Author Archive

Chasing our tails

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015


Dogs, despite being nature’s kindest and most enthusiastic animals, have the baffling habit of chasing their tails. They notice the attraction and lunge for it, as if this discovery of themselves could give their lives meaning.

Reputedly, humans are more intelligent and not prone to such behaviors. After some years of experience in the world, I can no longer agree. We are the ultimate tail-chasers but, being social animals, we’ve found a way to pretend that we are not chasing our own tails if we project the image of a tail onto others.

After a few weeks in the wild one may return to society and notice as if for the first time how it is literally covered in advertising. Not just the wheat-paste posters, the giant billboards lining the roads, the advertisements on TV and radio blaring from all angles, but even the little stuff.

People repeat what they’ve seen or heard. Movies and music even feature product placement. When they’re not doing that, people advertise themselves. They brag about their kids, pitch you a business plan, or as happens every day describe for you their method of doing something-or-other and expect you to validate it with approval.

The point is that we are chasing our own tail. Merchandisers try to find out what “the people” want and advertise it to them, hoping “the people” will buy it. As a result, there’s no leader. The people are in theory the deciders, but they are also shaped by those who want to benefit from their decisions. And so like a dog chasing its tail, business pursues consumers who pursue business.

It’s not any different in the world of politics. The candidates try to figure out what the voters want so they can offer it to them. The voters are in turn shaped by what the candidates are offering. The entire political process chases its own tail because no one is in control, only two groups attempting to placate one another.

At a social level the same thing is happening. To be popular, you need to be where it’s at. That means wherever what is trendy and viral right now is occurring. This gives us a whole crowd of people chasing its tail, waiting for someone to do something trendy so they can all chase the trend and thus earn the esteem of the crowd itself.

With this kind of circular logic going on, it’s no wonder our society can barely make simple decisions and has fallen behind under a giant pile of unresolved details. We are not making decisions, but waiting for others to validate us, and they’re waiting for the same from us, which creates a sort of pre-emptive negotiation based on our mutual weaknesses.

This mutual weakness negotation might be described as: “I won’t approve of what you’re afraid of, if you don’t approve of what I’m afraid of.” We are no longer leading by what we desire in a positive sense, but by what we must avoid in order to not destabilize our self-image.

Advertising is pitched to fears. Do you have bad breath? Don’t know what to cook for the kids so the neighbors think you’re a good mom? Afraid you don’t look sharp enough for that promotion? We have solutions for your fears, except because they don’t address the underlying problems (bad hygiene, neurotic distraction, low job performance) you’ll always come back for more. We won’t mention your weakness if you don’t mention we’re a scam.

Politics cannot focus on what we agree on because there’s almost nothing we can agree on. When you need to unite a group of people, and they’re each pulling in an individualistic direction, all they can agree on is avoiding big and obvious problems. Otherwise, they return to inertia. Our agreement is based on fear, specifically the fear that threatens our ability to be oblivious to anything but fear. Politicians agree not to mention the callowness of voters, if voters don’t mention that politics is manipulative by its essential nature.

Our broken social scene reveals the real culprit. If you can envision a group of monkeys sitting around at a clearing in the African jungle, you can see our glorious simian roots. Each monkey watches the others. When another monkey acts, whether to pick up a stick or pick a fruit, the other monkeys assess the likelihood of his success. If he succeeds, how can I get ahead off of what this guy is doing? I can imitate him and start a trend, and thus become “important.” Or, I can fling dung at him and shriek, making myself seem like a protector of the tribe.

The problem with this type of thinking is also what explains why the monkeys stayed in the jungle while humanity moved on. When you chase your own tail, you never pick up a direction other than thinking of the tribe. Your world becomes the tribe, and you become blind to physical reality outside of what others think. You also limit your thoughts to variations on what has already been thought.

Humanity broke free, for a while. We rewarded the independent thinkers and as a result, we created a growing edge within our population. Our leaders made good choices and invented realistic responses, and so we thrived. But then the other monkeys sitting around the clearing saw this and wanted their share of the action.

Because being clever is easier than thinking, they started with cleverness. First they equated leadership thinking with “new ideas” instead of “realistic ideas.” Then they started inventing new ideas. Of course, like modern art, these ideas had nothing to do with reality and weren’t even new. They were new-looking variations of the same old stuff, because that’s what succeeds, in a social sense.

Success in a social sense however determined who succeeded, for a time.

Most of the monkeys can’t tell the difference between a “new idea” and a good idea, so when they saw that trend of newness forming, they got behind it. When others objected, the new monkeys flung dung and called those other monkeys reactionaries. What mattered was what was new, exciting and made all the other monkeys excited. The chattering reached a fever pitch, the Bastille was overthrown, and from henceforth the new monkeys ruled.

But as it says above, “for a time.” The new ideas did not work so well, but monkey society was resting on such a huge momentum of the past, both in terms of wealth and technology, that all it had to do was keep encouraging the same stuff to happen time and again. Keep throwing money at technology, advertising to the consumers, lying to the voters, and hoping it will all work out.

For over two centuries it seemed to, if you could ignore the fratricidal wars and gnawing sense of inner emptiness and purposeless existence. That doesn’t bother everyone. The people who could be extras in Idiocracy tend to find an empty existence pleasant because that way nothing impedes their pursuit of entertainment, donuts and sex. The screeching and flinging of dung reaches a fever pitch.

Now, the monkeytime has come to an end. The problems that we blew off because they were long-term, and thus not popular, have begun to manifest themselves. They aren’t apocalyptic, but worse, they’re never going away. They will slowly grind us down until we are a nub. We have created a tunnel vision of our own prospects.

It’s funny because that’s what those reactionary monkeys warned us about. Our new ideas were just chasing our own tail. And like all circular motions, eventually they wind down and we lose inertia, and then sit becalmed while decay absorbs us.

Writings on Nihilism by Vijay Prozak

Thursday, September 11th, 2014


Saturday, August 30th, 2014


A world of memes comes crashing down on our shoulders: peacemakers versus terrorists, freedom fighters versus extremists, progressives versus what we assume to be regressives. It’s important to remember that a word has no meaning unless it is the true name of something; someone referred to as “evil” may be anything but. The most dramatic term of our time is “extremists,” so we should inspect and see what it actually means.

An extremist, in the current parlance, is someone who disagrees with “modern society”: the combination of industrial capitalism and personal liberty in democratic systems that defines the progressive West. All of Europe and North America and most of their allies have some variation on this type of system. Even further, it is upheld as the reason to support the West in its crusades: we bring you “freedom” and a nifty product-oriented lifestyle.

However, such modern society is by definition very popular, because it tells everyone they are liable only to themselves and their own interests, and that there is need for no other social involvement. Do what benefits you personally, both materially and in social status. Most people do not understand why anyone would oppose this, thus “extremists” tend to work through that form of guerrilla warfare native to our time, sometimes called “terrorism.”

After all, when you are outnumbered not one hundred to and not a thousand to one but more likely a million to one, your methods become extreme by definition and therefore there is little point in not striking decisively by any means necessary. An extremist is someone who believes that the path most follow leads to doom, and for that reason is inclined to urgent action.

What unites extremists is their refusal to give in to the popularity of an idea they believe will lead to a bad end, even if that end is far off. Like most politicians, they realize that the average person knows little more than what happens between paychecks. They know that on average and as a group of averages, people tend to be selfish, short-sighted, and emotionally manipulated by both pity and aggression. Extremists disagree with modern society because it preys on these tendencies and does not address long-term problems.

Since most people do not understand how liberal democratic society can lead to doom, let us walk through the paces: liberal democracy is the joining of democratic society and industrial capitalism, which provides both political/social and economic freedoms for its populations. In order for this freedom to exist, money must be used to regulate the population. What one can afford, one can do. This means in turn that every piece of land, every tree, and every natural resource is seen only in terms of its monetary value.

(Liberal democracies are famous for giving political voice to those who oppose this, like environmentalists and religious groups. But let us ask: what over the past fifty years have these groups accomplished that is of strategic importance? They delay some construction, bust a few polluters, convince the middle class to recycle, etc. but have not delayed or misdirected the widespread expansion of humanity to the point where unbroken natural land is a rarity. Religious groups have not protected their own members from what they see as immoral tendencies in society. There is no victory in a battle of endless details and no decisive strokes.)

Here is the future of our society: immensely popular, modernity will spread worldwide. Soon every nation will live as Americans do and will have all of their powers, including nuclear energy and nuclear bombs. Since there are more people, more housing will be built, and the only remaining wild land will be small national parks. As population density increases, houses with lawns and gardens will be replaced by apartments. Since most people shop compulsively in modern societies, malls and large department stores will be built every three miles, as they seem to be in American cities.

All these new mouths to feed — what will they eat? Fish is the obvious source of protein, but even now ocean fish is too full of mercury to be healthy more than once a month, and supplies are dwindling. “Supplies” of course is our silly abstraction for living populations that must renew themselves and do not magically appear in amounts we request, like burgers at fast food joints. These people will also need fruits and vegetables, but these will be increasingly expensive because land for corporate farms is limited. See, a person is not just the space required for an apartment and parking space, but the several acres of land needed to feed them.

A person is also water required for drinking, cooking and bathing. Our freshwater supplies are already limited, but for now, they’re only expensive. In the future they will become selectively unavailable. The problem with population is not where to put the people in question, because if it was just a matter of space for individuals we could cram fifty billion onto earth, but where to put the systems they need to survive: fresh water, food, exercise space, shopping space, worship space, workspace and on and on.

As the great naturalist John Muir said, the problem with capitalism is that it puts a price tag on everything — and thus nothing is revered for its sheer effect and non-material contribution to life. A beautiful mountainside can become a resort, but there is no logical pathway in democratic society for making it a mountainside appreciated by those nearby. Unique forests and animals? Well, what are they worth? Show me the money, the people say, and unintentionally, create greed through their combined voices.

So: as population increases, so does loss of space. Furthermore, so does pollution, since all of these people will be driving cars and buying products that generate toxic waste. Will government stop them? So far, the most legislative government in history, with the world’s largest prison population, has failed to stop toxic dumping or the driving of “smokers,” heavily polluting cars. How will the rest of the world fare?

Even more is the effect on culture. High culture — classical art, literature, music, theatre — has been sustained by its popularity among the educated and those who have inherited money. It is not as popular as rap music, rock, or mindless pop, so those will earn more money and eventually push it out of the picture. Traditional ways of living? According to modern society, it’s all about me and my power. Earning power. Sexual power. Social power. There is no room to care about ways of living that have worked for generations.

(As a wise man once noted, to find happiness you cannot directly pursue happiness: you must pursue fulfillment, which requires that you accept life despite its miseries and inequalities, and build a firm foundation — family, personal achievement, a solid steady income and not a flash of wealth — because through that, you will have done well by all that life offers and will find happiness in the completeness of your life — fullfillment. The other option is to separate life into “fun” and “not-fun” and pursue the fun, but then have nothing of practical foundation for a future life. Is that happiness?)

As seen by someone thinking in terms of millennia, modern society is a process of devolution and corruption, a loss of all the subtle things that might not be “fun” but makes us happier in the long run. Surely it is more “fun” to buy plastic junk than to meditate on meaning in life, and it is more fun to hear mindless pop than classical symphonies… but is it truly rewarding, or an empty pleasure that passes quickly? It’s more fun to get drunk than to build a family and family business that can be passed down to descendants, and it’s more fun to have quick sex than to work on a relationship. And who can be against fun? …Unless, of course, fun now leads to misery later — which is what extremists believe.

No one in modern society seems to think critically on this issue, which reinforces the sense of extremists that their concerns are not and never will be addressed by society. Because our media inundate us with constant most-exciting, most-dangerous, most-important-ever stories, our memories are short. We think as a result that “extremist” and “terrorist” means “Islamic terrorist.” We forget that society has other dissidents who, because their views were not popular, became seen as extremists.

There’s Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomer,” who recognized that liberal democracies were self-congratulatory and self-reifying dogmas that would never stop themselves from expanding to consume all natural areas of earth. Malcolm X recognized that African-Americans could be handed political rights but would never own themselves as people until they had a separate nation. The New Right in Europe looks at the loss of culture and heritage in Europe and sees that unless this changes, the future of Europe is as a third-world colony not unlike parts of the middle east. Interestingly, “radical” Islam sees the same thing: selfishness knows no bounds, and when you admit modern liberal democracy to your nations, you become exactly like the Americans: thoughtlessly manipulative and destructive and neurotic, but willing to wage war against anyone who symbolizes an alternative to their own system — liberal democracy — and its fate.

Others were simply writers and thinkers. Socrates pointed out the democracy leads to selfishness, and that then, people are manipulated by pleasant images while oligarchs run society for profit. Neither group thinks of the future and so together they go oblivious to their doom, although generally oligarchs are such empty connectionless people that loss of nation, culture and family means little to them. Joseph Conrad illustrated the lack of spiritedness in Europeans and therefore, their manic pursuit of wealth; we don’t trust each other, so we try to afford getting away from each other. F.W. Nietzsche made his stand against “slave revolt” by which he meant seizure of power by slave-minded people, or those who saw only material comfort and political-social prestige, but might miss the beauty of a mountain or a heroic act or even an ascetic one.

These are all “extremists,” and they comprise some of the smartest people our human species has produced. Perhaps it is wise we listen? But we are afraid — and how can you be afraid when you have “freedom” — because such ideas are radically unpopular and can cost us jobs, friends, security at home and potential mates. “He has bad ideas!” the crowd screams with pointed finger, and the mob rushes forward to quash the dissident, whether actively or passively, by simply denying that person opportunity. Extremism is limited by this crowd revolt as well as its nature as a philosophy for thinkers of the long-term, not short-term pleasure seekers. The former is radically, extremely outnumbered by the latter.

If one must write a thesis on extremism, the wisest thing to say is: extremism is produced by what modern society denies and the vision of those who wish to avoid it. Extremists may kill a few thousand of you here and there, or may destroy some of your overpriced office real estate, but in the end they are doing what they believe is best for all of us. And who are we to deny them this “freedom”?

Першая настава: The first lecture (Belarusian translation)

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

06П Е Р Ш А Я   Н А С Т А В А

Віджай Празак

З ангельскай мовы пераклаў Барыс Шчука паводле
Vijay Prozak «The First Lecture»,, 2009
Пераклад правілі Сяргей Лісіца і Ігар Кулікоў.


Выкладчык Рэндальф Паўш стаў шырока вядомым (у ЗША ― зацем пер.) пасьля сваёй «апошняй наставы», лекцыі, прачытанай ім незадоўга да сьмерці. У сваім тэксьце ён навучае ўсім рэчам, якія зразумеў за жыцьцё. У творы, што прапануецца вашай увазе, я паспрабую ўжыць у некаторым змысьле адваротны падыход і дам вам «першую наставу» ― пра ўсё важнае, што я зразумеў з прыходам у сьвядомасьць.

Пад прыходам у сьвядомасьць я маю на ўвазе тое імгненьне ў разьвіцьці розуму, калі я стаў здольны расчытваць гэты сьвет. Расчытваць, бо ніводнае слова ня значыць таго, што яно на першы пагляд мусіла б значыць, за кожным парканам тут хаваюцца таемныя змыслы і прычыны. Пасьля гадоў сьвядомасьці я нарэшце адкрыў сапраўдную самасьвядомасьць, а тады, пераўзышоўшы яе, ― сьветасьвядомасьць.

На гэтай дарозе можна было б пераскочыць шмат якія прыступкі і прадухіліць шмат якія затрымкі, калі б меўся нейкі грамадзкі парадак, які перадаў бы мне веды былых пакаленьняў. Але ў грамадзтве, што апанавана звадкамі і ня мае выразных культурных уставаў, зварот да кагосьці па тлумачэньне каштоўнасьцяў застаецца ў найлепшым разе без адказу. Вось я і прапаную табе, чытач, першую наставу, якая дапаможа ў выпадку, калі ты прачнуўся, адчуў сябе жывым і пачаў разважаць пра рэчаіснасьць і пра тое, як зь ёй абыходзіцца.

§ 1. Жыцьцё вымагае прыстасаваньня

Найхутчэйшы шлях знайсьці ў жыцьці шчасьце ― высьветліць праўдзівы стан рэчаў. Ты ня бог і не машына, але адушаўлёнае стварэньне, якому трэба выжываць. Таму ты мусіш зразумець, што твая першая задача ― адаптацыя, прыстасаваньне да рэчаіснасьці. Усьвядоміўшы гэтую задачу, ты можаш засяродзіцца на ёй, адкінуўшы ўсё лішняе.

Жыцьцё з гэтага гледзішча не зьмянялася з часоў першага чалавека і ня зьменіцца ніколі.

Важна патлумачыць, што маецца на ўвазе пад словам «прыстасаваньне». Гэта ня значыць быць бесхрыбетным. Гэта значыць весьці справы з улікам рэчаіснасьці. Ты можаш пры жаданьні высечы і выкарчаваць частку лесу, зрабіць роўнае поле і наладзіць на ім гаспадарку, але табе давядзецца сеяць у правільны, адпаведны час ― то бок, прыстасоўвацца да ўмоў, ― інакш ніякага ўраджаю ня будзе. Што да жыцьця ў грамадзтве, то, напрыклад, часам ты пераходзіш з адной працы на другую ― лепшую, зьмяняеш месца жыхарства, каб ня жыць побач зь ёлупнямі, або робіш нешта ў дачыненьні да людзей, якія чыняць бязглуздыя рэчы.

З усім гэтым ты сутыкнесься. Каб разумець, як дзейнічаць, трэба вылучаць рэчы, якія ты зьмяніць ня можаш, і рэчы, якія ты зьмяніць можаш. Ты, напрыклад, ня можаш зьмяніць чаргаваньне пораў году; але ты можаш сеяць у сваім полі іншую культуру або іншы сорт; можаш перагледзець кола сваіх стасункаў, свой звычайны набор пакупаў, спосабы баўленьня свайго вольнага часу. Можа здацца, што гэта нязначныя захады, але практыка паказвае адваротнае. Больш за тое, паляпшаючы сваё асяродзьдзе, ты прамаўляеш голасам розуму і іншыя будуць браць зь цябе прыклад, бо ім таксама хочацца чагосьці дасягнуць.

