“Suppose for a moment, that we define a virtuous act as bowing in the direction of Mecca every day at sunset. We attempt to persuade everyone to perform this act. But suppose that instead of relying on voluntary conviction we employ a vast number of police to break into everyone’s home and see to it that every day they are pushed down to the floor in the direction of Mecca. No doubt by taking such measures we will increase the number of people bowing toward Mecca. But by forcing them to do so, we are taking them out of the realm of action and into mere motion, and we are depriving all these coerced persons of the very possibility of acting morally. By attempting to compel virtue, we eliminate its possibility. To be moral, an act must be free.”
If Christ has forgiven a variety of sinners of all different kinds of sins, I have to believe that murder and rape are included in these sins that are forgiven. That’s a really deep statement. I don’t recall a provision where murder, or rape, or any sin was deemed “unforgivable”. Perhaps I’m missing one. I seem to recall something about “unbelief” being the only “unforgivable” sin. But the thought of murderers and rapists being in Heaven is quite a profound statement. Statements like that help one truly grasp the nature of God’s forgiveness through Christ.
Some may see that as weakness on the part of the Lord, but let’s not forget about Hell. Of course, there will be those that will be punished. But that suffering would affect us all if we went there, regardless of what our sins were. “How do you think we’d feel if we were murdered? Or if one of our loved ones were?” Believe me, I completely understand your point. But hear me out. According to the Bible, all deserve eternal suffering, whether or not one ever murders. That’s quite interesting, isn’t it? Surely a murderer deserves Hell more than, say, an atheist, correct? But aren’t both classified as “sins” according to the Bible? That’s interesting. Does Hell have “layers”, such as in “Dante’s Inferno”? I haven’t read enough on the Bible to develop an opinion regarding how Hell is structured. I’m sure someone could send me verses to enlighten me on that fact.
Does the fact that we all justly deserve Hell make our suffering more “manageable” to us if we were to go there? Surely it’s “Hell” for a reason. Surely “Hell” means something. It means eternal suffering, correct? Well, regardless of one’s sins, I have to feel some sympathy for anyone that ends up in Hell. I don’t see how one could truly not feel sympathy for that person. According to my clearly amateurish understanding of Hell, it’s too horrific for there to not be sympathy felt. It truly shows the tragedy of evil. We all end up losing because of it.
I think it shows that we all share a common humanity as well. It shows empathy: we all deserve Hell, but none of us want to go there. I think that truly says something about humanity and love, even if some of us do murder. Clearly, murder should be dealt with. On Earth, it makes sense that murderers should be stopped when they murder, whether through imprisonment or death. An eye for an eye, afterall, is the ultimate sign of “justice“. It’s much harder to truly condemn someone to Hell in your mind when you realize that everyone justly deserves it. It makes you realize that God has forgiven you, and that even the perpetuators of the worst crimes imaginable can receive sympathy. They do deserve to come to justice, but there’s certainly a tragic element involved from multiple standpoints. The most obvious (and deserving) tragic elements are the people upon whom the crimes are committed. Then, it follows that their loved ones deserve sympathy (and even the loved ones of the criminal). But it is, understandably so, much harder to proclaim that the criminals deserve sympathy. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be overwhelmed with a desire to kill an innocent person, but I realize that people like that exist. It makes me sad. I just feel sad about the whole situation. It is hard for me to be angry at the murderer. I completely understand the justified anger that people feel, but I myself feel more sad than angry.
It would make more sense if, say, only murderers went to Hell. That would make the concept of “Hell” an easier pill to swallow. But even if Hell was occupied only by murderers, I’d still feel sad, and feel sympathy. I’d still ask “Why do they feel compelled to murder?” If one truly grows up in a violent household, it makes sense to lament at the entire situation (but, of course, not excuse the murder. It should still be dealt with). But if one grows up “normally”, but still murders, there is still a sympathy that I’d feel for the murderer. It’s the tragic “Why?” that we all have any time a situation like this occurs.
However, according to the Bible, it isn’t the case that Hell is occupied solely by murderers. It is hard to accept the scope of things that makes one a sinner in the eyes of God. Why should I be punished for Adam and Eve’s doing? I, admittedly, don’t understand the scope of God’s justice. It may be hard for people to understand why I’m saying this, but I can accept that God is, in fact, just. I don’t know how to convince anyone with “evidence”, and I’m not going to. Ridicule me as a “crazy conservative” if you must. Ultimately, I think the debate between “believers” and “non-believers” is pointless. I think “live and let live” is a much better alternative. The fact that Hell is not composed solely of murderers makes me question a lot of my views regarding ethics, justice, and forgiveness. I certainly think there is a place for justice and a place for forgiveness. It is not up to me to tell someone when they should be enraged or when they should forgive, but this is merely my perspective on the topic. I’m clearly not a “divine authority”. It’s just interesting. I’m not quite sure why I’m so sympathetic. I just always have been. It’s just who I am.
