I am fortunate to have been entrusted to post the following essay–written by a good friend, Chad Davis–to the pages of Simpler Life Today. Chad is a student of life, a prolific writer and a thinker. This writing is a culmination of his observation and reflection. His desire is to point out the truths which are often left overlooked, due to the never ending array of mundane distractions of life.
I would like to join with Chad in wishing that this essay be read in its entirety, pondered upon and shared (click to download) by all those who are inclined to do so. You may or may not agree with all of its musings, but at the very least this writing will make you question the thing which we all share–life. And, in the end, what can be more important?
If you would like to know more about Chad, please visit his blog at ChadleyDavis.blogspot.com
: the Seven Maxims :
: a hopeful endeavour :
this work and its contents,
either broken up or kept whole by any one or party,
shall remain freely available to the public,
so long as I, the author, shall live,
and so long as any benefactors shall agree to keep it so
this is for all of us.
but it is because of Alan.
a Brief Introduction
I had a rather strange dream when I was about ten years young.
In the dream, a few of my classmates, friends, and an assortment of strangers stood around an old, frail woman while yelling obscenities at her as some sort of twisted way to have fun. At the beginning of my dream, I was yelling with them, however I shortly fell silent and began observing everyone else as they snickered and jeered while calling the crying woman “whore” and “bitch.” Once I realized what was going on, the old woman looked up and begged me to stop the abuse. But, I just stood there, a coward in my own dream simply because I didn’t understand what was going on.
I look back at that dream quite often. At the time, I was convinced that I was given some sort of “divine insight” and thus a purpose for my existence. Such a thought, I now find, is rather immature, especially for somebody who has intensely, perhaps even obsessively, searched for meaning, insight, and wisdom since such a young age. However even now, I do think that dream was indeed insightful, just not hand-delivered by the Judeo-Christian archetypal “God.” Rather, I realized something at a very young age, something at which most others scoff or shrug away. Even then, when I was an awkward, goofy pre-teen, I realized that the old woman was a representation of the “Mother Earth” archetype, and the people shouting and laughing at her were doing so for their own gain or pleasure—an exaggeration of our “above nature” mentality we possess as a species so bent on conquest. The interpretation may seem slightly far-fetched, but it makes sense to me, and it always has. I have always been attuned to this desire of ours to separate from nature, each other, from our bodies and our emotions as if we should or even could own or control what is designated as “not my self.” I’m sharing this with you as a sort pretext behind the inspiration of this small essay—this dream has fueled my passion for studying such philosophies my entire life. However, to say that I’ve “studied” such things should be carefully understood.
I use the term “study” quite loosely, for I do not have any degrees in psychology, mathematics, philosophy, or theology. I have nothing material to show for the claims I make in this document, no actual empirical tests boasting proof of concepts, nor any formally conducted interviews to further support my ideas. When I say “study,” I mean that I’ve read, talked about, and, more than all else, pondered over the very fabric of existence, what it means to be human or not human, and what all of this really is. So, this document then should not be read as a document of science, a document of religion (which, as of late, may as well be called a science of extreme antiquity), nor as a document of philosophical truth. This is a document produced during a life contemplating the hardest questions for a person to ask. Another way to put this is to say that I am no authority on the subject matter of this essay. I don’t even want to hold such authority, as to be in that position is a constantly contested state of affairs. Much rather, I’d like to think this essay and the maxims that blossomed from it are simply my ideas bouncing off of my readers’ minds.
That said, however, it is important to know that I have always been a rather devoted thinker. I was raised Catholic, embarked into what one could call “Christian mysticism,” and then wholeheartedly embraced eastern religious philosophies, namely Buddhism. I’ve read Kant (though I did not enjoy it), glimpsed into Niesche, and grazed over expanses such as Hume and Nagarjuna. I’ve delved into the staples of philosophical schools—subjectivism, relativism, utilitarianism, predeterminism, existentialism to name a few—however, the bulk of my study derives from mentors and modern “sages” of the past century. A substantial reason I write on these subjects is because of my mentor from high school, a Catholic religion teacher who taught me the underpinnings of my eastern spiritual knowledge. The stories and biographies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. taught me the important and fundamental power of peace. And Alan Watts continues teaching me to this day thanks to the vast library of his speeches, lessons, and lectures. All of these people—and so many others, from close friends to my own beloved parents and brothers—and their teachings have led me to this point, here, in which I have been bold enough to develop my own voice in such a twirl of endless human philosophization.
That considered, don’t let the name or tone of this work fool you. I’ll reiterate: this is not to be taken as a serious text nor a text of answers. This is simply my take on the matter of what it means to live as well as one can as well as a sort of suggestion for the world to think about life in a different way. The term I use, “maxim,” was a rather calculated decision for that reason. “Truths” would be too egotistical and contradictory to my entire thesis. Instead, perhaps in the subconscious spirit of Nagarjuna, I wanted to point in the direction of generalities, rather than certainties, when describing existence in a very stripped down, banal, yet beautiful light. The maxims, then, are just “middle-ways” between two extreme interpretations of the Universe—separate versus not separate. Therefore, when one reads the Seven Maxims, she should always keep in mind that they are just approximations of what could be considered an optimal way of conceptually breaking down life as well as guidelines for living.
Furthermore, I cannot stress enough how miniscule my own work and thought into the matter is when compared to the vast knowledge preceding my own. The words I write are really just restatements of countless teachings from yesteryear, all reaching a profound yet incredibly simple way of understanding life—passed down from guru to guru, saint to saint, thinker to thinker. Therefore, these maxims, words, and thoughts are not my own—they belong to us all, and they always have. But these principles are so simple we forget about them completely, and it is for that reason I write about them today as if they were still fresh.
Finally, with the risk of rambling in what is supposed to be a brief introduction, I will add two final points. The first being what spurred me to write this small essay: atheistic, pop-scientific, and religious extremism—or, much more succinctly, certainty. Certainty, I have found more often than not, is the ugly root at every instance of destructive disagreement and discord. One party assumes that: 1) there is a winning side to a fight; 2) that their particular side is undoubtedly in the right; and 3) that failure is a hard and inescapable fact of any interaction. However, should one not take it all so terribly seriously, there is no need for such catastrophic dissonance between peoples. So, when my skin crawls at the atheist mocking the religious or the religious mocking the atheist, it is not a matter of right and wrong, but rather a much more meta-mental property of the argument entirely—that to think of things as absolute dualities as the reality is what’s going wrong. But, do notice that even this is just another dimension of the so-called “problem.” So, the first goal of this work is to thoughtfully come to some sort of conclusion that does not require the justifications of “right” versus “wrong.”