Засвоіўшы гэткую навуку, ты засвоіш і адну выснову зь яе. У жыцьці ты сустракаесься зь дзьвюма разнавіднасьцямі людзей паводле стаўленьня да рэчаіснасьці: тыя, хто прыстасоўваецца да яе, і тыя, хто хоча, каб яна прыстасавалася да іх. Тыя, хто прыстасоўваецца, улічваюць абставіны, ставяць мэты і метадычна да іх ідуць. Тыя, хто не прыстасоўваецца, тыя ўпэўненыя, што грамадзтва ім чымсьці абавязана і павінна нешта задарма даваць. Але ж гэтага дармовага ім заўжды не хапае; з часам жыцьцё такіх людзей становіцца ўсё больш неўпарадкаваным, бязладным і яны ўсё больш злуюцца і гаруюць.

§ 2. Жыцьцё ― гэта імкненьне да посьпеху

Навакольныя могуць колькі заўгодна тлуміць табе галаву мілымі словамі пра ўсеагульную роўнасьць і пра тое, што «ты цудоўны такі, які ёсьць», але насамрэч жыцьцё ёсьць змаганьнем. Тыя, хто праз схільнасць да самападману ― хто чакае, што рэчаіснасьць да іх прыстасуецца, ― ня здатныя да посьпеху, тыя ненавідзяць пасьпяховых. Ня ўсе могуць быць пасьпяховымі, і ня ўсе імі будуць. У некаторай ступені пасьпяховасьць вызначаецца адказам на пытаньне: ці забясьпечаны ты матэрыяльна ўсім патрэбным, ці задаволены жыцьцём і ці займаесься ўлюбёнаю справай?

Ты ўбачыш, што ўсе незадаволеныя самі загналі сябе ў стан незадаволенасьці. Выклікі жыцьця былі для іх недастаткова захапляльнымі або надта складанымі, таму яны правялі зашмат часу ў патураньні ўласным дрэнным схільнасьцям ― да забаваў, ужываньня шкодных рэчываў, блуду і іншых спосабаў самападману. У выніку яны ніколі нічога не дасягаюць і ім застаецца шукаць, на каго б скінуць віну за іхнія няўдачы. Яны ненавідзяць урад, ненавідзяць прыроду, ненавідзяць грамадзтва, і, калі ты задаволены жыцьцём, яны ненавідзяць цябе.

Прачытай уважліва: яны ненавідзяць цябе.

Калі ты лепш матэрыяльна забясьпечаны, больш нутрана задаволены, разумнейшы, лепш выглядаеш, яны будуць спрабаваць зьнішчыць цябе. Доўбні робяць гэта з выкарыстаньнем фізічнай сілы, крыху разумнейшыя ― ствараючы супольнасьці, з дапамогай якіх можна каго-небудзь высьмейваць. Ім здаецца, што за імі сіла, калі яны кажуць: «Але мы ўсе думаем інакш!» ― нібыта гэта можна разглядаць у якасьці доказу. Памятай: ім хочацца, каб рэчаіснасьць прыстасавалася пад іхныя жаданьні.

Вядома, час пакажа, што яны памыляліся, і пад старасьць яны ўрэшце ўбачаць, што пражылі не такое жыцьцё, як хацелася, і ў нейкай ступені ўцямяць, што вінаватыя ў гэтым самі: яны не арганізавалі свой час і сілы, не ўлічылі ўмоў і не стварылі тое, чаго сапраўды жадалі. У некаторых выпадках самападман замінаў ім бачыць, чаго ж яны хочуць. Іншыя былі ўведзеныя ў зман, далучыўшыся да суполак, утвораных вакол нейкіх памылковых ідэяў.

…Тымчасам пасьпяховасьць вызначаецца нашымі дзеяньнямі. Хтосьці неарганізаваны і занураны ў забавы стаіць ніжэй за таго, хто сьпярша справіў усе свае справы, а потым змог вылучыць час на забавы. Нас можна падзяліць і паводле нажытага багацьця, але гэта губляе важнасьць для таго, хто мае дастаткова і любіць сваю працу. Можна пастроіць нас і паводле грамадзкай папулярнасьці, як медыйных зорак, але яшчэ не зразумела, ці робіць папулярнасьць сапраўды шчасьлівым.

Пакуль ты будзеш расьці ― у змысьле дабрабыту, самаарганізаванасьці, дысцыпліны, уменьняў, грамадзкай вагі ― ты будзеш заўважаць, як тыя, хто ня змог дасягнуць падобнага, ненавідзяць цябе і намагаюцца цябе падарваць. Збольшага яны робяць гэта праз пасіўны сабатаж: «Ня можа быць, каб табе падабалася твая новая праца, ты ж працуеш увесь час!» ― і спрабуюць спакусіць цябе на бязглуздыя непатрэбныя дзеяньні, якіх прагнуць самі.

Пад покрывам іхніх зьнешне прыязных паводзінаў хаваецца адзіная мэта. Яны зайздросьцяць і злуюцца, бачачы чужыя дасягненьні, для іх саміх немагчымыя; ня могуць прызнаць, што немагчымасьць дасягненьняў спрычынена ўласнай неарганізаванасьцю; і хочуць зьнішчыць усіх хоць колькі пасьпяховых, каб уласная нікчэмнасьць ня так рэзала ім вочы. Гэтае памкненьне суправаджае амаль усе чалавечыя звады.

§ 3. Шчасьце магчымае толькі на ўзроўні, вышэйшым за «я»

Магчыма, найбольшыя пярэчаньні выкліча думка пра тое, што шчасьця можна дасягнуць толькі пераўзышоўшы ўзровень уласнай асобы. Неарганізаваныя скажуць табе, што шчасьце ёсьць, калі ты маеш жаданыя цацкі, рэчывы для кайфу і грамадзкі статус; арганізаваныя скажуць, што шчасьце ў тым, каб знайсьці сваё месца ў жыцьці. «Месца» азначае наяўнасьць добрай працы, сям’і, сяброў, абстрактных цэляў і супольнасьці.

Добрая праца ― гэта проста: вызнач, што такога ты любіш рабіць, што прыгэтым было б каштоўным для іншых. Як што ты будзеш рабіць гэтую працу з задавальненьнем, то будзе расьці тваё ўменьне і, адпаведна, узнагароджаньне.

Размова пра сям’ю пойдзе ў адным з наступных параграфаў.

Сябры ― гэта тыя, хто хоча, каб ты дасягнуў посьпеху, бо яны ўпэўненыя, што таксама яго дасягнуць. Гэта твае прыяцелі і роўня табе ў найстарэйшым змысьле слова: яны падобныя да цябе розумам, целам і характарам. Сябры ніколі не падрываюць цябе. Яны і не для таго, каб рабіць за цябе штосьці, чаго ты ня можаш сам, але, як са сваёй роўняй, ты можаш абменьвацца зь імі жыцьцёвымі ведамі і па-добраму спаборнічаць ― гэта дапаможа і табе, і ім удасканальвацца.

Абстрактныя цэлі: сюды можна аднесьці, напрыклад, стварэньне музыкі, пісьмовых твораў, тэхналогіяў і іншых рэчаў, якія патрабуюць тонкага разуменьня і адчуваньня і не абавязкова ёсьць матэрыяльнымі. Гэта вобласьці, у якіх ты імкнесься пераўзысьці самога сябе, каб стварыць штосьці вялікае, і не разьлічваеш на ўзнагароджаньне і прызнаньне пры жыцьці. Гэта падарункі ўсяму чалавецтву, у якіх ты перадаеш яму свой досьвед і здабытую табой мудрасьць.

Супольнасьць. Шмат хто з навакольных можа быць табе непрыемным. Супольнасьць складаецца зь людзей і зьяўляецца звышістотай. Людзі, зь якімі ты супрацоўнічаеш у грамадзкіх справах, людзі, якія табе падабаюцца, і зрэз цывілізацыі, адпаведны тваёй мясцовасьці, ― з гэтага складаецца твая супольнасьць. Дзейнасьць па яе разьвіцьці ўлучае, напрыклад, удасканаленьне працы грамадзкіх установаў, укараненьне ведаў, пашырэньне магчымасьцяў хуткага перасоўваньня людзей у патрэбныя ім месцы.

Хто спрабуе жыць толькі для сябе, той звужае набор сваіх цэляў да забаваў і выгодаў. Па дасягненьні гэтага няма куды йсьці далей. Чалавек касьнее. Горш за тое, ён становіцца замкнёным ва ўласнай асобе, бо іншым няма да яго справы, а тое, што ён робіць, не нясе якой-кольвек працяглай у часе значнасьці ні для кога. Калі ж ты пераадольваеш боязь памыліцца, выглядаць недарэчна і быць непапулярным сярод навакольных і робіш высілкі дзеля станоўчых зьменаў у сьвеце, ты атрымліваеш добрую нагоду для самапавагі. Апошняя будзе расьці разам са зьяўленьнем вынікаў тваіх намаганьняў. Ты ўжо ня проста нязначны атам. У цябе ёсьць роля, сваё месца, і ты дапамагаеш тым, хто табе даспадобы, атрымліваць больш радасьці ад жыцьця.

§ 4. Не зважай на іншых людзей і іхнія ідэі

Магчыма, тут лепей ужыць двукосьсі: не зважай на іншых людзей і іхнія «ідэі». Сапраўдныя мысьляры бачаць нейкую нявырашаную задачу, прадумваюць спосаб яе вырашэньня, правяраюць яго ў дзеяньні і ўжо потым распавядаюць пра яго навакольным. Сучасныя жа павярхоўныя людзі спрабуюць знайсьці апраўданьні для сваіх дзеяньняў або тлумачэньні сваіх няўдач. Думка сапраўдных мысьляроў як бы працуе наперад; «думка» павярхоўных людзей працуе ў кірунку назад, намагаючыся выдумаць для іхных дзеяньняў тлумачэньне, якое зусім не адпавядае іхным першапачатковым пабуджэньням да гэтых дзеяньняў.

Тыя павярхоўныя сучасныя людзі ― якія ня могуць ні за што адказваць, ня могуць сябе арганізаваць і вінавацяць у сваіх няўдачах цябе ― якраз і ёсьць носьбітамі такіх думак-самаапраўданьняў. Яны думаюць не ў кірунку вырашэньня, зваяваньня нейкай задачы, але абаронча, нібы спрабуючы з дапамогай нейкай фантастычнай логікі выставіць свае ўжо зробленыя няправільныя рашэньні за правільныя. Прамаўляючы свае «ідэі», яны часта будуць спрабаваць схіліць цябе да думак, што ты робіш нешта дрэннае і што ты не павінен ісьці супраць іншых.

Гэтыя людзі могуць аказваць на цябе такое ж моцнае маніпуляцыйнае ўзьдзеяньне, як і сьпецпадразьдзяленьні з кулямётамі або якісьці яскравы і загадкавы, але пагрозьлівы сымбаль. Яны хамы. Іхняя задача ― прынізіць цябе, падарваць тваю пэўнасьць, змусіць цябе адчуваць, што ты ім нешта абавязаны або павінен прыслухоўвацца да іхніх думак замест сваіх.

Калі ты сумняесься ў маіх словах, параўнай іхнія думкі з тым багацьцем мудрасьці, якое захоўваецца праз стагодзьдзі. Ты хутка ўбачыш, што яны зусім няслушныя і нягодныя. Людзі, што ня любяць жыцьця, звычайна займаюцца дэканструкцыяй ― разьбіраньнем і разбурэньнем ― і, каб добра выглядаць у вачах іншых, карыстаюцца ліберальнай філасофіяй. Лібералізм любіць дэканструкцыю, бо выніковы хаос дазваляе ўцякаць ад адказнасьці ў натоўп.

На працягу жыцьця людзі будуць пытаць у цябе пра твае мэты і погляды, а пасьля гэтага некаторыя з дапамогай сваіх «ідэй» будуць нападаць на цябе, жадаючы выбіць з-пад цябе апірышча. Часам ты можаш падумаць, што трэба быць уважлівым да поглядаў навакольных, хаця б проста каб бачыць сьвет з «розных гледзішчаў». Навошта гэта, калі ты маеш дасяг да працаў усіх класікаў філасофіі, мастацкай літаратуры, палітычнай і эканамічнай думкі? Замест таго каб круціцца ў штучным коле сацыяльнай рэальнасьці, разгарні кнігу і набярыся ведаў ад сапраўдных знаўцаў.

§ 5. Тваё разьвіцьцё = самадысцыпліна x спадчыннасьць

Прадметам ці не найстражэйшага табу сучаснага грамадзтва зьяўляецца прамаўленьне таго, што якасьці чалавека, падабаецца яму гэта ці не, у значнай ступені закладзеныя ў ягоных генах. Тым ня менш, для дасягненьня посьпеху адной добрай спадчыннасьці недастаткова. І посьпеху ўсё яшчэ не дасягнеш, калі дадасі «старанную працу», ― гэтак некаторыя называюць упартае і бясплоднае сядзеньне на працоўным месцы па 14 гадзін на дзень, летуценна думаючы, што яно дае магчымасьць ёлупню ўзьняцца над прыроджаным геніем. Табе патрэбная самадысцыпліна. Што азначае арганізаванасьць, сістэматычнасьць, стараннасьць ды пільнасьць.

Вялізныя стосы паперы ды мільёны чалавека-гадзінаў былі змарнаваныя ў спробах запярэчыць відавочнай ісьціне: разумовыя здольнасьці закладзеныя ў чалавеку ад нараджэньня. Кожнаму дадзены нейкі свой узровень; і хаця ты можаш дасканаліць розум праз навучаньне і стараннасьць, ты ня скокнеш вышэй за сваю столь. Гэта як з мастацкімі здольнасьцямі. Хтосьці, хто ад прыроды здольны да музыкі, можа і не займацца ёю; калі ж зоймецца, то ўсё адно мусіць працаваць над сабой, каб чагосьці дасягнуць; але ў аднолькавых умовах і пры аднолькавых высілках ён абавязкова будзе апераджаць тых, хто ня мае прыроднага дару.

Незалежна ад узроўню тваіх прыродных здольнасьцяў табе спатрэбяцца дысцыпліна і арганізаванасьць. З майго досьведу, гэта найпершыя чыньнікі плённасьці тваёй працы. Дакладнае веданьне таго, дзе знаходзяцца твае прылады і неабходныя для працы зьвесткі, падрыхтаванасьць да ўсіх надыходзячых мерапрыемстваў і падзей, здольнасьць працаваць над заданьнямі з апярэджаньнем, каб мець магчымасьць ацаніць час на іх выкананьне, ― усе гэтыя рэчы жыцьцёва неабходныя. Бязь іх нават самародак ні на што ня здатны.

§ 6. Удзельнічай у коле жыцьця

Многія людзі ня вераць ва ўласную магчымасьць пражыць шчасьлівае жыцьцё. Яны, наадварот, перакананыя, што яны вырачаныя. Гэта псіхалагічна прыемная выдумка, хоць яна і вядзе да непрыемнага выніку; прыемная таму, што здымае з чалавека адказнасьць. «Я пацярпеў няўдачу не ад таго, што быў неарганізаваным, п’яніцам, абжорам, неахайным і няўважлівым; але таму, што я ад пачатку вырачаны, ТАКІ МОЙ ЛЁС!»

Як і большасьць выпадкаў самаапраўданьня, гэта зводзіцца да простай догмы: вінаваты ня я. Хтосьці паступіў са мной несправядліва. Я нічога дрэннага не рабіў, а мае няўдачы спрычыніў хтосьці іншы. Ты сустрэнеш падобныя апраўданьні ва ўсіх частках грамадзтва, дзе назіраюцца няўдачы і нягоды. Вось табе праверачны вобраз: уяві прапойцу, які хоча працягваць піць. Якія развагі дазволяць яму гэта рабіць, не засмучаючыся наконт сваіх паводзінаў? «Мяне падставілі. Хтосьці ці штосьці прывяло мяне да п’янства.»

Гэтыя людзі, якія ў сваіх няўдачах вінавацяць само жыцьцё, іншых людзей, урад, абстрактныя рэчы, сімвалы і пачуцьці, будуць спрабаваць пераканаць цябе далучыцца да іхнага няшчасьця. Вядома, яны ня будуць казаць гэта наўпрост… Яны звычайна кажуць, што яны больш асьвечаныя за цябе, больш прагрэсіўныя, свабодныя, мудрыя, клёвыя ці, прынамсі, проста добразычлівыя. Іхняя цэль ― зьнішчыць усе твае прыродныя памкненьні і пахіснуць тваё адчуваньне таго, што жыцьцё не бясконцае і ў ім ёсьць этапы.

Сёньня, калі большасьць дарослых кажуць пра «розныя этапы жыцьця», яны кажуць гэта самі сабе, але ня моладзі. Я патлумачу: твой вораг ня смерць, а старэньне, лядашчасьць. Пачынаючы з твайго падлеткавага ўзросту, твае жыцьцёвыя сістэмы з кожным годам становяцца ўсё менш гнуткімі. Гэта значыць, што з кожным годам столь тваіх магчымасьцяў зьніжаецца. Таму трэба планаваць наперад.

Апроч таго трэба не забывацца пра параграф 1: жыцьцё патрабуе прыстасаваньня. Гэта тычыцца і цябе. Таму калі ты верыш у сябе і верыш у жыцьцё, ты захочаш пастаяць на ўсіх прыступках жыцьця. Сьвята захапленьня і цікаўнасьці ў маладосьці; станаўленьне на ногі ў пачатку сталеньня; шлюб і сям’я, працяг роду; нарэшце, адыход ад мітусьні і спакойнае сузіраньне сьвету ў старасьці.

Свабодныя і прагрэсіўныя скажуць табе, што гэта ўсё бязглузьдзіца і ты можаш вечна заставацца дзіцём. Гэткім чынам яны ў падсалоджаным выглядзе выражаюць сваё непасрэднае жаданьне, а менавіта: далучыся да нас ― да тых, хто ня ўмее планаваць жыцьцё і ня верыць у жыцьцё, ― і твая выніковая няўдаласьць дазволіць нам менш пакутаваць ад таго, што мы няўдачнікі. Бо ж у каго карова здохла, таму стане куды весялей, калі карова здохне і ў суседа.