As I said, I just thought this was interesting. I’m not passing any judgment: just bringing up a point. One that I have not noticed brought up, is all.
This, of course, says a lot about religious conservatives, but that’s a topic for another time (and yes, I understand that even they can be forgiven. I used to be one of them).
I will conclude by saying, of course, murderers should not be free to murder. But the point is that God is infinite in His existence. His way of dealing with things such as murder transcends what we, as humans, are able to do. I think that is extraordinarily profound. And I thought this all worth mentioning, as evidenced by the fact that I wrote this.
Ideological conflict is human nature. Us humans were given life on this planet, without a say so in the matter, and we live. Our very existence is a conflict. Within our existence, there exists “nature”. This “nature” provides us with things we need to live (air, water, etc.), and also things that can kill us (air, water, (hurricanes, etc.) etc.). This troubles me. It is often said that those things which one cannot change should not be the cause of stress, because there is nothing one can do about those things. But it is precisely the fact that I cannot do something about a thing which bothers me the most. Realizing the constant state of conflict in the world wears on my soul. It wears on all of our souls. It will always wear on all of our souls. We will be given breaks for indefinite amounts of time. But it will always wear on our souls. And that fact wears on mine.
I truly should be thankful for those times in which I live in the moment. In some ways, I think it is almost impossible not to be. Almost instinctively, we say the phrase “I am thankful.” There are often situations which are so great to us that we feel compelled to say thank you. The phrase “I am thankful” itself signifies gratitude, so there is an inherent gratitude that overwhelms us whenever we are thankful. It is in those exact moments that we are freed from the conflicts that we otherwise cannot escape.
I suppose this is a good time to bring up a specific conflict that I’ve had in mind. Quite simply, the conflict amounts to these two separate ideas: 1) that our wants do matter, and 2) that our wants do not matter. Among these, there, of course, branch off several different beliefs attached to each of these ideas.
I will approach the second idea first. The idea that our wants do not matter. This can be approached from several different standpoints. There is a religious standpoint (particularly self-defined as “Christian”) in which our wants do not matter because there is a “higher” purpose. This “higher purpose” is “God”. And I don’t want to discuss fully the idea of what “God” is in this sense, because that would take me forever to do so (and I probably would not be sufficient at doing so, anyway). The idea basically comes down to a few things: that we are sinners, and that we deserve to be punished. That we should punish ourselves for our own sin so that when we die, we may be rewarded. And it attempts to identify what is a sin (what should be avoided) and what isn’t, and, every single time, it creates anger, resentment, confusion, depression, guilt, and hopelessness upon the person weighing his own sins. His time is to be preoccupied with these emotions, and happiness just doesn’t fit into the equation. In fact, “happiness” means he is enjoying his sin. His flesh (including his mind that isn’t preoccupied with Heaven and Hell) will lead him to a path of eternal damnation; an eternal pain and suffering caused by an everlasting fire. But some mysterious spirituality residing in specific buildings will help him when he dies, say, 40 years from now. Constant guilt and beating oneself up for one’s whole life will show God that one is, in fact, holy, and worthy of being saved. The key to avoiding Hell when one dies is to not allow yourself to escape from thinking about it while here on Earth. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of the idea. It doesn’t make any sense to me (anymore), but that’s the idea.
There is also a standpoint with regards to the philosophy that our wants do not matter from a “depressed”, “defeatist” attitude. The idea that life itself does not care about our wants, because our wants are so often devastated, often horrifically, by things outside of our control. A lot of scientists and atheists take this approach. In the case of science, this “defeatist” attitude often comes from a lack of repeatable evidence. This isn’t always true, but it happens enough for there to be a noticeable “tendency”. The idea that life was an accident of nature. That everything was “just right” for life to come into existence, but without a purpose for coming into existence. The “Descartesian” approach: that reality is perceived through the senses, so all realities must be measurable by the senses in order for something to truly be a reality (even though he admits he’s a Christian in his writings. In college, my professor brought it up that he probably would’ve been tried for heresy if he hadn’t have admitted such, so that makes me “doubt” (haha) whether or not he truly identified as a Christian). “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Beliefs” cannot be seen, smelled, heard (from an outside source; they originate from “within”, and then can be talked (and, therefore, “heard”)), tasted, or touched. They are something separate from “the senses”. It is evident that beliefs are separate from the senses as someone can deny (through, say, shock) something that is seen in front of them, heard over the phone, etc. “Faith” is something that transcends the senses. It doesn’t have to be called “religious faith”.