After all this is said and done, I do believe the Seven Maxims can be rather beneficial to us all, just not in the antiquated religious sense nor in the contemporary pop-scientific sense. After reading the Seven Maxims, life will not magically be transformed into an easier state of existence, nor will new avenues in technology be discovered. In fact, no vast improvements—here, meant in the most strictest sense—will come to humanity, nature, nor the Universe as a result of this essay. Instead, my intentions of this piece is simply to get people breathing again and to realize they don’t need to take things so damn seriously. On the other hand, however, it is not giving us all an excuse to simply do as we think we so please, as one may misinterpret my writing to mean, “nothing matters anyway.” I am not a nihilist nor am I an existentialist. Existence, I find, exists without judgement, without doubt, and without the need of proof. What we make of it thereafter, however, is of a different matter entirely. And so it is my hope that the Seven Maxims will be a guide, not a an answer, to the intricacies of life, that they will show us all different ways of living that would produce happier and more fulfilling lives. Perhaps I’ll convey an ounce of knowledge that will help lead us all to change the world by simply changing our perceptions thereof.
At least, that is my hope.
the Seven Maxims
1. Change is All
Everything changes in every instant.
If this were not true, the day would not slowly shift into night; the sun would not churn hydrogen into helium-4 plasma; the Universe would not be the creative void, growing planets, stars, and galaxies while simultaneously destroying such nebulae.
We would not be alive.
Change allows a breath to enter and leave our vesseled lungs, for two to mate and birth new life, and for banal growth to continue onward. Because of change, life exists in its imperfect, constant flux composed not of matter but rather of patterns.
Indeed it is true, above all else, that All is Change.
2. Reality is Objective
Reality is the mere happening of Change, the string of events from one moment to another. This happening occurs throughout the Universe simultaneously and without any imposing judgement placed upon it. This Happening of Change is thus objective and without conceptual form. Thus, it is the Objective Reality of the Change that endlessly flows. The past remains tethered to its creation, the moment at hand, which is strung to the possibilities of the future. Much as a wave moves through time and space, so too is Reality objectively happening in a constant state of flux. Therefore, time states are really just concepts, not Reality. The only time that exists is the present Now, the mere flowing of Change.
Indeed it is true that as Change occurs, it begets forms and thus all of existence, and this Happening of Change can thus be called “Objective Reality.”
3. Consciousness is Subjective
Thus, our awareness of this “Wave of Now” is the subjective consciousness of the existence we experience at any given moment. It is the sight of the lightwave hitting the eye or the sound bouncing and echoing its way into our ears. It is the feeling of remorse and that of love. It is the constant awakeness, the ability to interact with the Objective Reality, the ability to compare bits to other bits, and to make claims thereafter. Though it may feel definitive and certain, our consciousness is but a doorway into the deeply more infinite Objective Reality.
Indeed it is true that consciousness subjectively witnesses the Objective Reality.
4. Everything is connected
Thus it is so by following the first three Maxims that everything is simply built off of the happening of the phenomena we call existence. Thus, everything is connected. Consciousness is connected to other consciousness through interactions thereof, all of which, in some form, witnesses the Objective Reality and which exists because of the banal nature of the Universe, that All is Change.
The Universe’s mere coming into existence is the banal Infinity of energetic waves—the Happening of Objective Reality—which bore the atom, which bore the interstellar gases, which bore stars and planets thereafter, which bore organic building blocks of life, which bore the cell, and then the organ, the organism, and eventually, after 4 million years, all of it bore our very existence. We are composed of space and stars, made of the infinitely small wave particles that make up the Higgs-Boson, then the nucleus of the atom, and then the relation of the nucleus to the electron, and the relation of one atom to another, and so on. We are the same wave-stuff—immaterial-materials—of everything that exists, did once exist, and will exist in the future. We are time. We are space. We are energy. But, more importantly, we are not fundamentally separate from one another.
Though a tree differs with each tree that exists, each tree remains entirely connected to each other tree and the environment itself. It is part of the whole ecosystem, all of which contributes to the bare, benevolent creative life of Earth. As much as it is a unique tree, it is also the whole of Mother Earth, which is but one part of the whole Cosmos. So too as it is for us. We are infinitely unique people, but we all are connected to each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our ideas are learned from those before us, re-evaluated in our own time, and then passed on to our descendents. Just as the Earth is inseparable from the Cosmos, our bodies are inseparable from the parents that birthed us, and their parents that birthed them, and so on.
Indeed it is true that, despite our differences, we are all fundamentally connected to each other, our home Earth, and the Universe in which our solar system was birthed and now exists.
5. Separation is the only “Sin”
Thus, if we are inseparable, the true dishonor one can commit is to try and separate that which exists holistically. Sadly, we have tried to separate ourselves from nature in the misguided notion that we are above nature, somehow apart from it. Contrary to this belief, however, is the idea that we are not separate beings but rather the millions upon millions of conscious bubbles engaging with the Objective Reality every day. Therefore to try and separate that which is fundamentally inseparable leads to the harshness of today’s world. We have become cold, selfish robots. Not because this is what we are, but simply because this is what we have believed ourselves to be.
We’ve allowed our curiosity to be ransacked by the doctrine of calculationism, the mindset in which the only things that exist are hard, measurable, and ultimately separable matter. This calculationism has effectively shifted holistic existence into numerically valued, conquerable bits of material. Thus we now see the world through the eyes of selfish men embarking on selfish journeys. Some would blame science, others politics. But this calculationism is constant in religion as well as science and as well as politics.
This selfishness in which we believe so strongly is not reality, but rather our current view of Reality. Reality is inseparable, unconquerable, and vastly simpler than the alternative—there is no need to calculate the Universe, redefine it, or conquer it if it is already us and if we are simply looking back into our own greater, vaster form of Self. Therefore, when one wishes to tear himself from the whole of existence, he wishes to reclaim the world as a means of obtaining peace. This, however, only brings loneliness and disparity. This ultimate sin is not condemnable with jail or hell save that of the jail one creates for himself—his own inescapable loneliness in a world, as he sees it, filled with conquerable bits of material, all trying to own each other in some way and in some time.
Indeed it is true that the only sin is that of separation, damnable by the hell one creates for him or herself.
6. Peace and Harmony are the only Means of Living
If all that has been stated is true, then it is clear that to harm one another means nothing in the overarching Objective Reality. What is is what is, and simply as is. What point is there to be violent? Such violence relies on an extenuating a network of violence as a means of procuring power, wealth, or security. One may force their will upon another with a gun, but that power is limited, that power is false. The king sits with his back to the wall because he knows his power can be taken as easily as he had taken it from the previous king.
However, those who are peaceful, those who are harmonious, those who choose to love and remain nonviolent rule for eternity. They know that if their life should be taken, so be it. They have not lost anything but conquered the very power with which the violent oppressor struggles to keep intact. If the oppressors wish to kill all in their path in order to sustain their power, so be it; there will be nothing left for them to rule once they’ve slain the entire world.
No, the gun is not power but rather its antithesis. The gun is the fear of no power, the fear of no say, the fear of other violent powers. In a Universe that is fundamentally interconnected with itself, there is no need for violence. There is no need for power because it is already ours. Power created you, created the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, and the stars.
The only rule of morality, then, is peace and harmony, not self-indulgence. Be peaceful toward others because they, and their ancestors, are you and your ancestors through the continuum of human existence itself. Be harmonious toward others for they, and their ancestors, have begat your ability to live. Without the other, the self cannot exist. Without each other, we will not exist. That which you are not makes you who you are. Thus to love that which you are not is just as essential as it is to love yourself, for both “you” and “not you” are indeed all of existence, the true Self.
