Archive for category Synthesis
There are two logical extremes available in life. Leaving aside any sacred/secular motivations, the extremes come down simply to this; do I live for myself or do I live for others? It only takes a brief glance at any given day’s news to discover which one most people choose. Contrary to what most self-improvement folks think and say (PUAs, motivational speakers, self help authors, etc.), it is actually really easy to make yourself happy. Altruism does not come easily to humans. All you have to do is suppress that “I should” voice in your head, and listen to the “I want to” voice. Boom. I just saved you a thousand dollar self-help conference.
The “I should” voice is a lot harder. The “I should” voice asks us to do things that aren’t comfortable. It asks us to do things that go against the grain. And it has to be exercised, unlike the “I want to” voice. If you let yourself (granted, you have to do it in a thoughtful, logical manner) do what you want to do, rather than what you feel like you should, then you can be happy, after a fashion. Alternatively, you could take the much sweeter (but much harder) road of doing what you should. The problem there is that our notions of correct behavior are at odds with our nature, and so are corrupted almost immediately. Contemplative seeking out of the proper action is necessary to enable us to do what we actually should do.
What does this have to do with Horace’s quote, you ask? Everything. What we ‘should’ do is deeply tied in with denial of self to the glorification of others. Denial is self-sacrifice. Whether you are a religious person or not, it is easy to see that many people we admire deeply are admired because of their self-sacrifice. Ghandi. Buddha. St. Francis. Jesus. All of these people, whether you agree with their transcendent teaching or not, are admirable because of their devotion to others. Horace said that it is a sweet and fitting thing to die for your country, and I think he was right, but the daily death of putting others first is far sweeter and more fitting, if a thousand times harder. This is what we have lost. There simply aren’t many Nathan Hales alive today (and I’ll bet that most of them are in the military), so how many fewer Ghandis or St. Francises must there be? That is who I want to be.
Oh, and by the way; that last phrase contains the entire point of this post. After a certain amount of practice (more in some cases, like mine), the “I want to” voice starts sounding a lot like the “I should” voice. It doesn’t work the other way around. I’ve tried.
I am currently doing the right thing. (Right by a certain definition. I’m not going to get into that, but there is a whole post in that phrase alone. A different post.) Some time ago, I decided that I was going to clean up my act. I was going to stop with the dating (let’s just leave it at dating, shall we?) of random girls who I didn’t have any long-term interest in, and I was going to actually try and be someone that a decent woman would have a long term interest in. Doing the right thing sucks sometimes.
When I initially made the decision, it was actually fairly easy. I was disillusioned with women in general, I was sick of casual ‘relationships’, and I was enjoying a brand new job in a new place. The first couple of months went by in a flash; no loneliness or ennui with life. Then I started to feel it. I missed calling a girl late in the day and talking, or the feeling of her (whoever she might be) hand in mine. There are those (see; who I was a year ago, for example) who would say just nut up and go meet girls. Yeah, okay, that is an option, but I’m not in a place where I can really start a long term relationship effectively, and I’m deliberately forgoing short term relationships. There the suckage enters in. You see, somehow I have absorbed this idea that I’m never supposed to admit that I’m lonely. It probably comes from some early childhood experience or other screwing with my ideas of how the sexes relate. Five years (or so) ago I started down the path of pickup, and that obviated it. Even just the casual chats helped. So I no longer had to hide the fact that I was crashingly, desperately alone. I wasn’t. Sadly, it was a bandaid solution. Physical contact and even shallow emotional contact helps, but they only mask the symptoms.
Recently, I’ve opened up to some people I trust a lot, and they keep telling me the same thing – to wit – “Be patient. She’ll come along.” Do people just not realize how offensive that is? Sometimes (not to be melodramatic) it feels like telling someone who is in physical pain to be patient, because pain fades. When you are in physical pain, you DO something about it. If you need it, you take powerful drugs that drive the pain away. But for whatever reason, we have this cultural rule that the only solution for emotional pain is patience. There has to be some line between passive waiting and man-whore, but there really doesn’t seem to be one that is logically consistent.
Here we get to the meat; the propositional logic.
A) Loneliness sucks.
B) There are methods that can quite effectively ensure relationships of a sort.
C) Genuine partnership requires vulnerability and openness, something contraindicated by B.
D) The only long term solution to loneliness is genuine partnership.
It can be readily demonstrated from these four propositions that the extrema of passivity and activity are mutually exclusive in the relational sphere, but that leaves one with a problem. Humans are creatures both of absolute extremes and very subtle nuance. I never really got practiced enough at game (I really only ever played when I was feeling particularly lonely; it is too high maintenance to play it the way someone like Roosh or Heartiste does) to get the nuance of playing different types of girls; I usually just went after the drunken college chicks. Maybe more practice (prohibited by the whole ‘right thing’ thing) would help with that, but obviously that isn’t really an option.
Claiming the mantles of both Christian and rationalist probably disturbs rationalists more than it does Christians. I’m okay with that. Rationalists believe that all questions can eventually be answered (although it will probably open up new questions in the process, of course), and that is, fundamentally, the core of their rejection of religion. I believe that the universe will always have some mysteries; specifically origins. That alone is sufficient evidence (leaving aside my personal experiences) in my mind to require a God. Again, leaving aside my own experience, Pascal’s wager and the nature of most world religions implies that there are very few religions that are appropriate to choose. The overwhelming majority of belief systems do not require salvation in itself, merely good behaviors. Only a very few demand some form of redemption for man. At that point, if there is some immortal part to me (and I don’t know that there is, necessarily, much as I like the idea) then it makes sense for me to choose a way that leads to maximal utility.
So, we start with three beliefs, and I think you will see how starting down this path leads to Christianity.
A) The universe has unanswerable questions.
B) God, by His nature, is unknowable in any complete sense. (A topic for a later, MUCH longer post)
C) Only a few religions demand some sort of penance for being human.
There are more aspects to my specific choice for Christ, of course, some of which are much more telling (for me) than these, but they are for another time.