Take, for instance, the case of a loved one dying in the hospital. No one wants to believe that the loved one is going to die. They know it is either possible or likely, but they still hope that the person lives. Knowing that they are likely to die is different than believing they are likely to die. Hope transcends the senses. Optimism, in this case, transcends the senses. The belief that the loved one will recover is an essential emotional tool. You can’t see, smell, taste, hear, or touch the recovery that you hope to happen, but truly believing that someone isn’t going to pull through is very difficult emotionally. People believe the loved one is going to make it through because it makes them feel better. There’s certainly a lot of scoffing at the idea that one would ignore a reality just because it makes one “feel” better. I’m included among these “scoffers”. But belief is an essential emotional tool for us humans. Optimism, hope, belief, and faith are essential. What makes one optimistic, or why one is hopeful, believes, etc., is up for debate. But the most obvious answer is that it makes one feel better, and this, by itself, does not disprove anything. The fact that one is hopeful that the loved one lives does not disprove that the loved one is going to live (of course, this goes without saying, that hope does not prove that the loved one will pull through, either). Hope, faith, etc. are things which cannot be measured, and are truths that exist separately from realities that are perceived through the senses. So, in conclusion, if the creation of life itself has no “purpose”, and our existence has no “purpose”, then why would our happiness have any “purpose”? If life was a happy accident, why can’t happiness be a happy accident? Why should we treat it as anything more than a “fortunate accident”? This, I think, explains, on at least some level, the noticeable depression among many “atheistic/scientific” types. This is one “atheistic/scientific” approach to “wants”. (There are, of course, atheists who believe that “purpose” is whatever we ascribe to our realities, and they aren’t particularly nihilistic. But the nihilistic atheists are worth mentioning). I should mention that I went through my own atheistic period, just to make sure the reader understands that I am not critiquing atheism because I was raised religiously and accept what I was taught uncritically.
The temperatures of space and the sun can be measured. The infinite majority of the universe is uninhabitable. There are searches for hospitable planets in the depths of space, but for every chance there may be a planet where life could exist, there are countless examples of places in space where life almost certainly cannot exist. If you very deeply value the idea of there being life outside of Earth, this fact, of course, will produce depression inherently. If you don’t care about whether or not there exists life outside of the Earth, this will not bother you. It is a matter of differences in personal values.
There are other “types” that believe that our desires to not matter from a philosophical standpoint. Unfortunate life circumstances have a tendency to make one extremely pessimistic and depressed. This will, of course, make one believe that the world doesn’t care. And that perspective certainly makes sense. “If God loves us, why does He allow for war, famine, and disease to happen?” I personally find that to be a very poignant question. A lot of Christians run from that question, for fear of angering God and suffering His wrath. But how can anyone not ask that question? It’s a very valid question. When it comes to matters of spirituality, I believe that honesty is always the best policy. Opening up your soul to The Great Beyond is always important and therapeutic. It is important to believe that one is able to do this. You can’t have peace spiritually if you are afraid. Comfort requires peace, and quiet, and poignant honesty. Admitting that you have problems with something. We, as humans, should not avoid the nature of our brains when we discuss spirituality. We can’t run from ourselves. It only makes us more miserable than we were when we first started running. And if God loves us, as Christians preach, why can’t we ask Him tough questions? Why can’t we say we have problems with Him? Why can’t we be angry at Him? Jesus Christ is said to have been God in human form. Human. It is said that we were made in God’s image. We, as humans, were made in God’s image. What does “image” mean, exactly? Well, perhaps the way we look is a part of it. I don’t know what “God” looks like, but Jesus was a human. I think it’s more than just cosmetics, however. The Bible makes it clear that God can both love and hate. Can’t we also love and hate? Of course we can. I think this is also what is meant by being made in “His image”.
So if there is, according to Christian doctrine, a strong connection between humanity and God, let’s think about some specific instances of relationships between humans. Let’s take loved ones for example. Can we not get angry at loved ones? We still love our loved ones. But can’t we get angry? Can’t we forgive our loved ones when we believe they have wronged us? I have to believe that these are also what is meant by us being made in God’s image: sharing some of His characteristics. That He can get angry at us, but also forgive us. That makes sense to me. I can’t comprehend completely the level of, say, His anger, or His forgiveness, but I can accept that He can “experience” both.
The atheists and Christians come together in their resentment of human choice. Speaking broadly, of course, the atheists’ nihilism leads people to believe that their actions have no significant influence, and the Christians’ condemnation leads people to believe that their desires are evil. Both of these stifle action. And action, of course, is driven by desire. Both the atheists and the conservatives are about creating misery. The sad thing is that they spend so much time fighting each other that they can’t see that, in that respect, they’re the same. “It doesn’t matter what you want because God isn’t real and life has no meaning and we’re all going to die” is, of course, an extremely similar message to “It doesn’t matter what you want because what you want is going to lead you to an eternity of suffering after you die.” Notice the similarity? (Hint: it isn’t just the fact that “in the long run, we’re all dead”).
This attitude of “it doesn’t matter what you want” extends beyond any religious/spiritual spheres. It’s common even among non-religious discussions. Of course, the basic fact is “You can’t always get what you want.” But there’s a certain attitude that comes with this reality that I rather despise. It, similarly, amounts to “It doesn’t matter what you desire”, which is ridiculous. Much like the hospital example I gave earlier. Does the fact that a loved one is almost certain to die mean that I should just “Get over what I want”? This attitude is extremely pervasive; not about loved ones, but desire in general. You can be that way if you wish, but I find it disgusting and repulsive.