Indeed it is true that peace and harmony are the only means of existence.
7. Nothing is Certain
As the Universe evolves, so too does its contents, for the Universe is, in its own right, the contents within it—the overall membrane-body to the network of existence held within it. And so if the contents change as the whole stratum changes, then what does that say of certainty? How can we be certain of things that have yet to come? Can ideas grow stale and disconnected from modernity? As everything changes, we must accept Change itself as truth, not as heresy. Our certainty births dogma. It births the absolutes of right and wrong. It births the inability to continually question authority in the name of understanding, in the name of learning. We have engaged in a tense, solidified state of certainty for too long now. It has shattered us. Turned us apart. Turned us into intolerant bigots afraid of being wrong.
Even these Seven Maxims will be revered, challenged, and eventually changed to the point of nonexistence. So it must be in order to continue learning and growing. So I challenge you to do.
It is time to mature. It is time to change. It is time to realize that certainty is a mirage of a comfort. Yes, it is frightening. Yes, it is vulnerable. But, out of such uncertainty we learn profound, amazing things.
Let us question again. Let us learn again. Let us continue to grow once more.
the Seven Maxims Explained
– a philosophical endeavour –
In conscious awareness of our and the Universe’s existence, we question:
How? and Why?
Such inquiry leads to two distinct answers appropriate for each particular question. When one asks, Why?, she is enroute to developing an entirely subjective response. When one asks, How?, she is enroute to understanding the Universe with the intent of objectivity in mind.
“Why?” is a question pertaining only to the subject being asked. “Why do you like sports? Why did this happen to me? Why do you love me?” All of these questions give birth to answers that are created by the person’s subjective experience and understanding of the world. “I like sports because… This happened to me because… I love you because…” The responder’s personal ideas are founded upon, borrowed from, and transformed from ideas previous to her own existence, not necessarily on direct evidence. To say, “I love you because we are a chemically and physically viable match,” may lead to a good laugh, but most likely won’t foster any amount of sincerity to the one hoping to simply be loved. One may argue that this is indeed a good enough reason to state love. Note, however, that the passion—love—begets the reasoning of how love exists and how it can be explained practically in the first place. Passion, then, seems to be the subjective starting point where reason comes to be the approximation of how, objectively, that passion exists. The reason breaks down the passion into palpable bites in the hopes of understanding the passion better. But, alas, passion broken down is no more useful than a branch separated from its tree. Furthermore, what possesses a person to state such a reason for love at all? Does it not seem that the answer based on chemistry and physics is simply a matter of opinion to the one choosing to believe its validity? In other words, any answer to a Why question is subjective due to the individual’s admittance of authority to their reasoning of the answer. That is to say, we believe our answers—to Why questions—to be true regardless of facts that may or may not be present to our awareness.
On the other hand, “How?” can be seen as a question pertaining to logic and reason, but not subjective experience or passion. “How did C occur? Because, A – B – C.” Though the logic is grounded in the attempt of identifying objective understanding of how reality exists, it can only approximate, to the nth degree, that which is truly Objective Reality. This, however, does not negate the validity of the question’s endeavour. To ask How is to ask for a more grounded, observational aspect of phenomena. “How does 1+1=2? How does the sky appear blue? How did this happen to me?” Each question here can be answered with the intent of objectivity in mind, however notice that the answer of How is not always finished nor is unquestionably true. Take this scenario as an example:
Before you are two apples. Suppose I halve them both. What now sits before you? Two halved apples, or four halves of apples?
Undoubtedly, each answer is correct—I’m simply making the same observation in different ways. However, no answer truly reaches Objective Reality. How can this be? To describe what lies before you takes numbers and words. To experience the truth of Objective Reality takes no more than looking at the phenomena without any concepts placed upon the “appleness” before you. This same thought problem occurs with the mathematical representation of 2. 1+1=2, but so does 1.9+.1=2, as does 1.8+.2=2, and on this could go for, literally, ever. How? To answer the question, “How does 2 exist?” can only be done with the intent of reaching objectivity in mind, but it cannot ever truly be answered—it depends on the way in which you want to represent the 2. This, by all means, does not negate the Objective Reality of “twoness.” Math is, of course, correct in its calculations of Reality, otherwise technological advancements would never have occurred. However, the mathematical representation of “twoness” does dissolve into the subjective realm of awareness by definition: to represent is to approximate, not to deem absolutely true.
All of that stated, humanity is entirely occupied with such questions of How and Why. Where people go at fault is when one attempts to answer How questions with Why answers, where an understanding based upon empirical evaluation of Objective Reality is requested but is instead answered with subjective claims. Such an example could be: “How did man come into being?” One could misguidedly answer, “With the creator’s divine breath.” Though it appears to be a logical response, it is in fact a reply grounded upon a subjective understanding of the Universe. “God created man because he so loved the Earth and wished to give a creature dominion upon it. Thus he blew the divine wind into clay and gave that which before had no life, life.” This is a beautiful spiritual idea of man’s birth, however it leaves the specific details up to further questioning. Should one mistakenly answer with the latter part of the quote, she would not be answering How but rather Why. She believes man exists because of God. The tools of God, however, could be anything, and to answer the question would require a more empirical approach, one that would have to take into account the evidence left behind a 4 billion-year old Earth. Though, it is interesting that the two answers of How and Why can easily coexist if not nourish each other entirely—for instance, God could equate the very ability of nature to evolve. The problem, however, occurs when one asserts subjective belief as an answer to an empirical question and when claiming absolute certainty of their answers, as is clearly the case with those asserting creationism as an empirical understanding of how man and the Universe came about to exist.
To this point, throughout the history of western scientific inquiry and religious philosophization, we see a strong connection between those of faith and those of measurement, all leading to the same presuppositions we take for granted about Reality today. Through the curiosity of man, we have learned to take each question of How and Why and answer them both respectively for understanding and fulfilment of what it means to be alive. Pythagoras based his philosophies on mathematical propensities—unbiased laws that birthed everything into ordered existence—after whom Plato was greatly influenced, who then, in turn, influenced Jewish theology, Christian gospels, and our founding fathers of modern scientific thought: Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Kepler, and Newton were all scientific philosophers unreservedly affiliated with the religious idea of God being the starting point from which the clock could tick, the planets could turn, and the mathematical equations could beget the subjective consciousness we now call life.
For this reason, there should remain a certain open mindedness that all ideas are connected to previous ideas throughout existence, and that severing certain affiliations with those ideas hollows them out and into a shell of what once was. Without the religious and philosophical sages, we would not have developed modern sciences. But, does that mean religious traditions should remain as they are? Should philosophy solidify? Of course not. When the militant atheist or the religious fanatic wages ideological war with those of opposing beliefs, they believe they are waging a war of truths where they are really falling subject to their own subjectivities. When arguing one vaporous ideology in favor of another, is there really any victor? Why wage battle at all? Why not converse and continue to grow, holistically and peacefully?