Яны будуць расьпісваць табе жахі пра адказнасьць. Пра тое, што сям’я ― гэта праца, што ты ня зможаш павесяліцца, што сур’ёзнае стаўленьне да прафесійных абавязкаў ― гэта глупства. Ім бы хацелася, каб ты займаўся чымсьці нязначным, напрыклад граў у рок-гурце, замест таго каб рабіць сапраўдныя зьдзяйсьненьні накшталт напісаньня сімфоній або аповесьцяў. Ім бы хацелася, каб ты пажыцьцёва падзяліў зь імі іхнія пасады разносчыкаў ежы і газет і граньне ў бязглуздых indie-гуртах, замест таго каб дасягнуць нейкіх вышынь.

Але калі паглядзець на іх, то яны самі безупынку наракаюць на працу, бо ўвесь час працуюць. Бо ж іхныя абавязкі і патрэбы нікуды не зьнікаюць. І калі крыжовы паход іхняй маладосьці завяршаецца, яны прачынаюцца ў 40-гадовым узросьце, ня маючы за душой нічога. Ніякіх сапраўдных дасягненьняў (падлеткавыя рок-гурты ня ў лік.) Ні сям’і. Ні добрай працы. А для баўленьня вольнага часу няма іншых спосабаў, акрамя як зноў і зноў «узяць паўтарашку і пайсьці пасядзець з пацанамі». Што гэта за жыцьцё?

§ 7. Не ўжывай рэчываў, і ты ня будзеш жыць у брудзе

Тут я мушу павініцца. У свой час я з задавальненьнем і ў вялікіх колькасьцях піў алкаголь і курыў траўку. Нават магу сказаць, як найлепш «адляцець»: выпіць чатыры кубкі вады, потым два кубкі моцнай кавы, потым пакурыць моцных індыйскіх канопляў-сінсеміла з 15-адсоткавым дамешкам тытуню, потым залпам выпіць шклянку віскі. Але гэтыя «адлёты» не даюць ніякай навукі па-за першым досьведам, а надалей ператвараюцца ў сродак уніканьня самога жыцьця.

Усе рэчывы, што зьмяняюць стан сьвядомасьці, выклікаюць вельмі моцныя прыемныя перажываньні; гэта нібы выплеск нейкай сілы з тагасьвету. І ў гэтых перажываньняў ёсьць падступны цёмны бок: у параўнаньні са станам кайфу звычайнае жыцьцё пачынае здавацца пустым, непаўнавартасным. Адпаведна, моцныя «адлёты» ў выніку выклікаюць нянавісьць да жыцьця ― вядома, калі няма магчымасьці кайфаваць зноў і зноў. І пакуль ты сядзіш і кайфуеш, ты губляеш іншыя свае магчымасьці і сродкі ― найперш час ― і выпадаеш з жыцьця.

Калі хочаш жыць добра, не ўжывай (збольшага) ніякіх шкодных рэчываў, трымай сябе і сваю хату ў чысьціні і трымай у парадку ўсё, што маеш. Тады ты ніколі ня станеш ненавідзець жыцьцё. Магчыма, твае клёвыя свабодныя прагрэсіўныя знаёмыя думаюць, што жыць на ўскрайку якогасьці гета і эксьперыментаваць зь гераінам ― гэта «іранічна» і цікава; але гэта проста частка іхняй справы ў саманагаворы пра ўласную вырачанасьць і ў вынаходжаньні прычынаў ненавідзець жыцьцё.

Жыцьцё ў брудзе можа здавацца нейкай формай паўстаньня, пакуль добра не абдумаеш гэта. Дурныя людзі будуць спрабаваць пераканаць цябе, што ва ўсім вінаватыя ўрад, улада, грамадзкі лад і што адзіна магчымае сапраўднае жыцьцё ― гэта «супраціў», які палягае ў жабрацкім існаваньні і ўсялякай недарэчнай, пустой дзейнасьці. Але гэткім чынам чалавек змагаецца адно з уласным магчымым шчасьцем, проста шукаючы самаапраўданьня.

§ 8. Нават найдрабнейшае дзеяньне важыць больш за бясконцую балбатню

На жыцьцёвым шляху ты сутыкнесься з мноствам людзей, якія прыгожа гавораць. Гавораць шмат, гавораць так, нібы яны важныя, і гэта дазваляе ім адчуваць сябе важнымі. У тым і іхняя цэль, калі паназіраць. Яны ня робяць нічога карыснага ― калі наогул нешта робяць. Яны размаўляюць. Увесь час. Гэтак яны ствараюць уражаньне, што зьяўляюцца носьбітамі вялікіх ідэй (гл. § 4), а ты, адпаведна, мусіш адчуваць сябе дробным побач зь імі.

Разважайма так: калі б іхнія ідэі былі нагэтулькі важнымі, варта было б зьвесьці іх у кнігу, а таксама прыкладаць усе намаганьні, каб стварыць на аснове гэтых ідэяў палітычны рух. Але адбываецца наадварот: балбатуны адразу гавораць з такім выглядам, нібы ў іх ужо ёсьць цэлы свой рух, чыімі важнымі ідэямі яны сыплюць. Гэта яшчэ адна частка гульні ва ўдаваньне. Вось убачыце: празь дзесяць гадоў яны перакінуцца на штосьці іншае, што будзе цешыць іхнае «я».

Паўсюдная чалавечая хвароба ― непрыняцьце. Нізкая ўпэўненасьць у сабе, боязь будучыні і сьмерці, азлобленасьць, боязь недахопу ўлады над навакольлем, помсьлівая крыўдлівасьць, боязь быць незаўважаным, схільнасьць засмучацца і складаць рукі, боязь непадуладнасьці самому сабе. На кароткі час гэта ўсё можна прыцішыць, займаючыся балбатнёй, якая стварае ўражаньне, што ты новы Мартын Лютэр Кінг або Ленін, новы Гітлер або Буддга. Людзі любяць прыкідвацца, але якая цэль?

Адказ таўталагічны: цэль у тым, каб выглядаць так, нібыта ў іх ёсьць цэль ― і ад таго яны нібыта мудрэйшыя, больш кемлівыя, сьмелыя і альтруістычныя за цябе. Гэта проста бясконцае нагнятаньне штучных уражаньняў і, урэшце, спроба адабраць у цябе тое, што ты стварыў. Адабраць на падставе іхняй уяўнай «разумнасьці», бо ў іх жа ёсьць «вялікія» ідэі і цэлі. Не зважай на такіх людзей.

§ 9. Натуральны адбор ніхто не адмяняў

Сёньня вялікую папулярнасьць маюць «узнагароды Дарвіна», якія прызначаюцца ўсялякім небаракам за дурныя спосабы згубы ― напрыклад, калі хтосьці заедзе на сваёй машыне ў драбілку адходаў піламатэрыялаў. Аднак сапраўдны натуральны адбор менш кідаецца ў вочы. Ты б’еш сваіх дзяцей? Ты дрэнна абыходзісься з жонкай? Ты жывеш неахайна і дрэнна харчуесься? Гэта моцна ўплывае на здольнасьць выжываць тваю і тваіх нашчадкаў.

Чаму дзеці ― гэта важна? Ты ня вечны. Існуе статыстычная крывая сьмяротнасьці, у адпаведнасьці зь якой, пачынаючы з твайго юнацтва, з кожным годам застаецца ўсё менш людзей аднаго з табой узросту. Ты ня можаш яе перасіліць; у нейкай кропцы, прыкладна на 120 гадах пасьля твайго нараджэньня, крывая сьмяротнасьці завяршаецца. Што жыве надалей? Твае добрыя ўчынкі; магчыма, твае ідэі; але адназначна ― твае нашчадкі, калі ты падыдзеш да іх выхаваньня хаця б напалову правільна.

Нараджэньне дзяцей ― гэта ня ўся справа. Гэта толькі ейны пачатак. Калі ты выхаваеш упэўненых у сабе, жыцьцярадасных, сьмелых і сумленных дзяцей, а таксама ня будзеш забываць казаць ім рэчы накшталт гэтай першай наставы, у іх таксама будуць добрыя дзеці, у якіх працягнецца і тваё жыцьцё. Але калі ты гвалтуеш сваіх дзяцей, б’еш іх, не даеш ім увагі, падрываеш іхнюю самаацэнку або забываеш тлумачыць ім заканамернасьці жыцьця… можна з тым жа посьпехам проста шпульнуць іх у драбілку адходаў.

§ 10. Большасьць людзей не зьвяртае ўвагі на рэчаіснасьць

Амаль кожны чалавек пагодзіцца, што большасьць астатніх людзей ― дурні, ідыёты або вар’яты. Больш шчырым будзе прызнаць, што ўсе мы абмежаваныя ў здольнасьцях і, калі няма ад каго ўзяць знаньне, заснаванае на досьведзе, мы кідаемся туды-сюды ў бясплённай дзейнасьці. Памітусіўшыся некаторы час, мы здаёмся і пачынаем кампенсацыю, то бок робім рэчы, якія даюць нам уражаньне шчасьця ― аблуднае, бо мы цалкам адкідаем навакольны сьвет.

У гэтую пятлю зваротнай сувязі трапляе большасьць: бязладная дзейнасьць ― дрэнныя вынікі ― «невялічкая кампенсацыя» ў выглядзе празьмерных забаваў ― нарэшце, нізкая самаацэнка праз ўсьведамленьне неўпарадкаванасьці і марнасьці ўласнага жыцьця. Ня ўсе гэтыя людзі разумова адсталыя, ня ўсе яны вар’яты; тым ня менш, усе яны, за выняткам невялікай групы, паводзяць сябе як разумова адсталыя вар’яты, бо яны ні ад кога не даведаліся фактаў, не прачыталі добрых кніжак і проста здаліся.

Улічваючы гэта, ты можаш спыніць спробы спаборнічаць зь імі або падабацца ім празь дзейнасьць, падобную да іхняй. Усім ім моцна не стае ўказаньня кірунку. Адзіны спосаб ім яго даць ― самому жыць разумна і ні на кога не азірацца. То бок, не зьвяртаць увагі на 99% чалавечай дзейнасьці, адкідаць «ідэі» навакольных, не ўспрымаць сур’ёзна іхнія трывогі і патрабаваньні і рабіць тое, што ўважаеш за правільнае.

Для іх камфорт і забыцьцё каштоўнейшыя за веданьне пра неабходнасьць прыстасаваньня да рэчаіснасьці, бо яны ня вераць, што здольныя прыстасавацца. Не зрабіўшы ніводнай спробы, яны лічаць гульню прайгранай, а сябе вырачанымі. Бо лягчэй вінаваціць у няўдачах зьнешнюю сілу, чым напружвацца і станавіцца арганізаваным, адукаваным і скіраваным на плённую стваральную дзейнасьць. Яны хутчэй выйдуць з бою і пачнуць шукаць апраўданьні.

На працягу жыцьця ты будзеш акружаны такімі людзьмі. Яны будуць займацца дурной, марнай, безвыніковай, неахайнай, неськіраванай ― карацей, толькі шкоднай ― дзейнасьцю і ў той жа час вылупляць на цябе вочы, нібыта ідыёт ― гэта ты. Ім проста хочацца спусьціць цябе да іхнага ўзроўню. Суседская карова ж таксама мусіць здохнуць! Калі ты заўважыш ім, што яны робяць нешта дурное, яны абернуцца і люта накінуцца на цябе. Бо яны ня здатныя мысьліць далей за ўласную асобу і таму, адпаведна, ня могуць улічваць наступстваў сваіх дзеяньняў для навакольля і ўспрымаюць любую заўвагу пра гэтыя магчымыя наступствы як незаслужаны напад на іх.

§ 11. Сьцеражыся хлусьлівага альтруізму

Філосафы любяць спрачацца наконт існаваньня альтруізму як такога. Кажуць, у людзей няма іншай матывацыі, акрамя асабістай зацікаўленасьці. Я кажу, што альтруізм ― гэта адгалінаваньне асабістай зацікаўленасьці, бо калі нам падабаецца жыць, то мы хочам, каб сьвет надалей паляпшаўся, а таму працуем на ўдасканаленьне нашай супольнасьці. Вось табе адна разнавіднасьць альтруізму. Але ёсьць іншая, хлусьлівая разнавіднасьць.

Спаборны альтруізм ― гэта калі хтосьці спаборнічае за грамадзкі статус, чынячы міленькую з выгляду дапамогу тым, хто сам сабе дапамагчы ня можа. Спаборны альтруізм ськіраваны на асобных людзей альбо групы, але не на паляпшэньне грамадзтва як цэлага. Ён ёсьць барацьбой за адшуканьне самых бездапаможных істот у якасьці атрымальніка дапамогі: чым у горшым яны становішчы, тым большым героем ты выглядаеш, дапамагаючы ім.

Для спаборнага альтруізму ў нас ёсьць лепшая назва: торг. У ім мэтай зьяўляецца не дапамога камусьці. Мэта ― стварыць для навакольных бачнасьць, што ты дапамагаеш. Гэта спосаб самарэкламы. Людзі спаборнічаюць у альтруізьме, намагаючыся выглядаць найвялікшым ісусам хрыстом, самым добразычлівым ― такім мілым чалавекам, зь якім усе захочуць знацца. Але ж калі чалавек сапраўды настолькі добры, няўжо яму патрэбен гэты розгалас?

Паколькі большасьць людзей ня могуць разумець прычынна-выніковых сувязяў (кожны вынік ідзе ад адзінай прычыны; кожная прычына можа весьці да некалькіх вынікаў), яны ня кемяць, што спаборны альтруізм прызначаны для рэкламы альтруіста ў вачах іншых. Удзельнічаць у талацэ, за проста так аддаючы свой час на карысную для іншых справу ― гэта не ягоны шлях. Ягоны шлях ― перад тэлекамерай дараваць цацкі якім-небудзь пагарэлым, абяздоленым, Богам праклятым сіротам-інвалідам і мімаходзь згадваць пра ўласную мэблевую фабрыку. Рэклама мэблі ― гэта мэта, а альтруізм ― толькі сродак, падобны да выдачы бясплатных цукерак дзецям на ўваходзе ў краму.

Некаторыя людзі будуць з дапамогай спаборнага альтруізму спрабаваць выглядаць вышэйшымі за цябе. Яны ведаюць, што натоўп недалёкіх, апісаных у § 10, можна ўвесьці ў зман. У зьбітых з панталыку, засмучоных, неарганізаваных людзей няма іншага спосаба парадавацца жыцьцю, акрамя як праз дробныя падаруначкі самім сабе: скурыць яшчэ адзін касяк, паглядзець тэлевізар, можа быць, трошкі порна, купіць сабе якога барахла і г. д. І яны любяць назіраць альтруізм і шкадаваць няшчасных, бо гэтак могуць адчуць сябе ― на кароткі час ― жывымі.

Вядомы толькі адзін спосаб абароны ад спаборнага альтруізму: зьвяртаць увагу людзей на тое, што табе ён не патрэбны. «Мне ня трэба паказваць астатнім, што я добры чалавек, таму любая мая дабрачыннасьць непублічная,» ― гэтак ты ня будзеш дурыць людзям галаву і ў той жа час можаш добра контратакаваць, ― «Навошта ты ўсім паказваеш сваю дабрачыннасьць?» Потым можна мімаходзь нагадваць тым з прысутных, у каго працуе галава, што альтруізм ― гэта торг, а альтруіст проста прасоўвае сябе або свой тавар.

§ 12. Жыві дзеля станоўчых цэляў

Нігілісты (аўтар тэксту у пэўным змысьле прылічае сябе да нігілістаў ― зацем пер.) ставяцца да большасьці людзей як да пунджы. Кол-пунджы ― гэта паскудная старажытная прылада вайны (з паўднёва-ўсходняй Азіі ― зацем пер.); яна ўяўляе сабой востры бамбукавы шып, вымазаны ў нечыстоты. Такія шыпы ў вялікай колькасьці прыхавана разьмяшчаюцца недзе на меркаваным шляху ворага. Калі той ня будзе асьцярожным, то парэжацца або наколецца на іх і можа памерці ад пакутнай хваробы. Так ці інакш, ён будзе абязьдзеяны, прынамсі, на некаторы час.

Гэтак жа чыняць перашкоды і сярэднія людзі. Яны ненавідзяць сваю працу, якую яны «вымушаныя» рабіць; ненавідзяць сваё жыцьцё ― у няўдаласьці якога штораз вінаваты, само сабой, хтосьці зьнешні. Яны хочуць зьнішчыць любога, хто мае больш за іх. Таксама яны хочуць выглядаць значнымі, ня робячы нічога значнага. Але хоць пазбаўленьне ад такіх людзей урэшце стане патрэбаю для далейшага разьвіцьця чалавецтва, агулам табе патрэбная станоўчая цэль.

Ня вельмі проста даць азначэньне станоўчай цэлі. Можна казаць пра штосьці «канструктыўнае», «стваральнае», «сьцвярджальнае», але сутнасьць маёй думкі наступная: ты мусіш мець цэль, да якой імкнесься, рэч, за якую выступаеш, замест таго каб вызначаць сябе празь пералік таго, супраць чаго выступаеш. Тыя пунджы, пра якіх сказана вышэй, ― яны ведаюць, супраць чаго яны, заўжды ведаюць, што і каго трэба вінаваціць у бедах, але зусім ня ведаюць, што б яны хацелі бачыць навокал. Ты можаш перамагчы іх, пачаўшы якраз з вызначэньня таго, што ж ты хочаш бачыць.

Калі паразважаць, то, дзейнічаючы ў кірунку жаданага, ты апынесься ў стане, падобным, напрыклад, да стану больш жыцьцяздольнага віду птушак, які выціскае зь нейкай мясцовасьці слабейшыя віды проста за кошт таго, што чынна займае прастору сваёй вялікай колькасьцю. Ты ж будзеш напаўняць прастору больш дасканалымі рэчамі, больш разумнымі ідэямі, больш выразнымі сімфоніямі ― адным словам, усім тым, што ты будзеш імкнуцца ствараць, а не чаго пазьбягаць або што разбураць.