Once again, I think this largely has to do with unfortunate life circumstances. Perhaps there’s an underlying depression that manifests itself through anger among those that so proudly declare to dreamers that “It doesn’t matter what you want” when the listener of those words is deciding upon which course of action to take in the common course of his life. It’s usually very hateful, which is a red flag to me. I’m not against hate completely, as there are many things that I “hate”. But the way that I so often hear “It doesn’t matter what you want” raises a red flag to me. It has for a very long time. I had this attitude for most of my childhood simply by observing my parents. I watched them leave for work everyday, and complain about it every single day. Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. But, to my child mind, I wanted something different (my parents certainly had a lot to do with planting this seed in my head in other, more intentional ways, as well). I grew up basically expecting that adulthood was going to suck, and that I’d never experience happiness again after childhood. It’s interesting, because that perspective influenced me in other regards as well. It basically became my overall demeanor for a long time.
It goes without saying, but several different things have affected my perspective. Religion affected my perspective; my mother abandoning me affected my perspective. The most embarrassing thing which affected my perspective in childhood was porn. I consumed porn as a child that affected my perspectives about women. Apparently, looking back on it, I must’ve been reading some dominatrix porn. At the time, I didn’t know anything about “kinks” or “normal human relationships”, so I thought this was just the way that women treated men. It made me resent them. Hey, it’s embarrassing. But honesty is therapeutic to me. (I must include that in addition to this porn, religion severely affected my perspectives about women. It made me hate the fact that they made me feel “sinful” things, and made me resent them because of it. Once again, it’s embarrassing. I already know what is going to be said: “Wow, sounds like Ed Gein.” Go ahead and get that out of your system. I know you’ll feel better for hating me). But the type of porn I discovered, along with religious guilt about sexuality in general, made me want to stay as far away from women as possible. Even to this day, I do not particularly desire women. It’s no surprise why. I realize that will make many readers angry, but hey. Therapy is good.
Also, as is the case with many, if not all people, you have crushes during your childhood that lead to absolutely nothing. And it continues through your teenage years. If it happens frequently enough, and you’re emotionally sensitive enough (as I was), you put your guard up. All of these facts lead up to why I don’t particularly enjoy dating, nor sex. I try to avoid attractive women because I don’t even want the thoughts to enter my mind. I’m developing a healthier attitude towards sex due to the way my life philosophies have changed regarding happiness, but the idea of being in a relationship does not interest me in the least. Casual sex doesn’t either, honestly. Friendships, of course, are fine: provided that I don’t get too physically or romantically attracted to the friend. Then, that just leads to more complicated feelings that I wish I could rid myself of. (I should also mention that my desire to be alone also originates just from my natural demeanor, without being influenced by “outside forces”. I just naturally enjoy my alone time).
It is quite unbelievable how long I spent trying to run away from my emotions about women. Trying to run away from physical attractiveness in particular. It doesn’t surprise me that it happened, but I can’t believe how long it has taken me to say “Uh, that’s just dumb.” I’m basically having to teach myself that sexuality is ok, and that’s a really bad thing to have to do. That should be taught from the beginning. I don’t recall exactly who “taught” me otherwise (I really don’t think it was my parents. I remember them speaking to me about condoms, and I was so overwhelmed with embarrassment that I tuned them out. I think it was pastors on the radio, or something. It’s crazy how one sermon can completely change your life forever. For the worse, even). Emotional sensitivity, shyness, dominatrix literature and conservative preaching have all been factors towards my feelings about women. I don’t hate women. Women are human beings. I know this. But I prefer to be alone and guarded. I know this will change with time, but it doesn’t really bother me that I am this way. It bothers me that people are going to think the worst of me based on what I’ve said, but it doesn’t matter what you do or say, you’re always going to have people that think you are an evil person. It’s just how it is. I’ll concede that I am a stupid person, but, hopefully, you understand why I’m a stupid person. I’m working on it, slowly but surely, and a large key to this is going to be my “happiness” philosophy. I’m having to retrain myself that my wants actually matter. That my wants aren’t “evil”. And I just don’t want romance. I’m also still hesitant about being sexually attracted to women, but there’s just some things that you can’t help. THERE TRULY ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU JUST HAVE TO “ACCEPT”. Once again, I know you’ll think I’m weird, and that’s acceptable. Because I am weird. I just hope you understand where I’m coming from, and can maybe empathize with me, is all.