Thus, to argue for or against any religion—or the lack thereof—is pointless on the following grounds:
1. Human awareness and curiosity actively tries to understand the nature of all that surrounds us, asking questions of How and Why. Although both of these questions are entirely opposite in the intent—observational versus purely subjective understanding of phenomenon—each question is entirely necessary. How helps us understand 1+1=2. Why helps us understand what the point of life is, which is entirely subjective. To live without asking How is to live in utter ignorance. To live without asking Why is to live as a cold, calculating bio-machine, allotting the realm of passions and emotions into physical and chemical on’s and off’s, much like a computer depicts things in 1’s and 0’s.
2. Human thought is already and entirely tied to religious, spiritual, and philosophical ideologies—all of which have, and continue to, borrow from each other’s schools of thought.
To these points, religion is nothing damning of humanity on its own. Where religion and all philosophical thought—including those grounded in science—does become dangerous is when either the How/Why answers become clouded in confusion, or when any answer at all becomes solidified with certainty which then turns the idea into unquestionable dogma. Therefore the battle atheists and religious zealots wage is not only misguided, it’s conceited by its own belief that their side has all the answers to human life. Atheists seem to enjoy grounding their beliefs in calculationism, which touts its validity in scientific proof, which supports the philosophy that nothing supernatural—that is, anything outside the realm of measurable and accountable matter—exists. Zealots point to their scriptures as absolute engravings that prove their views to be certainly true, which reflects the very calculationism—that is to say, anything able to be directly pointed to and accounted for within the scriptures—of popularized atheism.
Ironically, however, science has become increasingly mysterious. The atom’s electrons, protons, and neutrons are no longer the finite, solid matter of the Universe—there exists through tested study the Higgs-Boson particle which theoretically can be broken down even further. Things exist in purely energetic forms, not in mere terms of hard, accountable matter—the atom itself is an organization of patterns upon patterns upon patterns, whereas, on a macro scale, 96% of the Universe is now believed to be composed of dark matter and dark energy, whose existence is utterly obscure. I would like emphasize, however, that the atheist and calculationist’s flaw is not their disapproval of religious dogma, but is rather the grounds of their argument as well as their end goal—that science proves everything in simple terms of hard matter and facts, and that religious or spiritual philosophies can, and should be, completely obliterated from humankind.
On the grounds I have already discussed, such an abolishment is entirely impossible. One would need to redefine languages, physical properties, and human thought outside of the current beliefs of humans entirely. To say, “I love you,” for instance, is not grounded in calculationist nor scientific principles but rather in something that can be expressed as faith. One takes a known risk to state love, a statement grounded entirely upon emotion and passion. The longevity of love is never certain, therefore when two people fall into love they knowingly and willingly “take a leap of faith” and choose to embrace the love of the other person every day. Sometimes the love lasts a lifetime, sometimes not. Despite the uncertainty, however, people still choose to embrace love. Notice how similar this sounds to one’s religious beliefs: One may choose to believe in an abstraction (God) even if there is no reasoning for such a belief other than an emotion or passion. Thus one believes, based upon faith, that the abstraction (God) exists in some way even if they are aware of the inability to reason such a belief. It’s a commonality, in fact, for one to equate the idea of “God” to love—both are abstract passions that beget the rest of humanity as well as all of life. Out of love comes life through the process of mating and impregnation, just as a Christian would believe that out of God comes the Universe and hence all of life. Due to the similar philosophical structuring of love and a belief in God, in order for one to be truly atheistic, she would have to abolish faith-based love, if not love entirely, since both are based on untestable abstractions.
Now again, one may argue here that love can be explained with chemical and physical attractiveness alone and has absolutely nothing to do with any passion or faith. Such an argument, however, seems eerily similar to the likes of religious predeterminism, the only difference being the language used to support it. “Your mate is determined by physical, genetic, and chemical makeup,” sounds incredibly and philosophically similar to, “Your mate is determined by God.” Both absolute, both without any further questioning, and both with precisely the same logic scheme backing the definite belief. How is it that a modern atheist can, in the same breath, damn an all-powerful constant in favor of another—banish gods in favor of all-powerful and selfish genes? It all seems rather maddeningly silly.
Of course, such an absolute or cold perception of love is not the view of every atheist, but arguably that of calculationists because there is no way to absolutely point to the abstraction of love. The problem I am trying to draw the reader’s attention to is not who is right in their definition or understanding of love, but rather the not-so-obvious fact that all people—theistic, agnostic, and atheistic—feel, think, and reason on the grounds of religious, spiritual, and philosophical thought—human thought. Thought that which is inseparable from the rest of humankind, all of which precedes the current thoughts we have today. Religious ideology does not belong to one group or another, nor does it not leak into non-religious understandings of the Universe as is proven by the very fathers of western science—Plato, Pythagoras, Galileo, Newton, Descartes—all of whom were affiliated with the strong belief that “God” was a supreme mathematician who created the formula and struck the whole thing into motion. Thus, the entirety of human thought belongs to all human beings. Religious or not in this sense gets boiled down to mere semantics.
A good example of such interchanging knowledge is the communal exchanges and travels that occurred along the Silk Road roughly from 600 CE to 700 CE, a time where Eurasian trade wound between two dramatically different cultures of East and West. Goods were not the only things being exchanged along the Silk Road—ideologies were spread and interchanged by the same people walking the ancient route, creating a path of ideological crossovers. In particular, Buddhist and Jewish ideas were actively traded, learned, and carried home by such travelers. Evidence of such ideological trade can not only be found in core religious beliefs—”the Gold Rule” being chief among them—but also in the physical texts found along the Road, specifically those in the Mogao Caves, which housed thousands of religious and philosophical documents deep within its stone temples. Of those texts were countless Buddhist writings as well as Jewish scrawlings, written in their corresponding Hebrew script. To this I pose a question: if two religious groups traded and kept different religious teachings—both mentally as well as in the form of recorded documents—would it be implausible to think that such ideas were also adopted, in a way, into each other’s religious groups? Indeed, I would argue, it is entirely plausible to believe such information was traded, interpreted, and digested incredibly often.
The simple fact that Buddhist monks chose to keep Jewish writings in their “Thousand-Buddha Caves” is enough evidence to support the active trading and learning of different religious ideologies. Such a choice displays a vast amount of openness to other ideas, an act that would not make much sense if one wished to demolish all other forms of religious belief on the grounds that their own religious doctrine is the only truth. The opposing argument could be that a religious sect would keep such different texts as a reference of what not to believe and teach. But, if that were the case, why not just leave the other thoughts be? Why carry such texts across the treacherous deserts of the Silk Road at all? Wouldn’t it be simpler, easier, more effective to let different beliefs stay from wherever they originated?
The question seems to be logical enough to let the matter be—especially considering the rather divisive nature of today’s religious groups—however it is not solid enough to continue onward. So let us take a specific example of religious ideology that will point to such crossover even further: the stories of virginal conceptions, primarily those dealing with men of great religious importance.