У гэтым знойдзецца сапраўдны змысел жыцьця: каб любіць самога сябе, трэба любіць навакольны сьвет, з ахвотай удзельнічаць у ім і ствараць тое, што лічыш прыгожым. Шмат што з гэтага можа быць прыземленым ― напрыклад, смачнейшы, чым у астатніх, вінаград або нават бачкі ў прыбіральні зь лепшым, чым раней, змывам, ― але вялікія рэчы ёсьць нечым танчэйшым. У любым разе табе трэба знайсьці годную для цябе цэль і ўпарта ісьці да яе, ні пад якім уплывам не зьбіваючыся з дарогі.

З усіх гэтых развагаў можна выснаваць, што азначае быць героем. Герой ― гэта хтосьці, хто зразумеў, у што ён верыць, на гэтым разуменьні склаў бачаньне правільнага, патрэбнага сьвету і стварае гэты сьвет ― за ўсякую цану. Цяперашнія людзі блытаюць героя з ахвярай ― напрыклад, калі чамусьці называюць героямі загінулых пры захопах і крушэньнях самалётаў. Быць героем ня значыць быць пацярпелым ці пакутнікам. Гэта пэўны склад мысьленьня і гатовасьць аддаваць сваё жыцьцё за тое, у што верыш.

На гэтым узроўні ты робіш жыцьцё «сьвятым», бо праз адданасьць ператвараеш яго ў кшталт рэлігійнага служэньня. Замест таго каб засяроджвацца на адмоўным, ты бачыш, што жыцьцё ўлучае і разбурэньне, і стварэньне, і што гэтае жыцьцё ― твая магчымасьць ствараць прыгажосьць. Ты разумееш, што такая магчымасьць важнейшая за ўсё астатняе. Імкніся да прыгожага і ніколі не здавайся!


Ты нарадзіўся ў час заняпаду. Любая цывілізацыя старэе гэтак жа, як і асобны чалавек, і са старасьцю тлусьцее і касьнее, губляе гнуткасьць і рухавасць. Гэта праяўляецца ў тым, што людзі з-за сьпецыялізацыі працы і прыманьня маралі натоўпу губляюць разуменьне прычынна-выніковых сувязяў. Яны ставяць сябе дзесьці паміж прычынай і вынікам, па сутнасьці ўяўляючы, што любое нашае дзеяньне ― гэта адвольны выбар выніку ў залежнасьці ад асабістых жаданьняў.

Такі параноідны, абарончы, рэакцыйны сьветагляд непазьбежна прыводзіць да ліберальнай палітыкі. Асоба хоча, каб ніхто не казаў ёй, што рабіць; як рак-хаванец, яна імкнецца адступіць унутр сябе. Яна давярае толькі самой сабе і іншым асобам, падуладным ёй. Для ейных сьляпых вачэй прырода ― гэта нешта неўпарадкаванае і бязглуздае, і яна ненавідзіць прыроду, асабліва ў частцы, што тычыцца ўласнай сьмерці.

У імя гэтага страху людзі ўцякаюць ад рэчаіснасьці і прыводзяць усё навокал у бязладзьдзе. Яны выказваюць адно аднаму вар’яцкія ідэі і прымушаюць навакольных пагаджацца зь імі, ператвараючы ўсё чалавецтва ў адно вялікае кружное апраўданьне чалавечага саліпсізму. Грамадзкая папулярнасьць і абмен дасьціпнымі каментарамі ў абмеркаваньнях твораў індустрыі забаў замянілі сабой любое знаньне пра рэчаіснасьць. Як адзін чалавек замыкаецца ва ўласнай асобе, гэтак і цэлае грамадзтва адварочваецца ад сьвету і прысьвячае сябе самаабмеркаваньню.

Ты можаш спыніць гэтыя хованкі ў сабе. Не адмаўляй сваёй сьмяротнасьці, не адкідай рэчаіснасьць разам зь ёй; прымі і тое, і другое. Ведаючы, што калісьці ты памрэш, жыві не дарэмна. Гэта дапаможа ўбачыць прыгажосьць і важнасьць жыцьця і пазьбегнуць вырачанасьці і смутку, якімі поўнае сучаснае грамадзтва. Замест таго каб спрабаваць паўмерамі здымаць боль і пакуты, не зважай на іх і імчыся наперад да прыгожага і значнага.

Нарадзіўшыся ў нашыя часы, ты зь першага ж дня акружаны атрутнай хлусьнёй. Не, ніхто не зьбіраецца наўпрост маніць табе; ты чуеш напаўпраўдзівыя рэчы, якія гучаць больш прымальна за адкрыты падман і прызначаныя для апраўданьня саўдзелу дарослых у хлусьні. Моладзь жа ва ўсёй напаўпраўдзе ясна бачыць невырашальныя супярэчнасьці і спробы паставіць аблудныя ўяўленьні вышэй за саму рэчаіснасьць.

Нягледзячы на ўсё гэта, ня трэба адчайвацца. Насамрэч, можна нават радавацца: увесь гэты хаос пакрысе адсейвае дурных і хлусьлівых праз тое, што змушае разумных аддзяляцца ад статку. Калі ты будзеш вучыцца ― пачынаючы ўжо з гэтай наставы, ― ты зможаш бачыць жыцьцё ў прычынна-выніковых сувязях і вызвалісься ад «мысьленьня» натоўпу. І пасьля распаду грамадзтва менавіта такія, як ты, зьдзейсьняць адраджэньне.

2-га ліпеня 2009 г.

In Which I Disagree With Internet-Popular Notions

Sunday, November 24th, 2013


In this piece, I analyze two internet-popular notions, drop-outism and Traditionalism. (Articles on Ron Paul, bitcoin, white nationalism, New Age philosophies, Communism, Scientology and other popular trends may be found elsewhere.)

Question: If time is circular, will (at some point) the future be the past? Or is there a linear time, such that we keep growing until at some point we don’t even resemble the past at all?

It probably depends on whether we think our situation in life is in any way related to what we are, instead of the properties of life itself and higher consciousness as an experience.

When we take to the internet, in a more intense way than the editorial pages, the need for a narrative defining “future,” even if including or limited to past, grows at a furious pace.

A decade ago, Ran Prieur wrote “How to Drop Out” to much acclaim. People collect internet personalities like dolls, and use them to explain themselves. “This is my rocker chick, shows I’m adventurous, but here’s my marine biologist, my serious side, then my neogoth, points out I’m vulnerable…”

And often, our reading choices reflect what we want to believe is true rather than what we know is true. For centuries, the independent person who owns nothing and is accountable to no one has been a trope of our literature. This is the nature of established society, which is that we see the grass is greener on the other side and want freedom from the obligation of maintaing civilization itself.

This is why 50-year-old suburban white women with all of the comforts of life at hand and almost no fear in their existence long for the life of, say, a homeless hip-hop impressario, or a yeoman artist who lives in the sewers of New York. They want to give up the plumbing, electricity, air conditioning and safe secure neighborhood for less responsibility and more “adventure” and “meaningful experience.”

Such a situation isn’t new. It’s an eternal human pitfall, like the old “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” homily that gets bandied about at times. People crave what they do not have and what they are not. This is because it is easy to see the disadvantages of something while you are living it, but with its opposite, you see only the advantages.

“How to Drop Out” starts promisingly:

Unlike many outsiders and “radicals,” I never had to go through a stage where I realized that our whole society is insane — I’ve known that as long as I can remember.

If you stopped reading here, you win. This is the real takeaway for this article: “our whole society is insane.”

That’s the starting point for all future health, when you throw out the bad and start with the new. It’s not quite that simple as another homily, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” should remind us.

Much as it is necessary to “hit rock bottom” in order to begin working past an addiction or other crippling pathology, those who face society must embrace the totality of the problem. First is outsider status; then comes a re-evaluation and a sense of what it is we want to keep.

The counterpoint to this is that we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The framework that exists is something we need; in fact, most of what we see is fine, just in need of refinement or direction. It doesn’t make sense to destroy everything and try to start over.

Prieur found himself in a typical position for Generation X:

A few years later, with my two college degrees, after jobs operating envelope-stuffing machinery and answering phones in a warehouse, I was finally nudged toward dropping out by the Bush I recession and my own nature — that I’m extremely frugal, love unstructured time, and would sooner eat garbage than feign enthusiasm.

Translation: we saw our parents — Baby Boomers, themselves the scarred progeny of the fallout from the Jazz Age — waste their lives on accumulating capital, and then in their bitterness at having no time, turn on us their children with retributive justice and control.

Thus we are ready for a life without excess. However, this doesn’t take into account our fear of not having so much that we can step out of the game, and finally have free voices such that we don’t have to fear for our jobs, livelihoods, etc. when we speak the truth.

However, he does make a valid point here about the inward process corresponding to the outward process of discarding civilization:

The main thing I was doing during those years was de-institutionalizing myself, learning to navigate the hours of the day and the thoughts in my head with no teacher or boss telling me what to do. I had to learn to relax without getting lethargic, to never put off washing the dishes, to balance the needs of the present and the future, to have spontaneous fun but avoid addiction, to be intuitive, to notice other people, to make big and small decisions. I went through mild depression and severe fatigue and embarrassing obsessions and strange diets and simplistic new age thinking. It’s a long and ugly road, and most of us have to walk it, or something like it, to begin to be free.

Those who wish to re-make society must first make an image of what they desire in themselves. At the simplest level, this is knowing what they want, not simply what they don’t want. On a more complex level, it is having a plan and a goal. On the most complex level, it is having the moral and intellectual discipline to become the seed of a better future.

He also makes a good point about needs versus wants and luxuries:

In a temperate climate, you have only five physical needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, and fuel. (If you’re a raw-foodist and don’t mind the cold, you don’t even need fuel!) Everything else that costs money is a luxury or a manufactured need. Manufactured needs have fancy names: entertainment, transportation, education, employment, housing, “health care.” In every case these are creations of, and enablers of, an alienating and dominating system, a world of lost wholeness.

Of course, this doesn’t take into account getting older, or people who face health challenges.

Here’s where he goes off the rails however:

Some of the happiest people I know have dropped out only a short distance. They still live in the city and have jobs and pay rent, but they’ve done something more mentally difficult — and mentally liberating — than moving to some isolated farm. They have become permanently content with low-status, modest-paying jobs that they don’t have to think about at home or even half the time when they’re at work. Yes, these jobs are getting scarce, but they’re still a thousand times more plentiful than the kind of job that miserable people cannot give up longing for — where you make a living doing something so personally meaningful that you would do it for free.

This isn’t much different that tune in turn on drop out, and means you’ll never have power. You have assented to the direction of your society. If you decide to wait by the sidelines for society to collapse, you’re taking a bet on a volatile process that can nonetheless take centuries.

At this point, when I first read the article, I departed from his narrative. First, I don’t see the point in discarding all of the good that our ancestors fought so hard to bring us in modern life just because our leadership has failed and there are people around us who are so dishonest as to support them. Second, rendering oneself impotent is playing into the hands of those who want to wreak further destruction upon civilization.

Luckily, most didn’t even read this. They were caught up in a vision. The essence of what appealed to people — sort of like a visual image, or a story summary — was this:

Get a bicycle and learn to fix it yourself — it’s not even 1% as difficult and expensive as fixing a car. Reduce your possessions and you’ll find that the fewer you have, the more you appreciate each one. Get your clothing at thrift stores on sale days — I spend less than $20 a year on clothes. Give up sweetened drinks — filtered water is less than 50 cents a gallon and much better for you. If you have an expensive addiction, pull yourself out of it or at least trade it for a cheap one.

What does this sound like to you? Freedom. Own nothing, be obligated to nothing. Reduce your wants to the minimum and live outside of society. There’s some problems with this however.

His article takes a dark turn when he goes searching for an audience beyond that vision. There’s also some warmed-over Communism:

The only reason you can’t just go find a vacant space and live there, the only reason another entity can be said to “own” it and require a huge monthly payment from whoever lives there, is to maintain a society of domination, to continually and massively redistribute influence (symbolized by money) from the powerless to the powerful, so the powerless are reduced to groveling for the alleged privilege of wage labor, doing what the powerful tell them in exchange for tokens which they turn around and pass back toward the powerful every month and think it’s natural. Rent is theft and slavery, and mortgage is just as bad, based not only on the myth of “owning” space but also on the contrived custom of “interest,” simply a command to give money (influence) to whoever has it and take it from whoever lacks it.

This forgets that someone must build the housing and maintain it, and they have kids to feed, too. It also forgets that when you don’t have ownership, there is no risk-reward structure that picks better efforts above the rest. This isn’t about working hard; it’s about achieving results. When you remove that results-based structure, you end up encouraging people to do the minimum. Worse, the minimum becomes an ever-declining

This is the crisis of socialism. When you remove accountability, you’ve lowered the bar. At that point, there is no reason to rise above the minimum, because there’s actually a disincentive. When risk isn’t rewarded, risk itself is looked upon as “don’t rock the boat” and thus can cause social retaliation. The first guy to invent fire was unpopular because he might have ruined that raw meat with his weird flame-voodoo.

The root of socialism is social, or social feelings. We feel better when everyone gets along. In order to do this, you have to give every person whatever they demand. Food, property, money, sex… just hand it over. You appease them, buy them off, and placate them. That way everyone gets along. However, that’s not only not realistic, but it’s a path to decline. We call this path “equality” and “freedom,” both of which mean the same thing: that the individual can do whatever he/she wants without rules, common sense, realism, values, culture or standards stopping them.

We want people to rise above the rest. To invent new things, to do a better job, to be more moral or more realistic/intelligent than the rest. We want wisdom to prevail over ignorance. This requires that we be able to test things against our current standard, and pick what’s higher. Socialism is afraid of this, because the individual fears this. “What if I’m the one who’s wrong?” Thus socialism mandates that all participation is equal, and everyone gets rewarded, and by doing so both disincentivizes the higher and accepts the lower, including the criminal and parasitic.

I wish he’d elaborated on this point:

Do not feel guilty about using strengths and advantages that others do not have. That guilt is a holdover from the world of selfish competition, where your “success” means the failure or deprivation of someone else.

Is life a zero-sum game, meaning that for one person to succeed takes from another? I don’t think so, because that other rarely had it in the first place. Rather, someone succeeds because they have something that other people want.

If I move to desolate land, de-toxify it and remove the rocks, then turn it into a fertile field and grow abundant delicious crops there, have I taken from someone? I am taking their money, but they’d have to spend that anyway.

The point that Prieur didn’t and doesn’t know he’s making is that the best must rise. If you have ability, apply it. Others will be offended for social reasons, because now you have something they can’t demand in the name of equality.

Finally he gets to the most interesting point:

First define a clearly understood identity, then proudly claim that identity, then build public acceptance through entertainment and by each of us earning the support of friends and family outside the movement. I’m envious of gay people — I’ve spent years mastering written language just to halfway explain myself, and all they have to say is “I’m gay.”

This point is that anyone who wants a better society must achieve an identity first. Something that can be a quick conversation reply, such as “I’m an x-ian, and we believe in y as a means to a society of type z.” Then the ability to explain that. What does your identity stand for? In other words, what’s its basic value system? And how does that translate to a society and everyday life?

I think this is where ultimately the line of thought that led to this essay began to crumble. Dropping out isn’t an identity; it’s a negative identity. Being aware that society is totally insane isn’t a plan; it’s a complaint. There’s a need for another direction, and it’s not going to jive with the Communist sentiments earlier in the piece, since Communism is the idea of a worker’s state and nothing opposes a sensible direction like the “we’re all equal/let’s all get along” that has gone with every single worker’s state ever.

Prieur updated his article four years later. From the 2008 update:

Do not try to find a job doing what you love. This is my most radical advice. There are some people in the world who have jobs they love so much that they would do them for free. If you become one of these people, you will probably get there not through planning but through luck, by doing what you love for free until somehow the money starts coming in. But if you make an effort to combine your income and your love, you are likely to end up compromising both, making a poverty income by doing something you don’t quite love, or no longer love. For example, if you decide to become a chef because you love cooking, it will probably make you hate cooking, because cooking will become linked in your mind to all the bullshit around the job.

This radical advice is one of the shining lights of this piece. However, it’s also not universal. Some people find work doing what they love; most don’t. The question is really not what you love, but what you should be doing. Here, his thought verges dangerously close to endorsing a caste system, where people are put to work doing what they are genetically best at.

But then there’s an even more interesting turn:

Instead, try to stop yourself from committing suicide until you can find a job that is so non-hellish that it does not make you suicidal, and then stay at that job, or an even better one if you can find it, for several decades. Grab what fun you can on the weekends, save up money, enjoy your retirement, and you will have lived a pretty good life.

Wait… what happened? We’ve gone from drop out and live with no obligations on $20/year to an idea of building a career, having a home and owning things. This is advice for how to live within civilization, not drop out of it. Even more, it’s advice for making yourself comfortable and possibly financially well-off. In the span of four years, we’ve gone from radical drop-outism back to bourgeois values!

That’s because he threw out the baby with the bathwater, and rejected civilization as a whole. Had he started from the beginning with the inevitable answer to his salient observation that society is all wrong, he would have done better. However, that observation is “let’s fix society” and it is incompatible with the leftism he frequently succumbs to, as well as the Crowdism of his general appeal to vagabondism, and finally, with the individualism that is the core of his message.

“Drop out” works for someone who essentially wants to parasitize on society. Now we’ve left that behind, and are talking about contributing, but doing so in an “ethical” way. This means your own acts don’t contribute to the madness, but they don’t stop it either. Like all leftists, you’re left waiting for the Crowd to voluntarily, magically join hands and decide to do-the-right-thing(tm).

He brings the essay back to reality with some quality observations:

The most fundamental freedom is the freedom to do nothing. But when you get this freedom, after many years of activities that were forced, nothing is all you want to do. You might start projects that seem like the kind of thing you’re supposed to love doing, music or writing or art, and not finish because nobody is forcing you to finish and it’s not really what you want to do. It could take months, if you’re lucky, or more likely years, before you can build up the life inside you to an intensity where it can drive projects that you actually enjoy and finish, and then it will take more time before you build up enough skill that other people recognize your actions as valuable.

First is that society itself is reactionary. That is, to participate, you’re going to be constantly forcing yourself to react to it. This essentially blocks out your own thoughts and replaces them with reactions. What does the boss want? What’s the cheapest per ounce I can purchase ketchup? What’s the best route home? How do I get this paperwork filed? They seize your brain and your time, and fill them with pointless activities that are fundamentally ugly.

