force more people to really challenge the way they view necessity in decision making. Take the issue of fidelity in a committed long-term relationship. For most people who are not cheaters, it would be very common to say “I can’t have sex with another person because I am in a committed relationship.” Note the operative word “can’t,” denoting necessity. It excludes the possibility by definition. However, clearly you can have sex with some other person outside of the bounds of your relationship. People do it every day. It is simply inaccurate to claim otherwise, unless you have some sort of strange medical condition that literally physiologically prevents you from having sexual relations with somebody other than your spouse/partner (I have never heard of such a condition, but we could imagine it might exist somewhere).

No copping out, either–you can’t amend the statement to say “I can’t because I made a commitment and I always keep my commitments” or something like that, because there is not a living person who literally always keeps their commitments. We all break some commitments. We choose to break some, and we choose to keep others. The moral questions involved in this are to be saved for another day. What we are discussing today is merely the existential possibility of the actions being contemplated.

So why do you choose not to cheat on your spouse/partner? Some possibilities could include: you fear they might find out and subsequently end the relationship, the guilt you would feel for cheating on them, the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease from the third party, etc. These are all good reasons, and having established them as the justification for freely choosing not to cheat, you have accomplished something rather important, you have removed one of the most insidious human motivations to do something, which is that you do it because it’s forbidden (i.e. wanting what you can’t have).

By embracing your freedom to have sex with whomever you want, you are able to see that the actual decision to do so could be damaging to yourself and one or more other people. Your decision not to cheat is thus an exercise of freedom, not the contrary. There is this false belief that liberation means acting without limitation. It pervades because people have failed to consider what is meant by limitation. If by limitation we mean that we refrain from acting in a certain way because we have utilized our gift of reason to consider the consequences and have deemed them undesirable, then to claim that the liberated person must not be limited would ultimately lead to all liberated persons dying tragically through some act of genuine stupidity.

On the contrary, the person who recklessly sleeps with everybody who shows them a passing interest is the person acting out of necessity and not freedom, cementing evolutionary urges as biological necessity. I am not making a moral judgment, and I think post-modern society must come to terms with its need to redevelop sexual ethics–not by returning to some Victorian prudishness–but also not by falling prey to the myth that we are just animals and should act however we feel compelled to do so in the moment.

We are free to choose one way or the other in every circumstance in our lives. Only by embracing this freedom, and accepting the consequences of being responsible for our own lives are we able to transcend the bonds of necessity and emerge into the psychological independence required to reach our full creative, productive, and compassionate potential we have as human beings.

 

There is No You

There is no authentic You trapped inside, trying to get out. There is no real You under the surface that needs to be discovered or found. There is no You that a backpacking trip to India will unearth. There is no You that is supposed to be doing something great.

There is only the You that exists. The You whose existence you work to make into something meaningful. It will only be through your working out of the issues of your existence that will lead, or not lead, to something great, or something mediocre. What is great or mediocre is also a set of definitions you must work out.

There is no template or rubric anybody else can give you to solve your problems or make your life worth living. There will be no lasting epiphany that happens to you one day that will change the course of your life forever. There can only be gradual revelation, through intentional awareness of your life and consistent consciousness coupled with grueling hard work and the acceptance of continual pain and disappointment.

These are the tools you must use to craft an authentic You. These are the tools you must use to hack your way into a life that is truly worth living. But these tools will give you blisters and callouses, and will tire you. These tools will eat away at your resolve. And that’s why most people’s lives are filled with mediocrity and meaninglessness–because most people are too lazy to grasp the freedom they have to craft their own existence and instead let inertia drive them from necessity to necessity until the grave swallows their old, decrepit body.

Fight inertia. Fight entropy. Grow, don’t decay, as you age.  Don’t be like most people. The You that you can create is much more interesting than the You you believe you can discover.

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