The story of Jesus’ conception is obviously one well known throughout the world, so I’ll spare the reader in abbreviation: Mary was virginally conceived by the spirit of God with the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was later born in a manger in the city of Bethlehem. After the birth, several visitors, including three wise men (also referred to as kings) visited the holy child and gave him presents, symbolically accepting the birth of the Lord Christ. So, too, the story goes with the conception of the Buddha…
Queen Māyā and King Suddhodhana did not have children for twenty years into their marriage. According to legend, One full moon night, sleeping in the palace, the queen had a vivid dream. She felt herself being carried away by four devas (spirits) to Lake Anotatta in the Himalayas. After bathing her in the lake, the devas clothed her in heavenly cloths, anointed her with perfumes, and bedecked her with divine flowers. Soon after a white elephant, holding a white lotus flower in its trunk, appeared and went round her three times, entering her womb through her right side. Finally the elephant disappeared and the queen awoke, knowing she had been delivered an important message, as the elephant is a symbol of greatness in Nepal. [“Life of Buddha: Queen Maha Maya’s Dream (Part 1)”]
The Buddha was born approximately 563 BCE. The obvious connections between the two stories of both religiously historic figures is the non-sexual conception of the great men via fantastical dreams or visions as well as their gracious births, during which at least one wise man was said to have been in attendance. For the Buddha, it was just one wise man—also bearing gifts and revering the sheer greatness of the newborn child. Stepping even further back in time is the Egyptian story of the virginal conception of the queen Mut-em-ua, who was said to be conceived by the god Kneph. The story is told on the walls of the temple of Luxor, which shows:
1. The Annunciation: the god Taht announcing to the virgin Queen that she is about to become a mother.
2. The Immaculate Conception: the god Kneph (the holy spirit) mystically impregnating the virgin by holding a cross, the symbol of life, to her mouth.
3. The birth of the Man-god.
4. The Adoration of the newly born infant by gods and men, including three kings (or Magi ?) who are offering him gifts. In this sculpture, the cross again appears as a symbol. [(Jocelyn Rhys) Shaken Creeds: The Virgin Birth Doctrine, a Study of its Origin, 114-115]
These are three stories among many concerning virginal conceptions in different religious traditions, but each one is entirely distinct in their cultural origin as well as their religious group. The point of each example is to bring up the obvious fact that religions have, countlessly, borrowed ideas from each other in the past either consciously or subconsciously, and continually do so today. The next religion to come in the next few hundred years will most likely be a hybrid of all religions, an amalgamation of religious traditions entirely—the most exemplar of such a community would be the Baha’i faith springing up across the world. Indeed it is true that religions, philosophies, and sciences have borrowed and continue to embellish concepts and stories from one another, as does the entirety of human thought.
All of this—from the difference between How and Why and the borrowing and re-evaluation of ideas—leads back to my prompt that the arguments for or against any religion is utterly pointless on the grounds that human thought is the fusion of all human thought preceding it—once accepted knowledge re-evaluated in modern generations. In other words: we’re a growing people whose ideas will continually change and develop as a whole. This is the only method of learning, to continually question and question again the knowledge of those before us. It is what leads us into maturity as both individuals and as a collective whole. The act of questioning—ultimately that of not knowing—is, in fact, what the word “faith” actually means. Consider this parable spoken once by a great friend and mentor of mine:
Imagine you’re floating down a river. A scary, rushing madness of a river. Every so often, a rock provides you a pause in the madness. It gives you a chance to breath. But, as you clinch the rock with all your might, you grow tired and weary. Inevitably you must let go and continue floating, for there is no way to escape the river, and the only way to survive is to float, otherwise you risk drowning while clung to the precious rock. As you float down the river, you continuously grab and let go of each rock that you pass. Many seem to think the rocks are the manifestation of your faith. But if that were the case, you’d never let go and there would be no threat of your demise. No, the rock is not your faith—the letting go is. Just as life does not stop rushing past you, the river will inevitably rip you from your false comfort. Faith is believing you’ll find comfort not by clutching to deadly rocks but instead by floating as one with the water’s current.
So faith then is really about letting go of what one believes to be concretely true in the hope to learn more—in this case, how to be comfortable floating freely and without control. It is in this sense that “truth” is purely subjective. However, Truth—synonymous here with Objective Reality—does indeed objectively exist. It is our consciousness that renders Objective Reality into our subjective understanding of the former and shifts what is without judgement or conceptual modeling into what we think is true via our judgements and our models.
A good empiricist would agree that nothing can be utterly determined but only tested and deemed probable, not final. Furthermore, should one no longer question things we deem as certain truths, nothing else can be learned. Instead, there would be a point of solidified knowledge where questioning would be viewed as heretical. This makes no empirical sense, however, as the means of learning is to question. If it were true that science can obtain all the answers over time—a concept that good empiricists reject—then that would make learning logically impossible. Take, for example, astronomy. Georges Lemaître—the Belgian Catholic priest, astronomer and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain—originally proposed that the Universe started as what we now call a “Big Bang’ and continually expands without end. When the scientific community first heard Lemaître’s theory, people said he was indubitably wrong—the orthodoxical thought at that time was that the Universe was a vast machine-like blob running on heat with no previous creation event having occurred. Of course, Lemaître’s questioning led to countless strides in scientific and astronomic learning. My point here has nothing to do with his correctness nor the opposing view’s incorrectness, but only that Lemaître was able to, and did, question a theory that was deemed true in almost unanimous certainty. The end goal, as shown here, is not to be certain but rather to continue learning, just as the parable of the river so states with faith. (To take my point one step further, ask an astrophysicist, “Will the Universe continue expanding in endless creation?” You will most likely receive a rather funny look…) Here again, this does not de-validify the acuteness of the practical sciences. Of course, you can hold two distinct apples, one in each hand, but where this gets fuzzy is within the philosophy of “towness,” which relies completely on concepts placed onto Objective Reality. What this does not mean is 1+1=3; what it does mean is 1.33333…+.33333…=2. Just how exactly does one account—certainly, solidly, and practically—for the concept of one third? Obviously, math proves and aids physical and technological development. However, where in the physical universe can one lay out and show the concept of .333333333333333333333333333333333…? Not as a simple pie chart, but as an actual physical object of the exact number .33333333…?
My point here is that math is not Objective Reality, but rather the segmentation and calculation thereof. With math, one can do powerful and amazing things, however this is through calculated manipulation of Reality, that which is entirely objective yet can only be subjectively explained, approximated, and viewed. 1+1 only equals 2 if the “images’ of 1 and another 1 approximates those items of specific measure in the eye of the beholder. “Two apples in my hands” could indeed be described as an “amalgamation of infinity, placed in two hands, that which we call two apples.” Make note that the word “image” here means not a literal picture, but rather the mental understanding placed upon Objective Reality, that which makes the infinite finite and thus easily understandable, which is why mathematics can be understood as the Universal language—one need not explain all the intricacies of language if all one must do is show one apple, then another, then both together. Again, 1+1=2 remains mathematically true, but to use mathematics as a philosophical understanding of Objective Reality is entirely the misuse of math.