So, slowly but surely, I’m learning that wants (especially sexual) are not inherently evil. Physical attraction is not evil. It makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t evil. I can see how trust is important when it comes to relationships. Learning that trust, love, etc. are important to relationships does not occur in the way that learning to fear God through the Ten Commandments happens. A major problem I have had is hearing basic facts about the world and judging them through this “Ten Commandments” logic. “Is this sinful, or is this not? I’m going to judge this to the fullest extent of holiness to see if it stacks up to God’s plan.” Basically, it is the idea of treating, say, the fact that love is built on trust to mean that you must trust anyone you have any attraction to at any time or else you are an ethical failure with regards to trust, and I guess that means you’re going to be punished for not trusting. This, of course, is a result of being taught that lust (a.k.a., sexual desire) is unholy unless you are married to the person you sexually desire. So it isn’t surprising to believe that you must develop an intimate relationship with anyone you physically desire, but it’s excruciatingly tragic. You push your warped logic to its extreme end. Most of us are aware of “conservative crazies”, but sadly, too many of us are those “conservative crazies”. It’s really stupid and depressing. There’s many of us that understand what warped conservative ideologies say, and, thankfully, many people that are critical of it. The amount of times that I treated being attracted to a girl to mean that I had to date her is physically repulsive to me. Shitty conservative ideas: “lust” (looking at a woman with sexual attraction with no intention of “marrying” her) should be avoided at all costs, you should ask God for forgiveness, masturbating is a sin, yadda yadda yadda. It truly is emotional child torture. It is so weird how, over the course of your life, people can affect you for the worst. Some people make your life better, others make it worse. Just another inescapable fucking reality of being here on Earth.
Interestingly enough, in addition to me being a fucking retard about women, I’m also a doormat. When I was younger, I made sure not to step on anyone’s toes, and this came at the expense of me asserting myself pretty much at all. You want to date me? Sure, why not. It doesn’t matter what I want: I exist to make other people happy, because that’s a holy thing to do. Showing that I “care for others” as God commands. Jesus fucking Christ: when have I not been stupid? Time after time after time, I dated a girl simply because she wanted to, when I had no interest in doing so whatsoever. Because I’m just a pushover that couldn’t assert myself. Of course, I doubted myself because of perceived “peer pressure”: “Everyone else is fucking, man! Why don’t you care about dating?” Finally, after several years of emotionally tormenting myself, I accepted that I just wasn’t interested. I was still physically attracted (and emotionally attracted a few times), but not interested. That was a huge, great first step for me. Asserting myself. Defending myself is the next step I see, but there is a value in ignoring criticisms, whether they be just or not, and entering your own bubble. That’s blasphemous to those who aren’t being widely criticized, but privacy and solitude are beautiful blessings indeed.
The final step, at least thus far, towards my “accepting happiness as a valuable, worthy goal” philosophy was tackling religion on a different front. Not the religious ideas that I’ve already mentioned in this piece, but ideas that I’ve mentioned before in other pieces. I reached a breaking point as far as money and God were concerned. The conflict between making money on the one hand (thus, avoiding God, in my mind) or choosing God and remaining in poverty on the other proved to be my breaking point (the dichotomy, of course, existing because “this world is sinful”, etc.). By a miracle, I finally accepted that the two ideas were not mutually exclusive: they were not incompatible. The misery I experienced in my youth regarding my parents being miserable with their jobs was gone. I always ran from my desire for money by saying “Well, if my parents don’t like making it, why should I make it?” “If money is the root of all evil, why shouldn’t I avoid it?” “If CEOs are greedy, horrible people, why would I want money?” Then, of course, when I actually needed money, I faced a huge contradiction. Thankfully, this was resolved for me by realizing that I can choose both. A truly revolutionary idea that has basically zero traction in common discussion, which goes: Either we should focus on God and not care about money (because of “greed”) or we should abandon God altogether. I have not seen many connect the two dots. I have not seen many say that one can be wealthy and be a Christian. Often Biblical verses are cited to prove that one cannot be both simultaneously, but I’d have to be skeptical of this analysis from several points. On the one hand, why should poverty be something to be “helped” if wealth is also a bad thing? In other words, how can poverty and wealth both be conditions undesirable to God? What other “state” is there? Middle class? Is there a specific amount of money that God will allow? That seems ludicrous to me. Let’s say I start out at this “specific” amount of money that makes me “holy”. If I buy something, I’m “below” that monetary amount. Likewise, if I sell something, I’m “above” it. Is the amount which determines “holiness” dependent upon money, or materials? How exactly is this “value” to be measured? Once again, I consider the whole idea of God demanding a “specific” amount of money to be a Christian a ludicrous idea. I also consider the idea of there being a holy “range” of money to be just as ludicrous.
Many interpret the Bible to mean that Christ hated wealth itself. As I’ve been studying economics for quite some time now, I find this to be absurd. I have learned that wealth is created through common, beneficiary exchange. Why would God dislike humans working together to become happier? Still yet, others may say it is the wealth disparity that God hated. Once again, I don’t think this would be the case. On the free market, wealth is created through voluntary exchange, whereby individuals trade because they believe to be better off. Those that are wealthy have traded more valuable things to more people, and thus, have increased the happiness of all of those involved in the trading (of course, there is such a thing as “buyer’s remorse” and “seller’s remorse”, but one buys or sells when one believes one will be better off, more satisfied, when he or she buys or sells). Why would God be upset with the traders if they are benefiting the people around them more so than the poor? (Of course, many will say that, for example, those with disabilities can’t trade as much with others, if, in fact, at all, and thus, are at an economic advantage. Surely God cares about the disabled, correct? The argument I’m making isn’t that God hates the poor because they are poor, but that He doesn’t hate the wealthy just because they are wealthy. I don’t think He hates the wealthy simply because the poor exist. I don’t think God is a Socialist (I don’t think He has ever been accused of being an egalitarian in hardly any sense: He’s been condemned for being a “favoritist” more often)). Certainly I don’t think it is wealth that God has a problem with. I’m sure he has problems with how wealth is created (I don’t see how God can issue a commandment “Thou shalt not steal” but be ok with stealing from the rich to give to the poor (it is a commandment, afterall). But what about the murder commandment? What about “just holy wars” where people die? What about self-defense? All valid questions that I don’t have answers to), but I don’t think there is a problem with wealth per se. Wealth can do great things to people. One has to be wealthy in order to donate wealth to others. In other words, you can’t donate unless you have. Why would having be evil, while giving be praised? Once again, I think the whole idea is ludicrous. And even if a rich person spends their money “selfishly”, other people are still getting paid. Whatever the rich person buys is being given to the people involved in getting the product (or service) to the rich person, whether it be producing, distributing, storing, or whatever. The whole idea that God hates wealth is nonsense. Why would Heaven be described with “streets of gold” if gold (a symbol of wealth) is this inherently evil thing? I don’t think God is displeased with us humans because, within the past several centuries, wealth has been created for humanity on a scale never before created in humanity’s history. (This makes me think of conservatives, who lament at “the good old days”, back before people were “Godless”). I can’t believe that God has a problem with the free market, and that He has a problem with wealth. Of course, it is easy to compare the rich to the poor, but the fact that all money that is spent helps out somebody is a reality that should be understood. Whether a rich person gives it to another rich person that owns a business and employs people and gives customers goods and/or services, or gives it to a charity to help children born with life-threatening conditions, it should be understood that his wealth helps whomever he gives it to. (It should be noted that there would be no money to give to charities without profit). I do not think this means that God has a problem with saving (“hoarding”), because saving simply exists for future consumption. Everyone knows that it is dumb to, for example, be buried with your money after you die. I think that is part of the problem with wealth that God may have: stuff that is already obvious to us. I think the fact that it is obvious to us is evident that God would have a problem with it (the “human connection” between God and man).
My life changed forever on that day when I realized that God and money were not completely incompatible. I desired to learn about what money actually was, and I’ve been studying economics ever since. I’ve also, largely thanks to my best friend, been developing a “happiness” philosophy. I enjoy introspection, and unraveling why I am how I am. I’m always going to do this with my writing. This, typically, is done in retrospect. But now, I actually have a philosophy to anticipate developing in the future. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a time in my life where I actually looked forward to the future (pun unintended), at least long-term. It’s really overwhelming: I’m not quite sure what to do at times. I feel like a dog that has been abused, who, thanks to a very loving owner, wags his tail violently and jumps and runs around uncontrollably simply due to glee and relief. I love listening to my best friend talk about religion. He has taught me a lot, and I owe him a lot. His personal battles, past and present, are interesting to me, and I’m interested in seeing how God develops us over time. What will our similarities within the faith be, and what will be the differences, as I’m sure there will be? I’m very interested in finding that out.
I, also briefly, would like to mention something else regarding to my past sensitivities, morality, etc., and that is the idea of debating. I don’t really believe I was taught this, but it has just always been a natural disposition of mine. When I was younger, I never liked it when people “debated”. I hated arguments (even harmless ones), and I didn’t like loud noises. I never liked gregariousness (which explains why I spent so much time alone, away from, for example, my father). Of course, you learn, change, and grow over time. People help influence you, and I’m clearly different than I was as a child (God, I would hope so). But now, I dislike debating for other reasons. I won’t mention them all here: I’ll save them for other pieces. Change always makes me wonder why in the fuck I was ever the original way in the first place, but, at least if the change is clearly for the better, I can be thankful that it, at least, happened at all.
I’ve been influenced for the better; I’ve been influenced for the worse. I guess I’m just a human being.
I certainly understand the idea that “you can’t always get what you want”. But what I don’t understand about people who so proudly declare that “it doesn’t matter what you want” with so much sass is that everything we do is an attempt to satiate some desire that we have. What we desire drives our actions. I don’t understand why this isn’t widely believed, or, at the very least, why it isn’t widely disseminated. I am indebted to various economists I have read over the past several years for the revelation that “human beings use means to achieve ends”. This, of course, means that humans desire. Desire is what drives all economic activity: the desire to live, and to live how one wants to the best of his abilities, doing the best he can for himself because he desires what he considers to be in his best interest. So, in other words, all of those miserable people who, so proudly, declare that it doesn’t matter what you want, are, essentially, driven by their own wants. Once again, I don’t know why this isn’t widely accepted and disseminated. The conservatives want to go to Heaven, and the best way they can see to do this is by condemning the “sinful” world around them (sadly). Atheists, I suppose, want to learn sensible truths, or, at the very least, want to avoid the negativity that often comes with being religiously conservative, and want to call out those who make others purposefully feel like shit, even if for a “higher purpose”. Of course, there’s countless motivations and reasons for what people do, but the point is that they are driven by intrinsic desire to obtain their goals, and they take actions in an attempt to satisfy these goals for themselves. This, in the words of Mises’s magnum opus, is “Human Action”.
I personally refuse to accept that what I personally desire isn’t valuable: that it is a “waste of time”. I certainly reject the proposition from a Christian standpoint, which, ultimately, I believe, is the “life” standpoint. As a Christian, I refuse to believe that God loves and cares about me, but somehow doesn’t care about my happiness. Once again, if I said I care about, say, my best friend, but didn’t care about his level of happiness, can I really say that I care about him? Sure, I can rationalize and try to be “moral” and “preachy” and tell him all the reasons why what makes him happy is wrong. But the idea that being happy itself is wrong is, quite simply, just wrong to me. Incorrect.
Because, as I have said, I don’t desire debating, I’d rather not go into too much detail into what it is that I want. As I’ve said, I know I’ll get a billion different reasons as to why I shouldn’t want what I want, or why I’ll never get it, etc. etc. Of course, I write about what I want all the time, but I want to defend wanting itself in this piece.
Despite the fact it will always be the case that I will never be completely satisfied always, this does not mean that there is something wrong with wanting in general. I sincerely hope more people discuss this (I’m probably just looking in the wrong places) and understand that every thing we do is an attempt to satisfy some want. I hope more people will become more comfortable with expressing and accepting their honest feelings about wanting. While I certainly understand the phrase “You can’t always get what you want”, I reject the notion that what I want doesn’t matter. I implore everyone else to believe the same thing for themselves.
And people trying to tell you that what you want doesn’t matter or is impossible to achieve will only make the satisfaction of that desire all the more sweet. (Let’s say that what you want is impossible to achieve, and you finally realize this, and change course of action. …Who cares? Who should be the one to decide when one should change course of direction, and to which direction?) That’s a gigantic motivation for me, personally. I want to prove people wrong that say I’m never going to succeed at what I want to succeed at. More than anything. Almost more than the success itself. “What do you possibly have to offer to the world, Cody?” Let’s just wait and find out, shall we?
Life is a learning process because we aren’t omniscient. Our wills drive us. Our entire lives will be battles between satisfying our desires and the desires of others, and not satisfying our desires nor the desires of others. Human interrelations are so complex that it is seemingly impossible to discuss all of its nuances. Sometimes, we do good, and other times, we do evil. Sometimes, we helplessly make things worse, while other times, we do good accidentally. I don’t really have any good way of explaining why things are the way they are between us all. I’d be highly skeptical of the one that says he does have a good way of explaining it. When you get right down to it, ultimately, the answer to the question “Why?” does seem to come down to: “It just is.” But we should all ask “Why?” as often as we are comfortable with asking, and, for me, that’s quite a bit. Why are many people content with not doing so? Who knows. “They just are.” But if they proclaim, from a deeply philosophical sense, that my wants (or anyone else’s wants, for that matter) simply don’t matter, they are wrong from multiple standpoints. In my opinion, they are taking the easy way out because they themselves are miserable, and that’s the great tragedy behind all of this. I may not know why some men commit heinous evils while others do not, but I can be thankful that I don’t want to commit evil, and I can be thankful for the others that feel that way as well. I am thankful that we don’t all want to be evil, even though, inevitably, it will slip out from all of us, from time to time, to varying degrees. That’s the best I can hope for while I’m alive: that our evil doesn’t destroy us too much. That remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. Of course, I’m not in a gulag, so that’s easy for me to say now. If I were, I probably wouldn’t be as hopeful. But, in the long run, maybe that’s all we have: hope. Because we want good, even when we create bad. (I reserve the right to be pessimistic, especially for comedic purposes).
1. “It is vain to object that life and reality are not logical. Life and reality are neither logical nor illogical; they are simply given. But logic is the only tool available to man for the comprehension of both. It is vain to object that life and history are inscrutable and ineffable and that human reason can never penetrate to their inner core. The critics contradict themselves in uttering words about the ineffable and expounding theories—of course, spurious theories—about the unfathomable. There are many things beyond the reach of the human mind. But as far as man is able to attain any knowledge, however limited, he can use only one avenue of approach, that opened by reason.”
2. “The revolt against reason, the characteristic mental attitude of our age, was not caused by a lack of modesty, caution, and self-examination on the part of the philosophers. Neither was it due to failures in the evolution of modern natural science. The amazing achievements of technology and therapeutics speak a language which nobody can ignore. It is hopeless to attack modern science, whether from the angle of intuitionism and mysticism, or from any other point of view. The revolt against reason was directed against another target. It did not aim at the natural sciences, but at economics. The attack against the natural sciences was only the logically necessary outcome of the attack against economics. It was impermissible to dethrone reason in one field only and not to question it in other branches of knowledge also.
The great upheaval was born out of the historical situation existing in the middle of the nineteenth century. The economists had entirely demolished the fantastic delusions of the socialist utopians. The deficiencies of the classical system prevented them from comprehending why every socialist plan must be unrealizable; but they knew enough to demonstrate the futility of all socialist schemes produced up to their time. The communist ideas were done for. The socialists were absolutely unable to raise any objection to the devastating criticism of their schemes and to advance any argument in their favor. It seemed as if socialism was dead forever.
Only one way could lead the socialists out of this impasse. They could attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination. It was the historical role of Karl Marx to propose this solution.”
3. “There was still the main obstacle to overcome: the devastating criticism of the economists. Marx had a solution at hand. Human reason, he asserted, is constitutionally unfitted to find truth. The logical structure of mind is different with various social classes. There is no such thing as a universally valid logic. What mind produces can never be anything but ‘ideology,’ that is, in the Marxian terminology, a set of ideas disguising the selfish interests of the thinker’s own social class. Hence, the ‘bourgeois’ mind of the economists is utterly incapable of producing more than an apology for capitalism. The teachings of ‘bourgeois’ science, an offshoot of ‘bourgeois’ logic, are of no avail for the proletarians, the rising class destined to abolish all classes and to convert the earth into a Garden of Eden.”
4. “It is certain that many intellectuals envy the higher income of prosperous businessmen and that these feelings drive them toward socialism. They believe that the authorities of a socialist commonwealth would pay them higher salaries than those that they earn under capitalism.”
5. “Sometimes a superficial observer may believe that labor performed by other people gives rise to immediate gratification because he himself would like to engage in a kind of play which apparently imitates the kind of labor concerned. As children play school, soldiers, and railroad, so adults too would like to play this and that. They think that the railroad engineer must enjoy operating and steering his engine as much as they would if they were permitted to toy with it.
On his hurried way to the office the bookkeeper envies the patrolman who, he thinks, is paid for leisurely strolling around his beat. But the patrolman envies the bookkeeper who, sitting on a comfortable chair in a well-heated room, makes money by some scribbling which cannot seriously be called labor. Yet the opinions of people who misinterpret other people’s work and consider it a mere pastime need not be taken seriously.”
6. “The Creative Genius: Far above the millions that come and pass away tower the pioneers, the men whose deeds and ideas cut out new paths for mankind. For the pioneering genius¹² to create is the essence of life. To live means for him to create. The activities of these prodigious men cannot be fully subsumed under the praxeological concept of labor. They are not labor because they are for the genius not means, but ends in themselves. He lives in creating and inventing. For him there is not leisure, only intermissions of temporary sterility and frustration. His incentive is not the desire to bring about a result, but the act of producing it. The accomplishment gratifies him neither mediately nor immediately. It does not gratify him mediately because his fellow men at best are unconcerned about it, more often even greet it with taunts, sneers, and persecution. Many a genius could have used his gifts to render his life agreeable and joyful; he did not even consider such a possibility and chose the thorny path without hesitation. The genius wants to accomplish what he considers his mission, even if he knows that he moves toward his own disaster. Neither does the genius derive immediate gratification from his creative activities. Creating is for him agony and torment, a ceaseless excruciating struggle against internal and external obstacles; it consumes and crushes him.
¹²Leaders [Fürhrers] are not pioneers. They guide people along the tracks pioneers have laid. The pioneer clears a road through land hitherto inaccessible and may not care whether or not anybody wants to go the new way. The leader directs people toward the goal they want to reach.”
7. “Neither society nor single individuals can substantially further the genius and his work.”
8. “Men cannot improve the natural and social conditions which bring about the creator and his creation. It is impossible to rear geniuses by eugenics, to train them by schooling, or to organize their activities. But, of course, one can organize society in such a way that no room is left for pioneers and their path-breaking.”
9. “He who interprets might as physical or ‘real’ power to carry on and considers violent action as the very foundation of government, sees conditions from the narrow point of view of subordinate officers in charge of sections of an army or police force. To these subordinates a definite task within the framework of the ruling ideology is assigned. Their chiefs commit to their care troops which are not only equipped, armed, and organized for combat, but no less imbued with the spirit which makes them obey the orders issued. The commanders of such subdivisions consider this moral factor a matter of course because they themselves are animated by the same spirit and cannot even imagine a different ideology. The power of an ideology consists precisely in the fact that people submit to it without any wavering and scruples.
However, things are different for the head of the government. He must aim at preservation of the morale of the armed forces and of the loyalty of the rest of the population. For these moral factors are the only ‘real’ elements upon which continuance of his mastery rests. His power dwindles if the ideology that supports it loses force.”