His point is a good one however. The ultimate test of anyone who wants to get beyond social order is self-discipline. The sheep instinct in us loves social order because all we must do is follow the rules. As under socialism, we don’t have to do it well qualitatively, we just have to connect the dots and submit a plausible imitation of the lowest common denominator. It’s easy! Do even 1% above the LCD, and you’re on your way to success. No wonder it’s so popular.

Even more, society offers affirmation. When you wake up in the night, realizing suddenly that you’re mortal and when your corpse is gone, nothing will remain and no one will remember you, it’s comforting to think that you’re “doing the right thing.” Going to work. Being nice to everyone. Adopting children from Central Africa or Indonesia. Drinking organic fair trade coffee. These are what modern society gives you in exchange for eternal death.

It’s sort of like the Soviet Union. People went to their deaths believing that they were doing the right thing as Communists, thus doing the right thing by their society, thus they had some moral claim to an eternity they did not believe in after the cold nothingspace of death grasped their personalities and evaporated them.

He explains this contrast here:

Primitive humans have moments of extreme exertion, but they don’t go through life in a hurry, they don’t push themselves, and even when they live on the edge of hunger, they don’t stress about it. Even medieval serfs worked fewer hours, and at a slower pace, than modern industrialized workers…The opposite of hard work is quality work. Quality work may be done quickly, but it is never pushed. It arranges itself around the goal of doing something as well as it can be done, and it finds its own pace.

Trying to measure work by quantity is a dead-end path because one person’s hour of diligent, perceptive, high-speed work does not compare to another’s hour of participation, attendance and LCD.

In our race to include everyone, called “equality” or “democracy” or even “freedom,” we have made a system that measures by quantity. As a result, we get lower results with more participation… a lot like socialism, only not quite as whacked-out and removed from reality.

He can’t quite go there, but he has refuted all of the left-wing sentiments earlier in his piece. That’s OK, because if you read carefully from his 2008 introduction, he does something remarkable. He refutes the earlier piece. He reverses all of his core points and goes from dropout to bourgeois careerist, in the same way hippies became the capitalists who sell you free-trade coffee at a 400% markup.

That’s not his fault. It’s the only path to follow, if you insist on letting equality hobble you. There is another way: tradition. This is closely tied to identity because it reflects a continuity between past and future. That requires a consistent belief, purpose, ideal, value… they all mean the same thing at some point. It requires an ideal that can be applied to an ongoing goal, a self-improvement that we call evolution.

This leads us to another legendary article, John Morgan’s What Guénon and Evola really meant by Tradition (…and why many get it wrong). Morgan is the highly-respected and widely popular editor of Arktos, a traditionalist/anti-modern book publisher cooperative.

This article is in response to two groups of people, first the political types hijacking “Traditionalism” to be a thin cover for either far-left or far-right beliefs, and second the spaced-out “Tarditionalists” who make Traditionalism into a bizarre, Byzantine religion full of I’m-cooler-than-you rules.

Let’s take a look at the first one:

It is true that the word ‘philosophy’ can, in itself, be understood in quite a legitimate sense, and one which without doubt originally belonged to it, especially if it be true that Pythagoras himself was the first to use it: etymologically it denotes nothing other than ‘love of wisdom’; in the first place, therefore, it implies the initial disposition required for the attainment of wisdom, and, by a quite natural extension of this meaning, the quest that is born from this same disposition and that must lead to knowledge. It denotes therefore a preliminary and preparatory stage, a step as it were in the direction of wisdom or a degree corresponding to a lower level of wisdom; the perversion that ensued consisted in taking this transitional stage for an end in itself and in seeking to substitute ‘philosophy’ for wisdom, a process which implied forgetting or ignoring the true nature of the latter. It was in this way that there arose what may be described as ‘profane’ philosophy, in other words, a pretended wisdom that was purely human and therefore entirely of the rational order, and that took the place of the true, traditional, supra-rational, and ‘non-human’ wisdom.

The point is this: philosophy refers to wisdom derived from the study of reality, but as time goes on, it often comes to mean the practice of philosophy itself. This is the classic confusion of the tool for its target that occurs whenever civilization is established. At first, people produce things; later, they participate, and if they do well in that participation, are rewarded by others.

Interestingly, the West has struggled with this idea for millennia. Plato made it feature prominently in The Republic, where he used a simple explanation to defeat it: like people watching a film strip, we have confused the projection for the reality. That is because the projection is what everyone sees and, like society itself, is a proxy for reality because since everyone sees it, and agrees on what it is, it is used to unify the group for action.

I think moderns misread this passage from Guénon. It is not about a mystical division. It is about how all ideas decay as soon as there is an intermediate, namely civilization, that rewards people for participation in the institution devoted to the idea, instead of applying the idea itself. This is the same thing that socialism does, if you think about it. It rewards people for quantity of output, rather than quality. Quantity refers to something socially-mediated, like popularity, democracy and products. Or ideology, as in socialism.

But here’s where it gets interesting:

However, there still remained something of this true wisdom throughout the whole of antiquity, as is proven primarily by the persistence of the ‘mysteries’, whose essentially initiatic character is beyond dispute; and it is also true that the teachings of the philosophers themselves usually had both an ‘exoteric’ and an ‘esoteric’ side, the latter leaving open the possibility of connection with a higher point of view, which in fact made itself clearly — though perhaps in some respects incompletely — apparent some centuries later among the Alexandrians. For ‘profane’ philosophy to be definitively constituted as such, it was necessary for exoterism alone to remain and for all esoterism simply to be denied, and it is precisely this that the movement inaugurated by the Greeks was to lead to in the modern world. The tendencies that found expression among the Greeks had to be pushed to the extreme, the undue importance given to rational thought had to grow even greater, before men could arrive at ‘rationalism’, a specifically modern attitude that consists in not merely ignoring, but expressly denying, everything of a supra-rational order.

We will get nowhere without setting up some definitions first.

  • Exoteric: that which is characterized by an indoctrination, e.g. memorize these ten things and you’re in the gang.
  • Esoteric: that which unfolds as more is learned, and requires the learner to meet it half-way through study of reality.

A great example of an exoteric order would be Communism, or perhaps even the freedom/consumerism paradigm that the West adopted to win the Cold Wars and WWII (higher overall productivity dwarfed the enemy, suggesting we have a better control structure). An example of an esoteric order is playing guitar. There are infinite levels of proficiency, and they require dedication and talent, and each higher order only presents itself when the prior lower order is conquered.

The point Guénon makes here is that modern philosophies are rationalistic, or exoteric. That means they are oriented from conclusion back to source in such a way that they can be “proven” visually, or through data and facts, where ancient esoteric orders by relying on the subtler study of underlying patterns did not require such false end results comparison. My analysis for this for some years has been that the modern tendency is to take one attribute of thousands, compare it in a before-versus-after study under laboratory conditions, and conclude that one act “caused” another.

Rationalism by its nature is backward-looking. It does not look toward root causes, but proximate causes. It is linear in that its causal study denies context. Where Schopenhauer chose causal chains, and Nietzsche spoke of “Will,” the modern rationalist sees Object A slamming into Object B producing a result of Object C. This is the nature of conclusion-based philosophies; they deal in objects and final states, not the nature of the interaction that produces them.

Here’s where I disagree with Morgan:

This indicates that Tradition cannot be understood via the means of modern, rationalistic philosophy, and that modern philosophy must always be seen as ultimately incomplete.

That’s a bit of a broad conclusion. Instead, Guénon argues shows that exoteric philosophy is fundamentally unrealistic. More importantly, the point is that when philosophy becomes mediated by social determinations, it becomes exoteric and discards its esoteric (inward, structural, design-based, pattern-based) component and thus loses track of reality. This is a case of us confusing our perceptions with reality, and not getting feedback from reality itself.

There is no more mystery to it than that. Morgan adds this thankfully:

The social world is exoteric, and therefore the least important aspect of Tradition.

Dead on and perfect. Not only that… he might have replaced “the least important aspect” with “hostile to” and not been wrong.

Onward with Guénon:

In the present state of things, however, tradition, whether it be religious in form or otherwise, consists everywhere of two complementary branches, written and oral, and we have no hesitation in speaking of “traditional writings”, which would obviously be contradictory if one only gave to the word “tradition” its more specialized meaning; besides, etymologically, tradition simply means “that which is transmitted” in some way or other.

That which is transmitted. Not that which is written. Got it: transmission requires two antennas, one receiving and one sending. They must be tuned to the same frequencies and, if a direct transmission, sending information back and forth. I’m reminded of the telecommunication protocols which consist in one side sending and then the other sending back a checksum to indicate what it received.

It was in order to avoid all difficulties of this kind that we were content at the start simply to describe a civilization as the product and expression of a certain mental outlook common to a more or less widespread group of men, thus making it possible to treat each particular case separately as regards the exact determination of its constituent elements.

Here we get into Plato territory again. Tradition is not civilization; tradition is the transmitted wisdom that produces higher civilization. That is because, worldwide and among people of a certain ability and inclination, there is a recognition that we’re not just looking for adequate, but some form of excellent, corresponding to Plato’s “the good, the beautiful and the true” and Eliot’s “the perennial things.” What is eternally true? The best of things, which are not formulated as boundaries, but goals.

Another important motif here is the reality referential, not self-referential, outlook of Guénon’s text. Socially-mediated knowledge is inherently self-referential by a group of people; however, any tradition which is found among a “widespread group of men” (shared among different societies and ages) is not derived from social conceits, which are either arbitrary or gamesmanship to preserve and raise social status, but derived from reality itself. This fits with the esoteric idea that if we study reality, we will appreciate its function in successive waves, each new one arriving as we understand the prior.

Guénon uses the term “mental outlook.” This corresponds to the frequent observation that philosophers write philosophies to justify their personal approaches to life. What if it were not personal, but a type of inclination? The healthiest inclination in life would exhibit vir, or the sense of an aggressive desire to place everything in harmony, each getting what it deserves, as Nietzsche wrote. Philosophers are guided by the mental outlook of vir not by some data or explanatory framework, which corresponds to the initial observation that modern philosophy has become detached from its essence; the outlook is the essence, the explanation the projection.

Here’s where Guénon makes a fatal error:

As for Western civilization, we have shown that it is on the contrary devoid of any traditional character, with the exception of the religious element, which alone has retained it. Social institutions, to be considered traditional, must be effectively attached in their principle to a doctrine that is itself traditional, whether it be metaphysical or religious or of any other conceivable kind.

In other words, without metaphysics you do not have Tradition. This makes two errors, first in separating metaphysics from physics and thus venturing into dualism; second, by assuming something that isn’t true. People can understand causes beyond the proximate/immediate/tangible and thus study pattern, form and other esoteric things without being religious.

Furthermore, he’s pointing his finger at something most likely corrupted, which is the nature of metaphysics to take on a dualistic or emotional-mystical characteristic that separates it from reality. This is why Nietzsche suggests we do not try to be “higher” men, but lower. We must reinvent God from mud, earthworms and sunlight, not from airy emotions which inevitably lead to social “feelings” and Crowdism.

If you want to know why this site turned back from Traditionalism “in its pure and true(tm) form,” here it is. We are perennialists and Monists; we are not dualists, and in fact we are hostile to dualism because it is entirely a human projection and a toxic one, derived not per se from the modern time but endemic of it. Even more, it’s a toxic virus. It is both blockheaded and a fundamental building block of thought so that anyone infected with it infects the rest of their thought.

This part of Guénon’s philosophy represents him making the same error he complains of in the first quotation, which is that he has confused the vehicle of a truth for the truth itself. The truth itself is reality, and all principles must be derived from that; he has replaced it with the human projection of metaphysics leading to dualism.

His error is fatal because it breaks the esoteric chain between the “outlook” and the translation to actable engrams from which action may be inspired.

The reason Guénon did not see the modern West as a genuine civilization is because, according to the traditionalists, there is no longer a connection between tradition and Tradition.

Here Morgan points out another contradiction in Guénon’s thought. He is treating Tradition as an artifact of the past, a fixed thing, where this is not what it is. When a child is formed, a few chemical interactions are set into place and, through consistent reactions to those, the complexity of the fetus is developed. Similarly, each person grows by experiencing life, realizing conclusions, and acting on those. All of knowledge is re-learned by each actor.

This is one of the essences of what I call Parallelism, which is the philosophy of independent actors rediscovering reality; this is part of the genius of our universe’s design, which is that truth is not encoded anywhere lest it be corrupted, but is derived. This is why dualism is not just stupid, but blasphemy. It’s entirely incoherent with the design of the universe itself.

Parallelism posits instead that idea, matter and energy exist in parallel, and that what influences more than anything else is design. We would be tempted, as Schopenhauer did, to assign this to “thought,” and it’s possible that this is its origin. However, it is more likely that there is a different underlying nature to the universe, which is pattern itself, and that this is manifested in reality and in additional dimensions to reality. Thus there is no dualism, but a continuity between matter and idea, with idea not being the “cause” per se of matter, but the principle of its organization, much as patterns organized that idea itself.

More toxic confusion from Guénon:

In the first place, the home of the primordial tradition has for a very long time now been in the East and it is there that the doctrinal forms that have issued most directly from it are to be found; secondly, in the present state of things, the true traditional spirit, with all that it implies, no longer has any authentic representatives except in the East.

While I am a lover of all things India, I think it a mistake to ascribe to any place Tradition, or to any tradition, Tradition.

It is reborn in every soul that can listen to it, and the readiness — that “mental outlook” — is how it knows it has a home.

When you think about it, that is esotericism itself: wisdom comes to those who are ready for it, and can meet it halfway.

This explanation would be incomplete without a reference, however brief, to certain proposals that have seen the light in various contemporary circles for restoring a ‘Western tradition’. The only real interest afforded by these ideas is to show that there are people whose minds have ceased to be content with modern negation, and who, feeling the need for something that our own period cannot offer, see the possibility of an escape from the present crisis only in one way: through a return to tradition in one form or another. Unfortunately, such ‘traditionalism’ is not the same as the real traditional outlook, for it may be no more than a tendency, a more or less vague aspiration presupposing no real knowledge; and it is unfortunately true that, in the mental confusion of our times, this aspiration usually gives rise to fantastic and imaginary conceptions devoid of any serious foundation.

Guénon blunders again with the above passage. Tradition is as it is practiced; like all esoteric or meditative practices, it is brought out by people making their hearts and minds ready for it.

Why would Tradition be any different from any other form of esoteric learning? He has admitted it cannot, indirectly, but now he seeks to argue that it must be a connection with something outside of the world, like a dualistic notion of purity.

There is no purity. There is no dualism. Such things are blasphemies against the order of the cosmos and dare we say it…. the intricate design and loving countenance of God.

Whether we view “God” as an underlying order to all existence, or as a proxy for nature or through nature, does not matter. We acknowledge the pattern of patterns that is our universe and forms the cosmic order.

With that in mind, it is clear that Tradition is renewed and reborn each time someone retraces the causal path of thoughts leading to its realization. There is nothing more to it. Mystifying it is pointless, as very few humans have the patience for following this path, and those of evil heart can only be stopped by good people identifying them and destroying them; they always subvert barriers set up to exclude them because subversion is the realm of an evil heart and it will always be superior in that discipline.

Guénon stumbles into modern liberalism next:

But it is the present state of things that concerns us most, so let us leave forecasts aside and dwell a moment longer on the suggestions that are at present to be met with for restoring a “Western tradition”. There is one observation that would in itself suffice to show that these ideas are not in order: this is that they are almost always conceived from an attitude of more or less open hostility toward the East.

He argues that we must get our Tradition from the East, and that to want a Western Tradition can only result from hostility to the East.

This is analogous to the modern argument that the only reason to oppose multiculturalism is “racism” (a word they never define, hence it’s in quotation marks until we figure out what the NWO means by it).

The point for desiring a Western tradition is that we of the West need our own identity and our own method of deriving our esoteric knowledge.

Moreover, despite all the illusions that some seem to cherish, the mentality of a race and an epoch is certainly not going to be put right by any merely “bookish” science, but only by something very different from philosophical speculation, which, even at the best of times, is condemned by its very nature to remain outward and much more verbal than real.

Here Guénon measures philosophy not by its best, but by its worst. He assumes that because, socially, philosophy has become an activity, that the underlying process of thought cannot be separated from the academic institutions and social practice of the same.

This shows the fundamental error of most Traditionalists who, as we noted above, are caught between the political extremists who want to use Tradition to justify their crusades/jihads, and the spaced-out New Age “Traditionalists” who want to turn Tradition into a clubhouse for those who cannot live in reality.

This error is the oldest one of all human errors, which is confusing the essence of a thing for its instance. Plato, for example, writes on this topic. For him, the world of forms is the essence, which is defined not by a dualistic blueprint somewhere, but by presence in many active instances and the commonality of pattern, which does not “exist” so much as it is derived from the interaction of informational forces required to produce the object.

For example, logically and informationally, the design of a chair exists because it is the simplest self-supporting object in which a human can sit. Variations can exist on this design — parallelism — without changing the fact that the root design “exists” simply because it is indicated by what we know of the forces of gravity, friction and equilibrium.

The essence of experience is reality; humans witness a single instance of their own experience, and humanity witnesses a class of experiences defined by our place in the order of the cosmos. We cannot confuse a tangible, fixed instance for the essence, and yet this is what Guénon has done by confusing the impression of Tradition in past for the living Tradition that, per the operation of esotericism itself, is discovered by all those who make themselves open to reality and then invest the effort to test their knowledge according to it.

Traditionalists do us all a great disservice by simultaneously mystifying and contracting the world of possibility. Tradition is closer to the scientific method, but in a non-rationalistic holistic sense, than it is to this form of weird dualism which recreates the worst errors of the past and tells us they are the only method of salvation.