So too as it is for calculating atheists to explain Reality through purely empirical and scientific means. They miss half of what goes on, things that can only be approximated, represented, and conceptually segmented but not entirely physical, made of matter or energy— love, happiness, art, and all the other incalculable passions we so easily take for granted cannot be calculated without losing their banal, innate value. So too can religion and philosophy fall short of understanding the world and the Universe through an empirical lense, one that can turn ignorance into educated understanding—logic is a very useful tool in this sense, one that can create amazing and, more importantly, helpful technologies.
It is clear then that we are interested in the interpretation and manipulation of an otherwise Objective Reality. In the search for meaning and understanding, it makes a shallow bit of sense to try and discount other views as wrong, illogical, improbable, or heretical especially via doctrinal dictation—“I am the only God… a jealous God… Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Such statements or ideological absolutes are not my goal, but rather its antithesis. My hope is that by understanding the nature of Reality, one sees everything as neither wrong nor right in terms of absolution but simply as more or less optimal in terms of all life. But here arises a new problem: just how is such optimality realized and agreed upon? In my attempt to answer such a question, I have devised a starting point, a simplified Image of Objective Reality that can help us understand objectivity and how all conscious beings understand and view such objectivity through our subjective lenses.
The squiggle represents Objective Reality. The dashed circles inside, intersecting, and surrounding the squiggle represents our consciousness along certain points of Reality, specifically at each point of contact. Awareness draws the difference of being inside or outside the squiggle, on a wave or in a trough, on a high or in a low. Should one trace her finger along the squiggle, the awareness of “up/down,” “wave/trough,” or “in/outside” changes at one specific point of contact between the Objective squiggle and the subjective awareness represented by the dotted line.
At the point of contact of “up/down” or “wave/trough” is the instance where it is both and neither up nor down, wave nor trough. Trace the squiggle and you will understand this odd switching between the different concepts. At one moment, the tracing is moving down into a trough and then the next up onto a wave. The definition of position is subjective to the objective point of reference, in which everything just happens without any label or segmented conceptuality. Take another image as an example: neither the rabbit nor the duck are Reality, but rather the switch is, or (also) both are True at the same time.
Thought comes from consciousness, and from thought comes conceptual understanding of reality based on one’s capability and willingness to perceive it—the subjective understanding of the Objective Reality. From thought comes language, then philosophy, mathematics, religion, and science. No school of thought is wrong nor right, but is rather an understanding of Reality. Where mathematics and sciences calculate and manipulate, philosophy and religion de-calculates and dematerializes—one answers How, the other Why. Furthermore, because of the origin of thought and therefore all human concepts, all schools of thought are inherently multiple parts of one congruent whole—Reality—thus, to claim, “I am right, you are wrong,” renders the claimer wrong herself. Of course this may depend upon the boundaries layered onto Reality in which one is arguing. If one is arguing about mathematics, of course there will be one right answer. If one is arguing about scientific principles, such as if the Universe is still expanding or not, then there will most likely be one person or a group of people with the right theory—an important distinction to make, as it starts to get harder to understand just what “right” means. Furthermore, if one is arguing over which religion is the “right” religion, there will be no one person nor any group of people with the correct answer.
A clever way to exemplify such claims is with our simple mathematical equation, 1+1=2. If one were to argue the mathematical idea that 1+1 actually equals 3, she would obviously be wrong. But what about in the case of mating? One male plus one female equals three total organisms—the two adults plus the one child. There are ways to understand such events with much more complex equations, but we are only dealing with our simple formula of 1+1=?. In this light, we see that “right” gets to be confusing via empirical observation as such observation depends upon the deduction of such events after they take place, all of which are in a constant state of flux and thus impossibly unpredictable even in the case of high probability. That is to say, simply, “right” is not always an obvious, deduced conclusion.
Philosophically speaking, however, all one must ask about the equation is, “What is 1?” Immediately, the entire thought experiment implodes before the observer’s eyes. What is 1? What does it mean to be 1? If 1 can be broken up to infinity—atoms can indeed be broken up much farther beyond their presupposed finite parts and, theoretically, more so ad infinitum—what makes it possible for a person to call something precisely 1 in the first place? It could rather be called “infinity in one form.” Even then, can the 1 exist outside of everything else? Can a person take an “infinity in one form”—something that which is made of everything else in the first place—and place it outside of the Universe? Does 1 really stand on its own in Reality or is that only within the confines of mathematics?
Take the instance of your own existence as an example. You were conceived by a mother and father, whose biological compositions made up your very existence. Once you were born and became a grown person existing outside of the immediate area of your mother and father, did you become separate from them? On all accounts, no, of course not. You may think, act, look, and feel somewhat differently than your parents, but you are very much the offspring of two individuals—composed of their DNA, traits, values, and tendencies. You are inseparable from your parents. So are you 1 or this weird blur between 1 and infinity? Furthermore, is there really any discernible answer? It seems you could go on for your entire life trying to understand what and, distinctly, who you are, but there will be an infinite amount of answers. There is, in the purely philosophical sense, no end to the equation 1+1 simply because to fully define “1” is impossible—or rather, it would take an eternity to do so.
To delve even deeper into the matter, this entire paper is still incomplete and fundamentally wrong in the truth that there is neither right nor wrong, save only our perceptions of each. Nobody is absolutely right nor wrong about anything. My view of Objective Reality is simply that—my view. It grants me only so much in understanding that which is truly infinite and entirely objective, something that can only be experienced and not conceptually defined—hence my using the phrase “Images of Reality.” Everything that stems from consciousness—including empirical review of the Universe—is a model, an image of which is entirely infinite and irrepresentable. Sound familiar to any theological, scientific, or mathematical principles? God, as a complete abstractness, cannot be depicted in any way, because to do so would be to tear it out of its abstractness, thus rendering infinity into finite space and canceling out what “God” truly is. As stated in quantum theory, the act of observation changes the result of the experiment. Can the experiment ever be truly objective? Or, more precisely, can we ever look at, record, and define a completely objective event? Furthermore, a tree cannot be wholly re-created in a virtual environment but rather modeled through the mathematical principle of fractals. The result resembles an amazingly precise rendition of a tree, but still the 3D tree remains, and feels, somewhat askew. Of course, as computing power extends into great depth and precision, there may come a day when the human eye can’t tell the difference. However, in order to create a virtual tree—meaning, here, produced artificially through the means of virtual making and not natural, spontaneous creation—that is identical to the tree outside one’s window would take a computer as infinitely powerful as the Universe. Can such a thing be created by the creatures? Can something within the Universe become a new Universe in and of itself? Wouldn’t it take the same amount of time to create such a powerful entity as the pre-existing Universe—an eternity? Or, if it could be done, wouldn’t that birth a new Universe entirely, one outside of our own, one that becomes its own irrepresentable, infinite, and Objective Reality?
The rabbit hole continues onward without end. Therefore, it is important for the reader to understand the goal of this paper’s endeavour: to end the oppression of thought on the grounds of absolute rights or wrongs, as no such absolutes can exist, but only subjective rights and wrongs.
I think a switch in the discourse would be most apropos at this juncture. Thus far, we have explored the subjectivity of consciousness and human thought in its relation to Objective Reality, that one can only approximate Reality and never actually engage with it directly but only indirectly through the study and interaction of it, either through empirical or philosophical means. I’ve touched on how all of human thought is connected through the borrowing, reinterpreting, and re-evaluating of ideas, all of which stem from religious, philosophical, and empirical evaluation from our ancestors across millennia. I have also examined what types of questions humans ask, that they can ultimately be split into two larger questions of How and Why, each of which tries to understand the Universe empirically and subjectively. After extensively looking at my model of Reality through images, the simple equation of 1+1=2, and the philosophical implications that follow, we have reached a bit of a standstill, that everything has been proven subjective in the face of Objective Reality.
It is on the grounds that:
Human thought is the amalgamation of all previous thought
Questions and answers of How and Why have two different goals
A school of thought can only be “wrong” if:
The attempts of answering How are done so with Why, or vice versa
The school of thought no longer questions and re-examines previous knowledge and as a result creates dogma—either religious, philosophical, or empirical in origin
It is through such a lens we can understand that any school of thought—mystic, religious, philosophical, or empirical—is not the enemy of human progress. What causes conflict, war, malevolence, and intolerance then is not the mother-father of our current ideas, that of human thought. No, what corrupts, spellbinds, and dictates human interaction and sociality is the solidification of knowledge as absolute certainty. It is the dogma of certainty that kills prophets, ostracizes radical thinkers, and deems new questions as heretical. It promotes competition as the only means of sustaining itself, ruling its subjects with fear of death, mutilation, or eternal banishment either in hell or outside of society. Such dogma drives a man to sink a knife into the chest of another, to drop atomic bombs onto millions of innocent people of “the enemy,” and to fly a plane into commercial towers. It is equal, manipulative, and ubiquitous. It is not a religious phenomenon, but rather a pervasive apparition blinding any and all that are not brave enough to dispel it.
Scientists mock the non-scientific in their cruelties, however has science made people happier? Has the dogma of the calculationist’s natural machine made people feel more fulfilled? Have the scientist-philosophers of old that wished to break religious dogma of their time succeed in doing so? Or are we now more lost than the ancient Mesopotamians were, wandering around—as we popularly believe—as genetically programmed, lumbering bio-robots whose only goals are to buy more inputs and produce more outputs? Are we to exist with no metaphysical experiences, with no feelings of vitality, and with no spiritual ambitions for there is nothing else to do in the world but be the program that we are naturally predestined to be? Contrairily, have we been growing as a religious community? Or have we been accusing others of being heretical, destined for punishment, or worse? Have we separated where we should have discussed, peacefully, and grown together thereafter? Have our preachers, gurus, and religious leaders not been manipulative, secretly breaking their own covenants, spreading fear and damnation as a means of propagating their own selfish and unquenchable thirst of wealth and power?
Nationalist extremism, religious extremism, militant atheism, and scientific discrimination—what does each group hold in common? They each believe their maxims—here, meaning codes of conduct and rules and ideas of existence or truth—and theirs alone, are absolutely, certainly, and unquestionably right.
It is interesting, however, that not every Catholic agrees, personally, with the Church’s policy on sex, or how not every Nazi soldier knew of the concentration camps nor agreed with Hitler’s genocide. What is more profound is the fear to speak out against the rule-slinger and the maxims entirely. This is, of course, with good reason, as the penalty for such heresy is usually death, exile, or imprisonment. Should one question if 1+1 really equals 3, for example, the reply will most likely result in the questioner’s social exile—the dunce cap was a rather clever way to wash a child’s mind of such lunacy. All of this is to say that certainty has led to all of human—I’d even go so far as to say Universal—existential conflict. For instance, we all—including the so-called lesser animals—believe that to die is a horrible, dreadful experience, thus death must be avoided at all costs. So, in the threat of death, I will kill you, if it came down to it. But notice that, all of a sudden, I’ve turned on the very maxim in which I fight: the notion that death should be avoided at all costs is ignored, betrayed even, when I think my life is more important than your death.
And so, the problem we are faced with is this: if all human thought is ultimately subjective and maxims—more often than not—fuel hypocritic dogma, how can we determine how we should be living? The answer is equally as puzzling as the question: we don’t, at least not entirely nor absolutely.
As the reader may now see, we are moving from observation and into action. This is a difficult step to take, as per the dilemma I’ve already pointed out. In the development of new maxims to promote the optimacy of life, we are ultimately faced with the question of just how that maxim can come about, let alone what it means to be “more or less optimal” in the face of subjective consciousness. Usually such an endeavour brings about the creation of new religious or philosophical groups. This is not my goal. I simply want to free the reader’s mind, no matter whether she remains religious, anti-religious, or impartial. To create a new group would entirely fly in the face of this essay’s thesis, that it does not matter what school of thought one chooses to belong. That said, what does it mean to be more optimal?
I can only offer my sole opinion hereafter. Although these opinions are indeed based on the previous observations and thoughts before this final section of my essay, they remain opinions in the end. Therefore, feel free to disagree, ridicule, or change these words as you see fit. However, I implore you to do so after careful contemplation on that which I have said.
— — — — — — —
Optimality, to me, relates to that of “harmony,”
the vibrations and interactions of phenomena in the most beautiful, complex yet incredibly simple ways. Everybody knows precisely what I’m talking about: if you’ve read a poem, heard a song, watched a movie, or made love then you’ve felt it. Harmony is the very essence of cooperation between different patterns, that which creates an overall greater and more complex pattern. From the powerful rhythms of African drums to the swinging melodies of Eurasian symphonies, harmonious interactions between beats, pitches, and tones create wondrous sounds that we enjoy everyday of our lives. Harmony, in this sense, is a matter of continuous, effortless, and fluctuating patterns. What is most optimal in this harmonious ideology, then, is whatever flow lasts the longest and in the most effortless way. Take a flock of birds as an example. When flying together, the sudden, unison turns appear to be executed with effortless precision. The birds need not think about the turn they make, nor how to do so as an entire group. They just seem to turn on a dime and in complete unison with their flock without strain. The same can be observed of a heartbeat in relation to the organism’s immediate body. Just like a flock of birds moving fluidly and simultaneously, one does not think about making one’s heart beat. Rather, the heart beats in conjunction with the multitude of other events happening within the body during every moment that passes. This is what I would call biological music. It is the song of life being played by the immediate body rather than sound waves—each form is indeed a vibration of sorts, they’re just coming out in different ways.
But what about the processes of life that are not involuntary, that are indeed conscious? Although the thoughts that race through your head may seem to be a matter of life or death, creating extreme anxieties or depressions, those thoughts cannot exist without the thinking taking place via the involuntary synapses flashing through your nervous system. In other words, without the involuntary, there would be no voluntary, therefore they are one process of existence. It’s all the same happening. It remains a music of its own, an endless melody of feelings and reasonings. Therefore, to think one can change the very fabric of this melody—the banal unconscious happenings of life—is to play the melody layered on top of it. Really, we’re all just playing our parts in the larger process of the Universe. And the implication following this thought is indeed Earth-shattering: you are the Universe just as much as the Universe is you.