Evolva, as an experienced Nietzschean, understood Tradition as an outpouring of the fundamental Will underlying all life. From “The Occult War”:

An investigation of the secret history that aspires to be positivist and scientific should not be too lofty or removed from reality. However, it is necessary to assume as the ultimate reference point a dualistic scheme not dissimilar from the one found in an older tradition. Catholic historiography used to regard history not only as a mechanism of natural, political, economic, and social causes, but also as the unfolding of divine Providence, to which hostile forces are opposed. These forces are sometimes referred to in a moralistic fashion as “forces of evil,” or in a theological fashion as the “forces of the Anti-Christ.” Such a view has a positive content, provided it is purified and emphasized by bringing it to a less religious and more metaphysical plane, as was done in Classical and Indo-European antiquity: forces of the cosmos against forces of chaos. To the former correspond everything that is form, order, law, spiritual hierarchy, and tradition in the higher sense of the word; to the latter correspond every influence that disintegrates, subverts, degrades, and promotes the predominance of the inferior over the superior, matter over spirit, quantity over quality. This is what can be said in regard to the ultimate reference points of the various influences that act upon the realm of tangible causes, behind known history. These must be taken into account, though with some prudence. Let me repeat: aside from this necessary metaphysical background, let us never lose sight of concrete history.

In this case, Evola is using “dualistic” to mean a chaos/order distinction. As a nihilist, I find the assumption of inherent order disturbing except to the degree that there is an underlying order to the universe; we choose actions compliant with it to the degree we wish to succeed.

However, his point is more coherent than the “dualism” of Guénon — in which there is a pure metaphysical truth/world in opposition to the material world — because it embraces the sense of pattern-order pervading both, and the esoteric notion that the more we understand this order, the greater our strength within it.

For another look at tradition, we turn to Huxley, with “The Perennial Philosophy”:

At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.

First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness — the world of things and animals and men and even gods — is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.

Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.

Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.

Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

Here we have a statement of esotericism that is monistic in its core. The Divine Ground is not alienated from the material world; rather, it is a higher level of abstraction for the same, and both are organized according to the patterns of this order.

Huxley describes Plato’s concept of forms and matter above. The dualism of degenerate societies, in which there is a true path versus a false physicality, is replaced by the idea that an order pervades reality based on the Divine Ground.

This Divine Ground is not describe as separate from the order of reality, but discernible from it, in the sense of esoteric learning. Further, as in the Nietzschean sense, it is not a doctrine but an “outlook,” or Will.

Finally, Huxley does not place Tradition in a glass case. It is discoverable, but even more, it is personally discoverable as an essential process of life itself.

For those who are not religious, it is possible to see Divine Ground as simply a mathematical order. I do not think harm is done by this; those who do not relate to religion can use their metaphor for reality as they see fit.

As a Perennialist, I affirm the above, which negates the necessity of a metaphysical/physical duality and instead sees both as part of a substrate organized according to the Divine Ground, which is ultimately an informational order and not a separately physicality-like place as in dualism.

Perhaps Traditionalists will abandon their philosophy which is reactionary to modernity and thus bears its imprint and instead turn toward this timeless and eternal system of belief.

Traditionalism and the Cosmos

Thursday, July 25th, 2013


Our society spends too much focus on the passage of time, and not enough focus on experience. People deny experience every day by doing the same rote things and carefully managing their exposure to sensations outside what they control.

Experience teaches us over time how to apply the ideas we know instinctually to be true. Most of us start out knowing a certain amount of truth, and we develop this in childhood when in isolation, but it is then “socialized” out of us.

Specifically, a social order is designed to teach us that we are all one, every person is important, and therefore, that there can be no higher truth than what each person wants to think is true. This is how you make friends among the underconfident.

From this unfolds the holy trinity of the modern time: liberty, equality and sociability (“fraternity”). What these mean is that we assume that, since everyone is equal and thus all their perceptions are equally valid, we are forced treat every individual viewpoint as true and still like that person.

This leaves only one enemy, which is those who insist on some principle higher than the individual. This could be God or the gods; however, it could equally be nature, or a goal, or even any shared values system like culture, intellectual honesty, or reality itself.

Any idea that each and every individual human’s thoughts, feelings, desires and judgments are not “equal,” meaning on par with every other human being and more important than any non-human higher principles, is unsociable and drives the underconfident person into a rage.

To prevent this rage, they form a group which is united on the idea of passive aggression and collective retaliation. If one member is harmed, all are harmed, and the group retaliates against those who have harmed them. This group is called a Crowd.

Paradoxically the Crowd is not collectivist except in method. In intent, it is individualist; these people are radical individualists who believe nothing comes before their own intent, but on a practical level they have joined together to enforce this social chaos on others.

As a result, they tend to emphasize a limited set of themes: universality, the exception disproving the rule, compassion and emotion, and the idea of pluralism or everyone being correct at once.

Their ideas are limited to a social scope, which means that outside of the artificial environment created by human socialization, these ideas fail instantly. They occur only after society happens, and generally, only when it gets weak.

When a society is strong, individuals recognize that society is a trade-off of some individualism in exchange for some stability. In other words, we have to work together, but the results are better that way. This increases individual autonomy but inevitably restricts some behaviors.

Those who assault civilization want us to believe that the imposition of rules is arbitrary and thus unjustified. On the contrary, societies build up rules based on known formulas for success. A repeated action, x, leads to a desirable outcome, y; thus it becomes a positive value.

On the other hand, societies build up taboos based on actions that encourage thinking that deviates from the system of known formulas of success. For example, intoxication may not in the instant be bad, but it may lead to a notion that pleasure is more important than results. Thus it is banned.

Crowdism defines itself in opposition to this process. It rejects both values and taboos as negative, and uses exceptions to justify its non-compliance with rules. However, it does not want to give up the advantages of society, so it replaces the thinking society with the socialization described above.

In the end, this ushers society into oblivion as it becomes increasingly removed from knowledge of the world, and more enmeshed in a narcissistic worship of the human self. Soon it is blind to all but its own self-importance and the desires, judgments and feelings of its members.

At the point where Crowdism arises, society becomes split into two groups. There is the new group, which resembles a cancer, who want to try the Crowdist way; then there are those who want to stick to the idea of known formulas for success, sometimes called “consequentialism.”

“Tradition” becomes a misleading term, because people confuse it with convention, which means “the way things are done around here.” Tradition means that we go back to the source of a society, find its values and derive them from the eternal truths of existence, and then uphold those.

Where Crowdist society is based on fear of doing wrong, Traditional society is based on the idea of achieving right. Platonists such as myself may identify it with “the perennial things” or “the good, the beautiful and the true,” but these all refer to the same thing.

We live in one reality which is consistent in how it responds to our actions. Thus we either study reality, or we study ourselves. If we study reality, we build up a heuristic of known successful acts and build on those. If we study ourselves, anything goes.

“Anything goes” appeals to those who are damaged, fractured, underconfident, alienated, sad and/or isolated. They form the first wave of Crowdism because they are fanatics. To them, it makes a colossal excuse for their failures in life, and transforms them into benevolent social successes.

The anything-goes types like platitudes like “we are all one,” “think of the children” and “all people are equal.” They hate hierarchy, borders, traditions, classes, castes and anything else that shows the natural inequality of human kind. They fear that someone might get ahead of them.

Although they portray their ideas as new, their ideas are in fact old. So old that these were the ideas that prevented civilization from forming at first. Like many illusions — salesmen make money for a reason — these ideas are more popular than reality itself.

Because these ideas are popular, commerce adopts them, even while many of the Crowdists attack commerce and complain of capitalism. The point is that the market has no allegiance to anything but its own process, so it can be very cheerfully against itself while receiving money for that service.

In our modern time, a vast and powerful machine has been created. Its first layer is commerce itself, and above that, the most powerful media ever made. Then a government which hires more people than any other firm. Then social pressures, reinforced by entertainment and media.

Against this there is one weapon: the weapon of radical realists, nihilism. Nihilism rejects the human mental categories that allow us to divide ourselves from reality and proclaim ourselves first. Instead, it substitutes reality itself, and cause-effect logic.

Where the Crowd wants to divide reality into good/evil, sociable/unsociable, etc. a nihilist sees these as surrogates for the real question. That question is the effects of our actions, and whether we achieved what we intended to or not. If we did not, we are either breaking new ground, or dishonest.

Someone who is breaking new ground has need to experiment. They will try many attempts, and eventually derive principles about how the new thing works. However, known quantities have no such excuse. History is a list of effect->cause pairs, so we choose our effect and trace back to the cause.

Unfortunately, that violates the sacred principle of Crowdism, and this is why nihilism is so feared. Tracing our actions through cause and effect instead of social morality makes us actually responsible. Not only to reality, but ourselves.

The essence of tradition is an esotericism based in learning. The more we open ourselves to reality, the more powerful we become. In the process it shapes us away from our potential Crowdist delusion, and more toward the organization and structure of the universe itself.

In this not only is there practical value, but a great beauty. By ending the division between our cosmos and ourselves, we eliminate false divisions between information and matter, and past and present. We rise to a higher level of thought itself, and thus know reality more fully.

This is why traditionalists refer to themselves as seeking perennial wisdom. It arises again, year after year, because the cosmos and its rules do not change. We can either learn those rules, and have better results, and refuse, or have worse results.

Civilizations are the same way. The choices made by a civilization determine what level of society it will be. Good choices lead to first world, mediocre choices lead to third world, and truly bad choices lead to self-destruction.

Experience disturbs our fellow citizens because it is what leads us on this path. With experience, we see that Crowdism fails, and that consistent study of the universe works. So we cast aside our mental chains through nihilism, and begin the process of becoming what we could always have been.

“The internet is a brain disease” video

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

One of the many people who help us periodically has created this video based on a previous text by Vijay Prozak. The video, which features immersive video imagery and ambient soundworks, explores highlights of the text in a visual context.

Integral culture

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012


The Idea of Integral Culture
by Stephen Edred Flowers

I. Introduction

Our culture is sick. It has been undergoing a process of disintegration for a number of centuries now. Its various constituent parts have progressively been scattered and disconnected from their natural or organic moorings. Such disintegration can only be rectified, healed, as it were, by integration, or reintegration.

The word “culture” has somewhat irritated me over the years.

People seem to use it in a vague and ambiguous ways. When I began teaching world literature in translation at the University of Texas in the fall of 1984 I undertook a more detailed study of the term “culture”, with the intention of using what I found in my lectures. What resulted was the discovery of the “culture grid.”

Culture is made up of a minimum of four different categories, each of which is essential to the whole idea of culture, and none of which can be ignored when trying to describe a culture in its entirety. These four categories are: ethnic culture, ethical culture, material culture, and linguistic culture.

In most previous discussions of these cultural categories, the emphasis has been laid on the existence of the four categories, and the necessity of each to a description of the whole.

This emphasis was good as far as it went, but it was rather static. In fact, what occurs in dynamic cultures is that the categories of culture are all constantly interacting with one another. There is a constant ebb and flow and interweaving of the categories, each of which serves to reinforce the others.

Our first task is to identify the constituent parts of culture, i.e., of the complete map of human experience and action. Then there follows the imperative to develop each of these categories intensely and to the best of one’s ability. Finally it becomes necessary to complete the circle by reintegrating the component parts into an organic and vital whole in which the individual will stand as a culturally authentic man. More importantly, the process of “completing the circle” serves to reinvigorate the culture itself.

This organic process is achieved by a conscious effort to integrate the cultural categories and thus reconstruct an integral culture. This must first be done on an individual basis before it can be transferred to a collective level. Cultural reintegration begins within.

At the conclusion of this article it will become apparent that if one is able to agree that the ideal culture is an integral one, and that individuals are really only truly free within the context of an integral culture, then a whole series of personal and collective imperatives follow. These imperatives generally run counter to the trends of modern life, which tends to disintegrate culture in favor of the apparent interests of the isolated individual. This individual, separated from his culture, then becomes an easy target for promoters of various transitory interests. These interests could involve a political notion, or a new consumer product, or any one of a billion other things. He disintegrated, atomized individual, cut out of his organic cultural context is relatively more susceptible to these suggestions than someone firmly rooted in a set of objective and conscious cultural values. Real cultural values of this kind cannot, however, be manufactured artificially. They must grow from deep historical soil.

II. Culture

In order to develop more fully the idea of integral culture, a more global understanding of the categories of culture must be attained.

The so-called culture grid appears in the illustration below. This grid shows the four cultural categories arranged in a way that suggests more meaning than the mere listing of them can convey.


The two on the left side of the diagram are primarily material in nature, while the two on the right side are mainly symbolic. While the two on the top tier might be considered to be primary, the two on the bottom tier are secondary.

All categories of culture involve contact between two or more humans. Ethnic culture is rooted in the sexual connection between a man and a woman which leads to the production of children.

The product of this union is the bodily vehicle for culture to manifest itself in the material world. Without this reproductive activity – the literal incarnation (embodiment) of culture – obviously no culture is possible. The body itself, in the form of DNA, is thought by many to encode certain cultural patterns, and it is also true that cultural data absorbed by the developing human (especially during the first few years of life) actually results in permanent physical changes in the brain. (See Brad Shore’s ‘Culture in Mind’, Oxford, 1996.)

The link that living individuals have with their ancestors is not only a symbolic one. It is also physical. The entirety of the bodies of our ancestors constitutes a sort of cultural hyper-body for us. Ethnic culture is embodied culture.

At the other end of an apparent spectrum is ethical culture. The ethos of a culture is its symbolism or ideology. This is perhaps the part of culture that most interests us, as we are usually most fascinated by the ideas of our own culture and others. This si the part of culture that contains structures, patterns, and myths (or meta-narratives) made up of symbolic ideas.

The words “ethnic” and “ethical” are chosen here, although other terms might have been used, to demonstrate the archaic link between biology and ideas.

To the ancient Greeks the ethnos or tribe was determined by the gods to whom one sacrificed, and hence from whom one got one’s values. Greeks were those who sacrificed to the Greek gods, spoke Greek language and perpetuated the Greek ethos biologically.

A similar pattern of belief can be detected in other Indo-European branches of the tradition.

Symbolic, or ethical, culture is entirely invisible and super-sensible. We know about it through its manifestations in the other three branches of culture: ethnic, material, and linguistic.

The symbolic culture is most perfectly encoded in the linguistic culture. This amounts largely to the language code spoken and understood by the members of a given culture. But the linguistic code, its phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics also constitutes a complex semiotic code by which members of the culture understand the world and express themselves to other parts of the world. Without such communication between humans, and meta-communication between humans and other parts of the cosmos, humans would be impotent in the world.

Material culture is easily seen. It is made up of everything a culture produces, i.e., all the physical objects made by members of that culture. This could be a flint arrowhead, or a skyscraper. These are the objects made by the human and after having been imagined by the human heart. In other words these objects are artificial, i.e., “made by craft of man.” It is often the case that all we know of an archaic culture is is summed up in the objects it left behind. But from these objects we can often reconstruct the culture’s values. If modern culture were to be evaluated by its material culture alone, I am not sure what the archaeologists of the future would make of it. They would certainly find it titanic, but perhaps also sterile and empty.

One thing that should be obvious is that these four components of culture are not discreet and isolated categories. Rather they are four poles of manifestation which belong to a larger whole. Each category interacts with the other three in a lively discourse. Linguistic culture crosses the material in the form of writing, inscriptions, books, computer software, etc. Symbolic culture not only provides forms for the production of material objects (such as temples and sculptures), but also usually determines the nature of the physical reproduction of human bodies in the form of laws and customs surrounding marriage and child bearing and rearing. (The current general chaos and breakdown in these customs is just as much a statement on this topic as are the most traditional customs found in former times or in other cultures.)

The four basic categories of culture intersect and influence each other, and no one of them can exist without the other three. Changes in one will inevitably lead to alterations in the other parts. Vitality in one will help invigorate the others, while weakness in one will just as naturally result in the spread of this weakness to the rest of the whole.

In our current state of cultural fragmentation, this sense of the integrated nature of culture has been lost. The root cause of this fragmentation should also be apparent. One of the most effective ways in which to revolt against the modern world is to undertake the (re)integration of culture, to realize a personal and cultural synthesis – or “bringing together” – of the various categories of culture.

In order to undertake this revolt, one must begin with one’s self. The synthesis of the cultural categories within should be a harmonious one. That is, although humans are in a practical sense free to “mix and match” cultural elements, only fools would seriously suppose that they themselves were wise enough to design such a synthesis before they were virtually finished products of culture and character. It would be like asking a child to design its life when it was eight years old! In such a case we would not wonder at why a such person would be very unhappy at twenty years of age. One’s individual cultural synthesis theoretically exists in potentia. It is the work of the individual to realize this, to make it real, to actualize the potential.

This pre-existing cultural synthesis, to which we strive to return on a higher octave, can only have its in a time when an integrated whole was in evidence. This is why individuals interested in cultural authenticity so often yearn for a pagan or archaic times. It is not so much a longing for “paganism” per se, as it is a longing for the wholeness and integral nature of the self and culture which is possible in such societies.

On a personal, individual, level it is the practitioner of integral culture to discover and then to harmonize the contents of his body, brain (mind), tongue (language) and his deeds or daily actions. Each part of life takes its clue from another integral part of that multidimensional life. The body contains a code which bears the essential story of all of one’s ancestors. One’s cultural myths articulate these, and these myths are re-encoded in actual tales expressed in often archaic languages. These codes bear the blueprint for inner action which can lead the individual back to an integrated state of being. This is how they functioned in former times, and this is how they can function today. Merely reading and thinking about these patterns is usually not enough. Other techniques designed to imprint the codes on the conscious mind must be experienced. High levels of repeated, concentrated, ordered and intense thought must be experienced. This is not the place to enter into these techniques.

An essential part of the process of culturally re-integrating the personality involves conscious interaction with others belonging to that culture. Culture is, in the final analysis, always about interhuman contact. Isolated individual experience is a form of mysticism, but not a manifestation of integrated cultural activity. One must determine for oneself how one can best contribute to the task of cultural integration, or allow it to be determined by others. Some will provide strong human bodies for the future, others will create institutions that will re-invigorate and carry culture along, others will teach the lore and languages of the culture, others will shape and craft the artistic and practical tools that bear the culture materially. Some noble souls will be able to contribute in more than one of these areas. But all of these realms are necessary; no one is really more important than the others. They must all be seen to work together as a whole.

It might be noted that all of the ideas of culture are seem to be somehow rooted in the “past”. In order to understand the idea of the “past”, the idea of history itself must be examined.

III. A “History” of Ideas

Depending on how it is understood, the concept of “history” can either be irrelevant or essential to the idea of integral culture.

If by history one means an objective string of events progressing from the distant past to the present moment and endowed with “cosmic” meaning and significance, then “history” can be dismissed as “bunk”. History has never been, nor will it ever be, some sort of scientific pursuit limited the “hard facts”. History is what it says it is: a story. All stories are narratives. To have any meaning at all they have to have certain characteristics of morality, tension, and most especially certain “plots” which are inherently interesting to the listener or reader. These latter characteristics show just how much “history” is only mythology recast in a secularized mode. There is nothing wrong with this, aside from the deceptions that might be fostered if people were to believe otherwise – which of course most people do. This is due to the fact that the myth, or meta-narrative, of the modern world within most people live today has as one of its mainstays the idea of an “objective history.” (This is a meta-narrative inherited from Judeo-Christianity, which was the first ideology to sacralize mundane historical events and endow them with cosmic significance.)

On the other hand, if by history we mean a synthetic view of myths, structures, and ideas as well as various events viewed over time, then “history” is fundamental to culture.

Mircea Eliade never tired of pointing out that myth seeks to destroy history. That is, myth is eternally true and recurrent, due to its inherited structural characteristics. History, as commonly understood, however, was supposed to be provisionally true, inevitably open to various interpretations, and fundamentally chronological and progressive. Myth is eternally true, whereas history is often a celebration of the absurd. French thinker and critic Alain de Benoist, among others, have pointed out that the past, present and future are not, in reality, a linear progression, but rather three entirely different dimensions of human existence. Other ideas, such as those of Oswald Spengler, emphasize the “morphology of history” and see cultures are organic subjects of “history” bound by cyclical laws of birth, life, and death.

Although it is most certainly a meta-narrative, or myth, in itself, it is nevertheless useful to review the ordinary historian’s idea of the progression of epochs in the history of European ideas.

The time prior to the advent of Christianity is lumped by historians into a period they call “ancient”. They don’t know what to do with it in the larger sense, as these is no one overriding myth or general theory in terms of which it can be understood. The Indo-Europeans (and all their cultural branches) had their own set of values, the Egyptians theirs, the Chinese theirs, and so on. An intelligible plurality reigned and ethnic labels sufficed to differentiate cultures in a more general sense as well: We can speak of Germanic people, religion, art objects, and language as a more or less coherent and integrated whole. The same goes for the Greeks, or Celts, or any of the other branches of the Indo-European tree. Of course, it is equally true of all other “ancient” cultures. We confront a curious situation, however, when we examine cultures of continuous authenticity: be they found in India, or elsewhere. Certain cultures suffered no major breaks between their archaic pasts and their present states. However, the majority of cultures have endured major disruptions in symbolic continuity.

This disruption is identified at the points the ruling paradigm shifts from the particular and culturally authentic one to a more generalized (international) one. This generalized paradigm is most often characterised by monotheism, e.g., Christianity or Islam. With the advent of this paradigm in a culture, no matter how partial and imperfect the advent was, it is said that the culture has entered into a new phase. In Europe this new phase subsequently came to be called the “medieval” period, or the “Middle Ages”. Anything in the middle comes between two things. In this case these two are the “ancient” and the “modern”. The Middle Ages were dominated by the myth of faith as institutionalized in the Church. This is not the place to discuss the merits of this myth. It is only important here to realize that the various plural and nationally determined mythologies were at least partially replaced by a single and “international” one. Although much is often made of the transition between the medieval and the modern period, the differences between medieval and modern mythologies are not nearly as great as those between the ancient and either the medieval or modern.

Modernity merely replaced one monolithic myth with another. Instead of faith and the Church being the highest arbiters of the truth, reason and science took the helm. Often medieval “religious” values were merely secularized and repackaged “political” models. The Church promised the salvation of all of humanity through faith, whereas scientism, humanism etc. promised the same sort of universal perfection through the progressive application of reason.

Those who criticize the monotheosis of both the medievalist and the modernist, those who see malevolent foolishness in the promises of both faith and reason – as embodied in the ideologies of the Middle Ages and the “progress” of modernity – can be called “postmodernists.” It should be noted that the term “postmodernism” has generally been hijacked by campus Marxists and crypto-Marxists to further their own agendas (which are usually related to their own career advancements at universities, not the last bastions of the Marxist faithful). For this term it is difficult to use the term without invoking alongside it a whole host of “politically correct” fables.

IV. The Idea of Integral Culture

In the context of modern meta-narratives the most effective revolt would be one which challenged the the modernistic atomization – the splitting up of all integrated units into their smallest parts for the sake of homogenizing them politically and/or economically – by promoting a reintegration of cultural elements or categories in a harmonious and authentic whole. From what has been said perhaps a good idea of how this can be done has already been understood. However, in conclusion, I would like to be more specific.

There are certain pathways or paths of action toward integral culture. These are not alternatives or options but rather things which must be, to one degree or another, integrated in one’s life. The first is tradition, the other personal authenticity, and the third cultural action.

Tradition is that which has been handed down from time immemorial along various pathways: genetic, mythic, linguistic and material. The subject, i.e., doer, of this kind of action must discover the tradition, myth and school to which he or she belongs.

This is not a “choice” in the sense of being something that is entirely arbitrary. It is a realization of a truth. Once this authentic choice has been made, which can just as easily be seen as an “election” by some aspect of that tradition, one can never go back or waver from the implications of that realization.

The reason for this is that it is a matter of personal authenticity. Modern people seem to think that they can choose to become something which they are not in reality, e.g., an Amerindian shaman, or a Kabbalistic mystic. But one can never truly become that except in one’s own imagination, (and perhaps in the imaginations of others). In truth, we can only, to paraphrase Fichte, become who we are. Within that realm of possibilities is an infinite number of directions, but the tradition is a fixed one. The modern world makes the path of discovery of an authentic tradition almost impossible. Yet a few have persevered, in hopes that some day the door will be opened for the many. One must simply ask oneself: “Of what can I be a ‘first class’ exemplar?” Can I be a first class Amerindian shaman? No, an Amerindian can be that. Can I be a first class Kabbalist? No, an orthodox Jew can be that. The positive answer to this question can be many things. But in one’s own heart, if the honesty of that answer is complete, the authentic awakening will be unmistakable and irrevocable in life. The true path will be opened, but it will be far from accomplished.

The third component in the path toward integral culture involves interaction with others. One must participate actively with others within the same school or tradition, with others who have similarly discovered their authentic path. Being taught by others, teaching others, creating in cooperation with others, and in general interacting in any and all ways possible with others from the same tradition forms the quintessential laboratory not only for broad cultural action, but inner personal work as well.

This approach to individual development necessarily takes more into account than one’s momentary and transitory desires. It views the individual in his or her true context, as a being that exists in many dimensions, past, present and future simultaneously. The individual has a history, in the sense that the individual only exists as a part of a stream of culture which cannot be understood apart from its constituent events and structures. The reconstruction of culture on the model of a healthy, integrated view of society could not help but have a beneficial effect on interpersonal relations, and hence on all aspects of culture.

The deep and subtle malaise of the modern world has its roots in disintegration and promotes it at every turn. Such rootlessness is marketed under noble terms like “freedom” and “individual rights.” But once the tree has been uprooted and killed by the onslaught of progressive modernism, and by the time those living in the tree have realized what has happened in the name of “individual freedom,” it is already too late. The eternal good of the whole has been sacrificed to the ephemeral appetites of the individual. How then can the individual mount a revolt against this modern world?

Cultural disintegration is countered by cultural re-integration. The return pathways to this level of being are marked with the signs of tradition, authenticity, and action.

Without these no effective revolt is possible.

Sic semper tyrranis!

Tyr: Myth, Culture, Tradition vol. 1

Reality is Nihilism

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010


It’s hard to define nihilism because the term is abused so commonly. People abuse the term nihilism because it sounds cool. Cool is whatever isn’t what is; in a herd of sheep, you want to be the one doing something different. And for most people, you don’t want to get that way the old fashioned way, which is to pick a discipline and work hard at it so that someday, you’re known as the guy who invented the anal extractor or a cure for cancer.

Because they don’t believe they’re going to succeed at anything real, and because they lack the will to do so and so are correct in that first estimation, most people choose instead to adopt a surrogate: social status, or how many people like them; money, or how much power they have over others; popularity, or how many friends they have in the mainstream or a niche; morality, or how they can feel superior for doing a human-centric “right thing” by individuals, instead of addressing the problem that includes all individuals, their environment and technology.

In this environment, picking a radical belief that doesn’t entail radical results is a clear winner. It lets you be “different” and rise above the pack, but you don’t actually have to pay the price. Why be a real revolutionary, who might die or kill others (which is unpopular)? Instead be popular by being an armchair revolutionary. Preach some radical belief you don’t believe, and fool others, who will then make themselves accessible to you as friends, sexual partners, business associates and so on.

Nihilism isn’t a philosophy to most people. It’s marketing. When a brand says “Better value for less money!” that’s not their philosophy; it’s their marketing. As they say about human beings, don’t listen to what they say — look at what they do. Does the product actually offer better value for the money? Sometimes but not necessarily. In the same way, do people who are nihilists generally live that way? No, a thousand times no. They live like any other hipster, scenester, socialite, hanger-on, toady or one of the crowd. They’re there to socialize.

In theory, nihilism could even be used to sell products, but only of the entertainment type. “This is the most nihilistic vacuum cleaner on the market!” somehow fails a basic test of credibility. But a rock band? We believe in nothing. A radical? Our belief is that nothing exists. A politician? Those nihilists are going to come and hate our freedom, or be racist like al-Qaeda. As with rock music, the news is entertainment, as is politics. It’s keeping the proles entertained and giving them very simple symbols to use as “reasons” for them doing whatever they do, or what you want them to do.

And at the end of the day, the most public “nihilists” are the ones most likely to be lower-case-c conservative: they sell a product, they make a ton of money, and they retire to gated communities where they spend their time golfing. Nihilism, or just good marketing?

What’s not nihilism

The marketing/social-friendly “nihilism” could more accurately be described as the intersection of fatalism, or believing that we have no control over the outcome of our actions, and selfishness, or the doctrine of acting only for the self. They are inherently materialistic — meaning that they recognize no dimension to reality except the physical comforts, wealth and convenience we can achieve — because they are based on removal of giving a damn.

However, they’re also completely destructive because they are limited in scope to right now. What do you want right now? How to look cool right now? Life is a process of many moments knitted together, and when we deny that future and past, we lose the ability to build. There is no need to be productive or constructive when you are living for one moment only, but if you live for many in sequence, you start wanting to have your life show its meaning in what you have done with it.

Fatalism and selfishness will be eternally popular because they’re the same thing. Don’t reach out into the world and challenge yourself; you’re fine just the way you are! Don’t strive for anything. Don’t grow. Just be, and you’re equal and we’re all happy. If people aren’t convinced, hide behind the idea that nothing ever changes and there’s no point doing anything, except living for your own comfort and convenience (of course).

In our modern time, we’ve elevated fatalism to a positive value. Instead of admitting that we need to evolve as a species, we’re looking inward and congratulating each other on how moral we are. Instead of striving so that we improve as individuals, and that we produce heroes and exceptional people, we’re going to focus on making sure we accept each other as equals. We’re all one, we’re all the same, we’re all OK, everyone wins!

This is the mindset of a solipsist who fears the world and doesn’t want to challenge himself or herself, so has created a social doctrine that demands no change to the status quo. When you think about it, equality and selfishness are the same idea, because with equality no one will strive and no one will tell you that you should strive, so you have ultimate freedom to consume, work, buy — anything but push yourself to achieve. And if you do, others will sabotage you with many pointless demands.

What is nihilism?

If we could successfully encapsulate philosophies in a paragraph, we would have far fewer philosophical tests or debates. However, any sufficiently unique idea requires explanation not so much for its essence as symbols, but for its implications. If I say that my philosophy is to eat only the brains of cretins, I’m going to need to explain how to harvest those brains, what the justification is, and what implications it has for a social order that needs to breed captive morons for slaughter. And that’s a super-simplified example.

The definition of nihilism expands. It’s like a doorway, more than an endpoint. We can start with the simplest definition:

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What do values, knowing and communication have in common? Each relies on us representing our world or parts of it with symbols. A symbol uses a part of the whole to communicate the whole, and depends on its audience knowing enough about the topic to know what the symbol represents. Even our memories are stored in symbolic form such that we recall a summary or a conclusion, but not the whole of what is going on. Many of us can remember the end result of a conversation in a room; few can remember the steps of conversation, or all of the objects in the room.

Nihilism is a rejection of the “false world” of symbols, memories and the “knowing” of others. When we say all values are baseless, we mean they are a choice and there is no writing on the wall or Word of God or scientific “proof” which can justify them. The world does not tell us what to believe; the world just is. Nothing is inherent and we cannot prove that some value or truth is inherent. We can only elect to believe them.

A nihilist for example recognizes that even if shown proof of some truth, people may choose to disbelieve or may simply not understand. A person with no short term memory can see people walking through two doors, a blue door and a red door, and observe that everyone going through the blue door gets a hollowpoint round to the forehead. But without that memory, even if told the blue door is death, they may have no idea of the context and walk through it anyway (thus curing their memory problem).

On a practical level, most human beings possess enough intelligence to be functional in a narrow range of tasks, but not to predict the outcome of some behavior they have not seen before. They therefore do not understand consequences of their actions beyond the immediate, and like basic algebra, are limited to measuring one variable at a time. Even worse, because they do not understand any idea more complex than one they have conceived, they view such ideas as wrong, and because they cannot see where their own thinking is limited, compare all ideas to their own and reject those which are not of their own conception — which includes all ideas more complex than their own.

When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, like Mr. Wheeler, they are left with the erroneous impression they are doing just fine.

The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.

“Unskilled and Unaware of It – How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments” by Justin Kruger and David Dunning

We see immediately a split in worldviews:

  • There is no meaning. Nothing means anything, or can mean anything. It’s all pointless. When philosophers say that “A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy” this is what they are speaking of. However, in our view this is a confusion. The lack of meaning does not mean that one cannot have preferences, even logical ones.
  • There is no inherent meaning. Meaning, values, memory and symbols are artifacts of judging, perceiving minds. Without humanity, the world just is; a tree falling in a forest makes sound, but there being no one there to recognize the sound and call it sound, the world remains unenlightened as to its soundiness. However, lack of inherent meaning does not preclude humans from choosing meaning, or from noticing that they as humans will find some things more meaningful than others — specifically, as related to the task of human survival.

People who seek an inherent meaning in life, like writing on the wall appearing from a mystical world that is guaranteed to be 100% true 100% of the time, find nihilism depressing — they immediately see that they have no perfect argument to convince others they are right, and no perfect way of communicating it, so they give up on meaning entirely. Their view is that if meaning is not inherent to the same degree that, say, oxygen is, there’s no way to discover it or share it.

Others however do not share this view. They reason that without a being that can prove itself inherent, such as a god who can work miracles and communicate with us in a scientifically verifiable format, there is no way to prove anything inherent. The universe does not have a human consciousness, and will not give us truths in a form we can recognize as being similar to our memories. Instead, per the scientific method (otherwise known as any systematic method of discovery) we must observe, formulate theories about how the world works, test them and share as much as we can what we have learned.

In many ways, this is parallel to our transition from childhood to adulthood. A child needs parents or other adults to provide absolute right answers that the child can trust and act upon; an adult is comfortable with greater degrees of ambiguity, and at some point says “this makes sense to me” or “this is what I want” and so pursues it. Children need inherent or quasi-inherent values; adults view values as, well, value choices. Not everyone has the same values but much like not everyone gives the same answer to a test question, some answers are better than others.

What is passive nihilism?

Nihilism as a philosopical doctrine is simple: the denial of inherent meaning. Nothing inherently, automatically and irrefutably “means” anything. Meaning is a projection of the human mind and does not exist outside of it, much like while we may use a symbol for “God” we cannot say God exists in the human form we project; we’re using a variable or metaphor to describe God but that symbol is not equivalent to the thing itself.

When we look for inherent meaning, we are inevitably talking about morality of method. This type of morality assumes that the instance of any one thing is equivalent to its essence, like our word and conception of God being the same God who exists to other species on other planets. For a morality to be inherent, it must be a morality of outcomes (effects) and not their causes, or the effects they in turn create. The only moral object that is inherent is the action; its consequences unfold over time and so are not inherent in the same way that material change is.

For example, our civilization has become thoroughly neurotic about killing: murder is bad, except when we kill murderers, or wage war. If we wage war, we also need to be murdering murderers, or we are the aggressor who attacked first. However, if we murder a killer before he murders, or wage war against a civilization that by growing lots of cheap food will eventually produce an invasion force that will destroy us, we are committing immoral acts in terms of outcomes, but committing moral acts in terms of the effects of those outcomes.

Through this reasoning, we see that inherent morality is like tying a hand behind our backs. Outcomes and methods exist in the moment, and may cause us personal fear, but what we must look at is the long-term consequences of our actions. Our human instinct is to demand inherent morality from fear for ourselves, but what this shows us is that what we want to consider “inherent” to the world is inherent to a different globe entirely — the human head.

What is active nihilism?

When people ask how you can be a nihilist and still be striving for something other than self-pleasure, remember this: nihilism means denial of inherent value. It does not mean denial of functionality, or loss of a desire for our actions to be constructive and produce aesthetic beauty in life. Nihilism simply states that there is no inherent morality, or in other words no morality of method, so we must be willing to do immoral things for moral ends.

Nature parallels this vision. In nature, predators consume their prey with vicious violence but that consumption creates smarter animals. The majority of intelligent creatures are the predators; the majority of stupid creatures are primarily prey. There is no morality of murder, or other outcome-based judgment, because such logic would stop the whole process of evolution. Instead, nature works by a basic principle of morality of consequence: if the ends (evolution) require vicious means (predation), so be it.

When Plato wrote his metaphor of the cave, he was talking primarily about instance/essence confusions. (While most scholars prefer to think he is speaking of a dualistic world where perfect archetypes exist, his point is actually the opposite — no such world exists, because essence is defined not by duplicating instances in a purer form, but by being the attributes in common between all instances.)

In the Platonic view, most people are looking at instances (outcomes) and believing they see a pure essence (meaning), when really what they see is specific to their participation in the event — and therefore, like morality, is easily gamed into a “I demand freedom so you cannot force me to change, even as I force you to change to avoid inconveniencing me wherever I go,” which he identifies as the decay of a civilization.

When we are children, the difference between instance and essence is clearer to us. We have recently learned words like “chair,” and know that not all chairs are alike. We even draw the distinction “all chairs are like my chair” without assuming that all chairs spring from that one chair. But as time goes on, through a sleight of hand, we are convinced to build up an idealized, socially-driven version of more complex ideas that conflates to “all things like this are like the version I have most closely experienced.” For example, in morality we conclude that our deaths would be an injustice, therefore all killing is wrong — but how easily we are lured into paradox when it comes to killing those we perceive as threats.

The principle of active nihilism is one of ultimate reality: we are real, in a physical world that is real, with real consequences for any given action. There are no inherent goals, so we must pick one. If we like life, that goal is survival. If we want to maximize survival, we pick a systematic method (the scientific method) for discovering truth, or mental constructs that correspond to constructs existing in the physical world. After all, the one inherent thing to life is physical reality outside of us; everything else is up for grabs or ambiguous.

Thus there are two essential ideas in active nihilism:

  1. Adaptation not judgment. We judge; the world does not. What the world does, like a machine, is function on some input and fail on others. As organisms who want to survive, our goal is adaptation. While life and physical reality are inherent, the choice to adapt is not; we can choose suicide. But only true idiots argue over “validity” when there’s a lack of inherent value. Nothing is valid or invalid; there are only results. Did you get the results you desire? Did your desiring make sense given the reality around you? Does your notion of sense make sense, both in the a priori zone of pure logic and the a posteriori zone of knowing how similar decisions in the past have worked out? Judgments are human and as such are (a) representative of a small segment, or partial truth, or truth or reality and (b) inherently anthrocentric in context, and to humans they appear inherent.
  2. Correspondence not absolutism. Absolutism means that something is true (a) because it is internally logical and (b) as a result, it applies in a universal context — it is not situational, or specific, or time-dependent or context-dependent at all. Some logical ideas may exist a priori from the concept of logic itself, such as that one proposition must follow from another, but anything more complex is usually dependent upon factors from our world. Absolute thought exists in a universal context, in a perpetual present tense, to all people equally, without variation no matter what the balance of power (for moral actors) or context of the question is. If we said “donuts are good” is a universal truth, we would use donuts to end wars, feed cattle, balance machinery and soothe hemorrhoids. Sound insane? It’s just an easy to recognize example of common insanity.

Active nihilism denies inherent value but does not deny the inherency of reality. It tells us there are no default or universal judgments, and all that we can expect is that reality is consistent such that specific actions achieve similar results every time they are tried. This is the basis of all learning, and without it, even the basics of our understanding (gravity, time) would not make any sense because we could not expect them to be consistent.

Historically, the most popular theory of truth was the Correspondence Theory. First proposed in a vague form by Plato and by Aristotle in his Metaphysics, this realist theory says truth is what propositions have by corresponding to a way the world is. The theory says that a proposition is true provided there exists a fact corresponding to it. In other words, for any proposition p,

p is true if and only if p corresponds to a fact.

The theory’s answer to the question, “What is truth?” is that truth is a certain relationship — the relationship that holds between a proposition and its corresponding fact. – Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

From this consistency we hope to construct truths, but it is understood these are not universal; they only apply in our minds, to such degree that our individual minds are ready at that moment to accept them. The most profound truth if told without context seems like arbitrary babble, or if told to an idiot, seems like pretentious drivel.

If active nihilism has a tenet, it is the denial of anthrocentric desires for “inherent” truth — really, consistent patterns to our consciousnesses that we would like to believe are inherent to the universe, but are an artifact of the object we are using to perceive, namely our brains: social preferences, feelings and emotions, the “official” declarations of public institutions or individuals, the promises of advertising — in preference for the adaptive model provided by the scientific method. “Deny no perception,” says the fatalist; “Deny no truth,” says the active nihilist.

Toward a non-Hollywood Nihilism

Nihilism will continue to confuse its audience because the actual concept is so much less emotionally satisfying than the false one. The kind of active fatalism that is required to deny anything but the self and the self’s material comfort in the present moment carries with it a satisfying rage against all that we dislike in the world. Nihilism itself however sees the rage of rejection and the errors of calcification as one, and provides an antidote: remove the human definition of “inherent” that is essentially solipsistic, and replace it with a knowledge of events over time as a sequence of causes.

It is for this reason that nihilism, unlike fatalism, does not proscribe striving for ideals, even ones that might overlap with what is considered “moral.” Nihilism denies the inherent nature of values, and by doing so, denies human solipsism; it does this as a means to having clarity about why we choose to be moral, which is a form of adaptive strategy similar to the scientific method where we observe the world and pick a response that is most likely to bring about positive results.

Nihilism may be our ultimate weapon against the consequence of human solipsism, which is backward rationalism. Because our selves are the formative archetype we know, we argue “from the self and toward the world” (instead of the converse). This means that when we find something we desire, we effect it, and then argue backwards from that effect toward a justification outside of the self.

“I’m just drinking this alcohol so no wayward kids get it” could well summarize human logic of this nature. We rationalize from what we have done to the reasons for doing it, using tokens that will manipulate our audience, usually of an emotionally universal or logically absolute (contextless) type. Nihilism denies this solipsism by denying these universals and absolutes, and by rejecting inherent values that are cornerstones for manipulation, forcing us instead to formulate forward logic: “I am doing this action for this effect toward this goal.”

The rejection of the idea of inherent values negates justification because it means there are no universals toward which we can always ascribe our actions; instead, each action must be considered situationally not by a moral standard of outcomes, but by a moral standard of goals which will be measured by the outcomes they claim (before the action) to be attempting to achieve.

For this reason nihilism is less a philosophy in itself (or like fatalism, a substitute for a philosophy) but a philosophical framework. When we understand like as not the false inherency of our solipsism, and as being composed of many moments knitted together by cause and effect where immediate outcome of an action is not its sole effect, life makes sense again. In the odd mode of paradox that afflicts many of nature’s greatest creations, in human life we must accept nothingness in order to find meaning in something.

Belief in Nothing

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


Nihilism confuses people. “How can you care about anything, or strive for anything, if you believe nothing means anything?” they ask.

In return, nihilists point to the assumption of inherent meaning and question that assumption. Do we need existence to mean anything? After all, existence stays out there no matter what we think of it. We can do with it what we will. Some of us will desire more beauty, more efficiency, more function or more truth — and others will not. Conflict results.

Nihilists who aren’t of the kiddie anarchist variety tend to draw a distinction between nihilism and fatalism. Nihilism says that nothing has meaning. Fatalists say that nothing has meaning, so nothing will have meaning for them personally. It’s the difference between having no authority figure to tell you what’s right, and giving up on the idea of doing anything since no one will affirm that what you’ve done is right.

What is nihilism?

As a nihilist, I recognize that meaning does not exist. If we exterminate ourselves as a species, and vaporize our beautiful world, the universe will not cry with us (a condition called the pathetic fallacy). No gods will intervene. It will just happen and then — and then the universe will go on. We will not be remembered. We will simply not be.

In the same way, I accept that when I die, the most likely outcome will be a cessation of being. I will at that moment cease to be the source of my thoughts and feelings. Those feelings having only existed inside of me, never did “exist” except as electro-chemical impulses, and will no longer be found when I am gone.

Even further, I recognize that there is no golden standard for life. If I note that living in a polluted wasteland is stupid and pointless, others may not see this. They may kill me when I mention it. And then they will go on, and I will not. Insensitive to their polluted wasteworld, they will keep living in it and suffering under it, oblivious to the existence of an option.

A tree falling in a forest unobserved makes a sound. The forest may not recognize this as a sound because a forest is many life forms interacting, not organized by some central principle or consciousness. They just do what they do. In the same way, playing Beethoven’s Ninth to a bowl of yeast will not elicit a response. The insensate remain unobservant, much like the universe itself.

Many people “feel” marginalized when they think of this. Where is the Great Father who will hear their thoughts, validate their emotions, and tell them with certainty what is true and what is not? Where is the writing on the wall, the final proof, the word of God? How do we know for certain that anything is true, and if it is true, that it’s important?

Meaning is the human attempt to mold the world in our own image. We need some meaning to our existence, but feel doubt when we try to proclaim it as a creation of ourselves. So we look for some external meaning that we can show others and have them agree that it exists. This forces us to start judging every idea we encounter as threatening or affirming of our projected external meaning.

This distanced mentality further affirms our tendency to find the world alienating to our consciousness. In our minds, cause and effect are the same; we use our will to formulate an idea and it is there, in symbolic form. When we take that idea to the world and try to implement it, however, we can estimate how the world will react but we are frequently wrong, and this causes us doubt.

As a result, we like to separate the world from our minds and live in a world created by our minds. In this humanist view, every human is important. Every human emotion is sacred. Every human preference needs to be respected. It is us against the world, trying to assert our projected reality where we can because we fear the lack of human-ness in the world at large.

Nihilism reverses this process. It replaces externalized meaning with two important viewpoints. The first is pragmatism; what matters are the consequences in physical reality, and if there is a spiritual realm, it must operate in parallel with physical reality. The second is preferentialism; instead of trying to “prove” meaning, we pick what appeals to us — and acknowledge that who we are biologically determines what we seek.

In rejecting anthropomorphic pathetic fallacies such as inherent “meaning,” nihilism allows us to toss out anthropomorphism. The idea of an absolute morality, or any value to human life, is discarded. What matters are consequences. Consequences are not measured by their impact on humans, but by their impact on reality as a whole. If a tree falls in a forest, it makes a sound; if I exterminate a species and no human sees it, it happened anyway.

Your dictionary will tell you that nihilism is “a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths.” It’s not a doctrine; it’s a method, like the scientific method, which starts by crawling out of the ghetto of our own minds. It is a quieting of the parts of our minds that want to insist that our human perspective is the only real one, and the universe must adapt to us, instead of the sane alternative of adapting to our universe.

In this view, nihilism is a gateway and an underpinning to philosophy, not a philosophy in itself. It is an end to anthropomorphism, narcissism and solipsism. It is humans finally fully evolving and getting control of their own minds. As such, it is a starting point from which we can return to philosophy and re-analyze it all, knowing that our perspective is closer to that of the reality outside our minds.

Spiritual Nihilism

Although many interpret nihilism to negate spirituality, the only coherent statement of nihilism is that there is a lack of inherent meaning. This does not preclude spirituality, only a sense of calling it inherent. This means that nihilist spirituality is exclusively transcendentalist, meaning that by observing the world and finding beauty in it, we discover a spirituality emerging from it; we don’t require a separate spiritual authority or lack thereof.

It is incorrect to say that nihilism is atheistic or agnostic. Atheism is incoherent: claiming an inherent meaning to the negation of God is a false objectivity just like claiming we can prove there is a God. Agnosticism makes spirituality revolve around the concept of uncertainty over the idea of God. Secular humanism replaces God with an idealized individual. These are all pointless to a nihilist.

In the nihilist view, any divine beings would exist like the wind — a force of nature, without moral balance, without any inherent meaning to its existence. A nihilist could note the existence of a god, and then shrug and move on. Many things exist, after all. What is more important to a nihilist is not inherent meaning, but the design, patterns and interconnected elements of the universe. By observing these, we find a way to discover meaning through our interpretation.

This in turn enables us to make unforced moral choices. If we are relying on another world to reward us where we don’t get rewarded here, we are not making a sacrifice. If we believe that a God outside of the world must exist in order for it to be good, we are slandering the world. Even if we think there is an inherent right way of doing things, and that we may get rewarded for it, we are not making moral choices.

Moral choices occur when we realize there is no compelling force on us to make that decision except our inclination to care about the consequences. That in turn is contingent upon us being hardwired with enough intelligence to revere nature, the cosmos and all that has brought us consciousness. Indeed, the only way we will have such respect for the world is if we view consciousness and life as a gift, and therefore choose to enhance and complement the order of nature.

In a nihilist worldview, whether we live or die as a species has no inherent value. We could stay, or blow away like a dead leaf, and the universe doesn’t care a bit. Here we must separate judgment, or caring about consequences, from the consequences themselves. If I fire a gun at someone and he dies, the consequence is his death. If I have no judgment of it, that means nothing more than his permanent absence.

If the universe has the same absence of judgment, there is nothing more than his absence. No cosmic conclusions, no judging by gods (even if we choose to believe they exist), and no emotion shared by everyone. It is the event and nothing more, like a tree falling in a forest when no one is around to hear its crash.

Since there are no inherent judgments in our universe, and no absolute and objective sense of judgment, what matters is our preference regarding consequences. We may choose not to survive as a species, in which case insanity and sanity have the same value level, since survival no longer has a position of value for us. Our survival is not inherently judged to be good; it’s up to us to do that.

In nihilism, as in every sufficiently advanced philosophy, the ultimate goal is to make “everything just what it is,” or to decipher enough of our consciousness that we do not confuse the instrument (our minds) with its object (our world). To a nihilist, the greatest human problem is solipsism, or a confusion of the mind with the world; our solution is to point out that the human values we consider “objective” and “inherent” are only pretense.

Nihilism conditions us instead to actualize ourselves. It denies nothing of the lack of inherent meaning to existence, and does not create a false “objective” reality based on our perceptions of what we wish did exist. Instead, it charges us to choose what we wish existed, and to work toward making it occur in reality.

The fully actualized human is able to say: I studied how the world works; I know how to predict its responses with resonable success; I know what cause will create what effect. As a result, we can say, I am going to pick a certain effect I desire that is coherent with the organization of our world, so it will succeed.

This returns us to the question of whether beauty is discovered, or invented; some suggest that beauty is inherent to certain approaches to organization of form, while others think we can invent it of our own accord. A nihilist would say that the patterns that define beauty are not arbitrary, therefore have a precedent in the extra-human cosmos, and that our artists create beauty by perceiving the organization of our world and then transposing it to a new, human form.

Through the embrace of “ultimate reality” — or physical reality and the abstractions that directly describe its organization, in contrast to opinions and judgments — as the only inherent constant to life, nihilism forces humans to make the ultimate moral decision. In a world that requires both good and bad for survival, do we choose to strive for what’s good, even knowing that it may require us to use bad methods and face bad consequences?

The ultimate test of spirituality in nature is not whether we can proclaim universal love for all human beings, or declare ourselves pacifists. It is whether we can do what is necessary for survival and improvement of ourselves, as this is the only way to approach our world with a truly reverent attitude: to adopt its methods, and through an unforced moral preference, choose to rise and not descend.

We must make the leap of faith and choose to believe not in the existence of the divine, but in its possibility through the merging of our imagination with our knowledge of reality. Finding divinity in the venal and material world requires an epic transcendental viewpoint that finds in the working of an order a holiness, because that order provides the grounding that grants us our own consciousness. If we love life, we find it to be holy and become reverent to it, and thus as nihilists can rapidly discover transcendental mysticism and transcendental idealism.

From this viewpoint, it’s easy to see how nihilism can be compatible with any faith, including Christianity. As long as we do not confuse our interpretation of reality (“God”) with reality itself, we are transcendentalists who find our source of spiritualism in the organization of the physical world around us and our mental state, which we can see as having parallel and similar function. When people talk about God, a nihilist thinks of the patterns of trees.

Practical Nihilism

How does a nihilist, or one who is beyond morality and the sanctity of human life and illusions, apply these principles in everyday life? The short answer is “very carefully.” Human history provides one story after another of how a few smart people started something good, then parasites encrusted it, and eventually formed a political movement to murder those who knew better, thus plunging that something good into disrepair.

The essence of nihilism is transcendence through eliminating a false “inherent” meaning that is a projection of our minds. When we have cleared away the illusion, and can look at reality as a continuum of cause and effect relationships, we can know how to adapt to that reality. This gets us over the fear of reality that causes us to retreat into our own minds, a condition known as solipsism.

This in turn leads to a kind of primal realism that rejects everything but the methods of nature. These are inherent to not only biology, but physics and the patterns of our own thoughts. We need no inherent meaning; we need only to adapt to our world and, from the palette of options offered, choose what we desire. Do we want to live in mud huts, or like the ancient Greeks and Romans strive for a society of advanced learning?

Most people confuse fatalism with nihilism. Fatalism, or the idea that things are as they are and will not change, relies on an inherent “meaning” being denied for its emotional power. Fatalism is a shrug and a wish that things could be different, but since they are not, we will ignore them. Nihilism is the opposite principle: a reverent acceptance of nature as functional and in fact genius, and a determination to master it.

This is not a philosophy for the weak of heart, mind or body. It demands that we look clear-eyed at truths that most find upsetting, and then force ourselves past them as a means of disciplining ourselves toward self-actualization. Much as nihilism removes false inherent meaning, self-actualization removes the drama of the externalized self and replaces it with a sense of purpose: what quest makes meaning out of my life?

Unlike Christianity and Buddhism which seek to destroy the ego, nihilism seeks to remove the groundwork that makes the ego seem like all we have. It negates both materialism, or living for physical comfort, and dualism, or living for a moral god in another world that does not parallel our own in function. Any spiritual realm will parallel this one, because since matter, energy and thoughts show parallel mechanisms in their patterning, any other force would do the same.

Further, ego-negation is a false form of inherent meaning. A meaning defined in negative terms flatters the object as much as its positive counterpart; to say I’m anti-vole is to affirm the need for voles. The only true freedom from the ego consists in finding a replacement object, or ur-consciousnessness to reality, to replace the voice of personality which we often mistake for the world.

Our human problems on earth do not distill to simplifications like the narratives offered by the press because they are popular: we the people are exceptional, except when oppressed by kings, government, corporations or the beautiful people. Our human problems begin and end in our inability to recognize reality and enforce it upon ourselves; we instead opt for pleasant illusions, and generate the negative consequences one might expect.

If we do not get rid of our fears, they rule us. If we have created a false antidote to our fears, like a false sense of inherent meaning, we have doubly enslaved ourselves to those fears: first, the fears persist because we have no logical answer to them, and second, we are now indebted to the dogma that supposedly dispels them. This is why human problems have remained relatively unchanged for centuries.

As a philosophical groundwork, nihilism gives us a tool with which to approach all parts of life and make sense of them. Unlike merely political or religious solutions, it underlies all of our thinking, and by removing false hope, gives us a hope in the work of our own two hands. Where others rage against the world, we rage for it — and in doing so, provide a saner future.

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