With this in mind, it is clear that egotistical thought—that is, the separate self—need not be required for life to exist optimally. Instead, the opposite seems to ring truer, that the ability to let go of egotistical thought in favor of allowing the patterns to exist just as they are—and which will continue to exist and fluctuate no matter how much one may try to control the waves of life—will end up promoting a much happier and holistic life. Instead of fighting the river, one flows with it while relaxed and able to appreciate the events that happen along the way. Furthermore to this point, the more one tries to control these patterns of life, the less success she will find she has. Ask yourself, “Is the world a better place today than it was a thousand years ago?” Sure, modern comforts distort what we witness as an easy life, but consider the outbreaks of cancer, obesity, over-population, ecological crises, corrupt governmental reign, nuclear weapons, and the evil power of money to create modern day slavery, one may see that all our so-called “progressions” throughout history are not really much of a progress at all, but rather a shifting or trading of old problems to modern ones. All of our attempts to control life have simply proved it totally uncontrollable, for better or for worse.
So, we still are faced with the difficulty of trying to make some sort of improvement on life. However, considering the nuances in all that I’ve written to this point, the answer to this problem becomes rather apparent: there is no way to improve the world.
Now, before succumbing to despair, do note that this answer reflects the current understanding that “to improve” means to raise something toward a utopian, picturesque form of existence, an idea that is entirely subjective and therefore impossible to reach. Secondly, and etymologically speaking, the word “improve” is a verb pertaining to turning something into an economic profit. Emprouwer—an Old French word which means to turn a profit—stems from the Latin root, prode—which means advantageous—which then begat the Old French word prou—which means profit. Coupled with the causative prefix en-, our modern English equivalent of emprouwer is a literal term encouraging the rendering of raw resources—here meant in the traditional economic sense, such as land, animals, or minerals—into economic and financial gain. “To improve” then has a two-dimensional aspect to the wrong—or, rather, less-than-optimal—use of the phrase. The first instance of the literal understanding of “self-improvement,” to render one’s body and existence into economic gain, is terrifyingly misguided—to use the phrase here seems to encourage self-butchering, prostitution, or voluntary enslavement for financial profit. The second and more modern interpretation of “improvement” suggests a more confusing, perhaps traditionally religious approach to one’s existence. It assumes that there is an inherent flaw of the human race and that to rid oneself of this flaw is to improve their self worth—here again, the economically inspired terminology resurfaces—and thus ascend into a higher form of existence. Furthermore, this seeking to improve oneself really has no end, not because the pre-supposed flaw is inherent and thus un-ridable, but rather because there is no flaw. Perhaps more powerfully put: our only flaw is believing there is any flaw at all.
Think about this carefully. Have the religious rules stopped the horrors of mankind? Have governments successfully quelled an otherwise, presumptuously assumed chaotic population with its police, violence, and economic entrapments? Or, have these rules of absolute authority instilled within us the inaccurate belief that we are a chaotic species hell-bent on destroying each other in the first place? Are you really violent or just afraid of the possibility of other people being violent? Are you free or controlled by the artificial voice in your head claiming that it can, should, and just might live forever?
This is why I say we cannot and perhaps should no longer try to improve the world or ourselves. Perhaps my naïveté is showing, but my encounters with other people have almost always been kind, affable, and emotionally touching. Just the other day, for example, as I was making a laughable attempt to cut my weed-ridden lawn with a reel mower—all the while heavily engaged in an internal debate as to why I should even cut down the beautifully flowered weeds at all—a man hired to maintain the lawn next door insisted he help me cut down the remaining weeds free of charge. After I thanked him, he simply said with a smile, “Just trying to be a good neighbor.” Sure, this may be a small and seemingly insignificant example of the banal kindness of human nature, but if one pays close attention to such acts she will notice that such kindness is far more apparent and frequent than acts of hatred, violence, or aggression. It is when we get cornered by either our or other people’s egos that we begin to act malevolently. In other words, when we listen to the artificial ego, we lose touch of the calm, sedimentary benevolence of the Universe. This is when we begin judging ourselves and each other in such ways that leads us to believe improvements should be made on ourselves and the world. This, as I have shown, need nor should not be the case.
However, this is not a philosophy of glorified nihilism. I would not advise you to no longer try living what you would consider a good life, but at the same time I would advise you to realize that you and all of nature is not inherently flawed and therefore needs no improvement of any kind. Instead, my challenge hereforth is to be brave enough to feel out and discover what you truly love, what jives with you, what strikes your inner chord. One need not push oneself to extremities to do this, just as a string need not force itself to vibrate and produce a wonderful sound when strummed. So, to better the world would be to let go of improvement altogether and realize that no control can be had on something as effervescent and fundamental as the patterns, waves, or vibrations that create the Universe in every happening of Now, Now, Now. What is more optimal is to play the play you most enjoy playing, to embrace the way you face. This entire essay, for this very reason, serves ultimately no purpose other than that of my own enjoyment in writing and thinking about the multitude of philosophies that I’ve crammed into this one tiny pamphlet.
Keep in mind, however, that this can be a dangerous path if followed absolutely. It indeed can become rather nihilistic if taken to the extreme end, thus the possibility of people behaving rather extremely becomes present. The real challenge then comes in when one must tread between the extremely dichotomous conscious awareness of life—to realize we are both separate but not separate, that we are living but also dying, that we can love as well as hate, that we cannot control but that we also can control. It is my hope that the Seven Maxims can help point to this middle path between the extremes that we create in order to compare the Happenings of Objective Reality. One really should not barrage herself or others with negative judgments, which would then push one into an extreme or obsessive anxiety or depression. Nor should one give up entirely in the extreme interpretation of my writing as being nihilistic, concluding life to be one giant free-for-all. Instead, take the knowledge of the religious sages, philosophical geniuses, and scientific brilliancies and apply it moderately, with a great deal of skepticism, and with the yearning to continue learning instead of certainly knowing anything. A song is not played for the sake of the song’s finale, but rather a song is played for the sake of hearing the song. So too is life lived not for the sake of reaching an inconceivably high point of success or even happiness, but instead life is lived for the sake of experiencing life.
What one may find ironic after really taking these teachings to heart is that unconditional love and happiness grows without you even trying to harvest it. However, the trick is that you must allow it to do so naturally and without pushing or pulling yourself in any direction in the hopes that it will indeed make you unconditionally loving or happy. Such is the secret of life that remains inexpressible with any image, language, or general abstractions. It is the knowledge that was discovered by key religious figures and philosophers, the same knowledge that now is being re-discovered by scientists and empiricists who have broken down matter so much that they understand all of life is really just a series of patterns and vibrations—the infinite ohm, the dream of the dreamer, the godhead that which we all already are.
At the risk of ending this essay entirely in a cliché, the best answer to one’s desire to live optimally is to suggest a path bizarrely contrasting whatever the questioner is most clung. If you hate religion, read more into it. If you despise atheism, question you and your religious group’s integrity and knowledge. If you believe that we are all separate beings fighting for individual survival, go lay in a field and stare at the sky until something happens. And, in all of these cases, something will indeed happen. You will begin to question. And when you do, then perhaps you will have gained enough insight to understand just what this final sentence may mean: