You’ve made it…
there and back
 

At least on paper
 

You’ve perhaps come a long way,
without me

Now, I have just a little more to say,
before we part ways
 

I’ll summarize now,
what came of my own adventure,
what I made of the journey,
and how I made a good life,
of what I didn’t find

.

THE GOOD LIFE
Creating a life of meaning

.

“There are chaotic, blind or drunken moments in the lives of persons who lack real force of character—moments of test, in which courage would most assert itself,—but where these individuals, if left to themselves, stagger aimlessly along, or follow implicitly whatever guidance may befall them, even if it be a child’s. No matter how preposterous or insane, a purpose is a godsend to them.”

-Nathaniel Hawthorn

.

    The Good Life Meditation is my daily effort of recounting, considering, and developing my personal life objectives and principles. I perform this activity in the morning, usually on my way to work, as a start and readiness to the coming day, and as a reminder of the best life practices I’ve so far uncovered and made my own. With practice, the effort has become as familiar and refreshing as making and enjoying a hot cup of coffee, leaving me fortified and invigorated for whatever the day may hold.

     Note: I periodically record this activity on video via the camera and microphone mounted on my motorcycle helmet. This video is then sometimes uploaded to a special YouTube playlist titled “The Good Life.” I recommend watching one of these videos for more in-depth coverage of each point, as well as personal examples of how I apply these objectives and principles to my own daily challenges. The playlist URL is included in the appendix (appendix 9).

Affirmation of human and civil rights

     I must recognize, respect, and abide the rights of individuals and the smaller groups within society such that these are not compromised in the pursuit of the common good. The lesser among us shall not be neglected or trodden upon in service of the many.

Seven objectives

  1. BE ALWAYS READY TO DIE
    At all times, have every important life affair in order: my decided purpose, my household and finances, as well as my connections, obligations, responsibilities and commitments. Have also my art in a state of readiness to carry on as my only real legacy and potential lasting memory after I’m gone. My last photo taken. My last sketch complete. My final word penned and saved. No letters left to write. No goodbyes left to speak. No one left to hug. To be ready now, and at a moment’s notice, to loosen my grip when life is done all at once, and then fall into darkness without a single backward glance or backward thought, or longing backwards memory.
     

  2. MAKE GOOD USE OF
    TIME AND RESOURCES

    To make good use of these few moments right now, and to dwell very little on past utilization, other than to use such memory to inform my judgment in the direction of improved forward progress. To also make good use of whatever resources are at my disposal, not just for increase, but to spend, share, give, or apply these resources well, and in ways which are in accord with my life objectives and principles. Below are examples of some of the things I’d like to be caught doing when death comes at last to utterly snuff out my light:
     

    • Breathing slow and measured breathes

    • Controlling my emotions

    • Thinking deliberately

    • Acting deliberately

    • Remembering and acting upon my responsibilities

    • Preparing a good meal

    • Eating well and very little

    • Helping others

    • Being attentive to my family

    • Doing a good job

    • Providing good value to my employer

    • Learning something startlingly new

    • Reading an excellent book

    • Memorizing poetry which moves me

    • Studying history

    • Imagining the future

    • Enjoying good music

    • Listening to a good lecture, discussion or debate

    • Challenging what I believe

    • Changing my mind for good reason

    • Admitting that I was wrong

    • Apologizing when necessary

    • Becoming uncomfortable

    • Withstanding discomfort

    • Suffering well and longer than I thought I could

    • Standing, walking, swimming or simply moving

    • Making a pet happy

    • Picking up litter

    • Recording and sharing my own thoughts

    • Accurately recounting the idea of another

    • Sleeping deeply

    • Discovering I’m wrong

    • Remembering death
       

  3. DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN GOOD
    AND SOUND LIFE PRINCIPLES

    I will secure early in life, good rules to live by, objectives and principles which are accurate and true. I will then dedicate some time each day to using, testing and refining these objectives and principles. Over time, I’ll make a small catalog of only the soundest truths I have found, which I will then number and recount each day for the purpose of further discover and self-guidance. Finally, I will share what I have found through the example of my words and actions, and my best effort of living a good and sound life.
     

  4. CULTIVATE GOOD EMOTIONAL REACTIONS
    I will take control of my emotions such that these inform my living less than control it. Feelings and reactions will then become life councilors, rather than rulers and chiefs. Through this effort I will create and reflect a life of equanimity through inward control and a resulting outward peace.
     

  5. PERFORM GOOD ACTIONS
    My deeds should be worthy of a life spent working to pass each day as an improvement, not only for myself and my family, but also for those with whom we share life now, as well as those in the future who will receive this common inheritance.
     

  6. RECOGNIZE TRUE LIMITS
    AND TRUE OPPORTUNITY

    I will strive to live life in honest recognition of my true scope of control, which extends no further than my thoughts, actions and reactions, and the consequences these might entail. I’ll ask myself how I may craft favorable ends from any circumstance. What misfortune do I not have the power to fashion into some instrument of virtue? Is it death now at the door? Do not bar the way. For the hour of our meeting is truly at hand, and I will not attempt to detain in vain, any will, force or consequence which is truly beyond my control.
     

  7. DO ONLY ONE THING AT A TIME AND DO IT SLOWLY
    I’ll try hard to never take on two activities or entertain two thoughts at the same time. In addition, I’ll pursue each activity or thought slowly. If I find this limit difficult to maintain, then clearly, I’ve accepted more responsibility than I can reasonably handle. Of course, there will be times I’m unable to maintain this workload or ratio due to deadlines or other necessities. However, in hindsight I’ll try to identify where I went wrong, and how I managed to let my workload or responsibilities get so out of control that I had to multitask. I’ll do this in order to try and avoid making the same mistake in the future. I’ll then learn from my error and become more mature for the effort. The benefit of this objective may be self-evident in my improved ability to focus my attention on whatever is most important in the current moment. Moving and thinking slowly further improve these efforts by ensuring I make good and well-considered choices and actions which are less prone to mistake or costly redo. Over time, I’ll become able to do more with less and make better ends of whatever means I find, and enjoy a more relaxed and considered living at both work and play.

 

Twenty-three principles

  1. PRINCIPLE OF WAR
    I seek to rise each morning taking arms first against my own philosophy and beliefs and secondarily against the philosophy and beliefs of others. I will suffer no unsound or unjust objective or principle to survive my honest, reasoned critique, no matter the consequence to my sense of peace, comfort or abiding world view. I will equally yield to the warfare of another against my precious truths when these are shown dishonest in any way.
     

  2. PRINCIPLE OF REASON
    Sub-principles: honesty, objectivity & doubt
    Reason is my first instrument of reconciling hypothesis with truth. In order to be effective, I must be honest with myself and others regarding what I know and do not know; and make pains to view the world objectively, without coloring reality too much with imagination fortified of want, or need, or fear, or the normalizing pressure of authority, tradition and unfounded consensus. Doubt is my default stance and starting point for every new venture of inquiry. Reason at its best is a tool of self-immolation, turned first inward as I seek to burn away the chaff and waste of unprincipled living, and then outward in resistance of our species’ less worthy answers to the mystery of life.

  3. THE HOMUNCULUS
    This is the small, mute, and hidden man within my head. The imaginary mortal who pulls my levers and strings, and hints at my opinions and judgments, and who must die utterly upon the failure and dissolution of my person. The homunculus is as imaginary as a soul, though a much better vehicle to remind myself that consciousness is nothing more than another organ of my body, serving a particular function, and as subject to death in the end as my spleen, liver or any other bodily organ.
     

  4. THE HOME OF GOOD AND EVIL
    A catalog of right and wrong maintained by that little mortal within my head, containing both opinion and judgment, and suggestive of a platform of subjective responsibility. The Homunculus owns this list and has the responsibility to develop and vet its contents; as well as reconcile these with the reasoned opinions of others. Good and evil then become perspective and opinions, dangerously subjective, yet also subject to the truth-finding powers of reason, honesty and objectivity. Argument and discussion are the tools of reconciliation when such opinions differ, and consensus reached in this way has more authority and force than the proclamations and commandments of a thousand fictitious gods.
     

  5. THE PRINCIPLE OF PURPOSE
    Sub-principles: Biology & virtue
    My first purpose is to live and reproduce, before then dying and getting the hell out of the way. Beyond that, it’s up to each of us to decide what our purpose will be. For myself, I select the pursuit of virtue—where virtue is defined as a life lived in furtherance of the well-being of thinking things.
     

  6. THE ATOMIC PRINCIPLE
    Everything in the universe is bits and pieces…flowing and changing…forever transforming. So too you and me—here for a bit, soon to pass, soon to dissolve, never again this thing once more. Note: when remembering this principle, I will often pick up a handful of sand or dirt to let sift through my fingers in the blowing wind.
     

  7. THE PRINCIPLE OF NATURE
    Sub-principles: paradigm & mandate
    Everything and everyone has some qualities and character which define what they are, and what they are about. This nature, combined with perspective and will, is their paradigm and operational guide. The demands of Biology are a mandate deep and sound from the perspective of survival, and the continuance of our kind. I ask myself at every chance what is the nature of the things I will meet and interact with today? What are the natures of the people I know and with whom I share life? And what is my own nature? Knowing these things will help me to engage better and more reasonably with everyone and everything.
     

  8. THE PIRATE RIDE
    There’s no good reason to imagine we’re anything but atoms and molecules, and compounds and organs, and muscles and limbs, and brain and mind—instantiated through energy borrowed of the sun and the internal heat of the earth. That’s it. In a sense—a very crude sense—we are complex chemical reactions: natural processes unwinding through brief years, months and days towards some conclusion which a sufficiently powerful computer algorithm might one day plot and predict. In a sense our destiny was always set, with our deliberations and decisions being just some distinct moments of seeming agency along our chemical unwinding from conception to death—a pathway we could hardly avoid or choose otherwise; a route decided not by us, but instead by the complex orchestrations of a universe which delivered us into life, and mindlessly conspires during every moment we live to nudge and jostle us into every decision and action we vainly think our own. We live, we experience, we think, we decide, and we move—but never truly of our own volition, and always on the path of our law-bound chemical unwinding. Life therefore, is like a theme park pirate ride: an unintentional horror, joy and amusement in which the robot pirates and the living riders are one. We live our lives then along seemingly invisible tracks we can never jump or escape, for we lack utterly the will to do anything but stay our course.
     

  9. THE PRINCIPLE OF MATURITY
    Sub-principles: wisdom & fortitude
    Maturity is a finely curated collection of experience gained of life trials both succeeding and failing, and recalled with some accuracy and honest consideration toward improved future ends. Wisdom is the soil where such considerations are ploughed, while fortitude is the will and persistence to see the harvest through.
     

  10. THE SOCIAL PRINCIPLE
    Sub-principles: diplomacy & justice
    Human beings generally operate in pursuit of our own well-being and the well-being of one another. We can survive alone—though we rarely flourish in solitude, and we risk that whatever understanding and wisdom we gain in deep and persistent disconnect may not be easily communicated or translated to others, and may become irrelevant babble despite perhaps being true. Therefore, find one another, and make good effort to be together and share ideas. Go alone at times…but always return to be with others. I will become a diplomat and ambassador to not only the familiar, but also the strange and new. I will strive always with others towards sane and just ends. Become a man or woman of one another. It’s a lofty goal. And one I struggle daily to attain.
     

  11. PUBLIC SPEAKING
    Speak and communicate always as though any person being spoken of is standing directly before us and attentive to our every word. In this way we shall not gossip or pass idle time at the expense of another.
     

  12. THE FEAST OF OFFAL
    This strange meal consists of the waste and by-product of unreasoned and unprincipled living, which we discard like filth everywhere we live, think and act. Every time we become confused, frustrated, upset or angry, and we take pains to let all the world know, we are then spilling out our personal offal onto the world, spreading the filth of our hot, raw emotions onto everyone within range of our upset. The curious thing is that so many then take up the filth we’ve flung at them, to then consume it with seeming relish, making themselves immediately sick in the process, and causing them to begin their own reciprocal Feast of Offal. And thus, it spreads, from one to another, throughout the day, and even at night while we dream our emotions into life; an awful banquet of filth, soiling deeply our peace and better living, poisoning our lives and the lives of everyone we know. I wish to cover my mouth and nose instead. To filter out the foul excess of undisciplined thought and living. To temper my emotions and my careless consumption of the emotions of others.
     

  13. TEMPERANCE
    Sub-principles: suffering, simplicity & apathy
    Temperance is the controlled consumption of all things, such as food and drink, work and play, and even our thoughts and emotions. I’ll strive to recognize these consumables and then measure out a reasonable portion for myself and then strive to consume very little of that. Such worthy living naturally entails some suffering when we deny ourselves our wants, though a simple life makes this easier when the denial becomes part-and-parcel of our habits and conditioned response. I will then apply apathy towards the intemperance of others, as well as any personal misadventure which is beyond my control. I’ll recognize my own excess and that of my peers and then use indifference as a buffer to prevent my consumption of the Feast of Offal.
     

  14. AGENCY AND THE GREAT INDIFFERENCE
    Every individual life is an agent, and the products of its living are its artifacts. Subtract these away and what’s left is the vast landscape of The Great Indifference—characterized by an incapacity to observe or maintain any thought or opinion towards well-being, an utter lack of regard towards joy or suffering, a god-less backdrop of unthinking, inanimate substance and time.
     

  15. THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
    This place and time where I am now will suffice. I’ll have peace where, and who I am, at this time, and doing whatever engages my necessity and motive and the pursuit of virtue. Meanwhile, I’ll also strive towards better ends for myself and others, not as a replacement of my current circumstances and work, but rather as a natural improvement upon these.
     

  16. THE PATH OF WILDNESS
    At every life crossroads I’ll assess the fact that a decision must be made, and then determine how much time I have to make it, and then collect my facts and consider the options, and then decide at the appointed time. If my facts are insufficient, and there really is no more time, then I’ll listen to my gut instinct, let it have its say, and then perhaps move in that direction, confident in having made the best evaluation I could, in a reasonable amount of time, and with the resources and facts at my disposal. I’ll be alright, whatever the outcome.
     

  17. THE RISK OF AVOIDING RISK
    Life presents us with a variety of risks we must attend to. Our parents and society commonly warn us to get an education, find a good job, and then settle down to a safe and sane life with a worthy another. These are good, responsible things to do. But I’ll offer there are deeper risks which also need our attention. The risk of living a long and healthy life without allowing ourselves the chance to develop and engage our deeper self, or experience life without much challenging adventure, or keeping too much distance from the risks which guard the deep rewards of discovery, maturity, survival and growth. So, attend to both types of risk: the practical aims of school, work, family and money, as well as the perhaps less-practical—though often quite worthwhile—risks of becoming and living the life of our dreams.
     

  18. SIN AND DAMNATION
    Sub-principles: falsity, credulity, faith, superstition & dogma
    It’s a sin to believe things without good reason. It’s a sin to acquiesce for the sake of comfort, or security, or peace, or to simply avoid the discomfort of not knowing. The penalty for this sin is damnation, in the here-and-now, which is the only time we’ll ever really have.
     

  19. COMPLETE OBLIVION
    Sub-principles: no final reunion, reconciliation or justice
    Soon the light within the mind will wink out. My life will come to an end. The storehouse of my memory will lose its electricity, which is the means of its maintenance and growth. The columns of my mental library and lyceum will quickly crumble and fall, the roof cave in, the foundations turn to sand. The philosopher is gone, evaporated to atoms. There will be no last reunion with loved ones, no reconciliation of hard, careless or misspoke words, no satisfaction of wanting justice. The whole thing blows away with the new morning’s breeze.
     

  20. THE GREAT LIFE ADVENTURE
    Embark when you are young upon that beckoning dream and adventure. Let it be the centerpiece and point of reference for the man or woman who you will become, let the experience inform and guide your active philosophy as well as the development of your own living principles and standards.
     

  21. THE SEASON OF PHILOSOPHY
    Think and record your thoughts while you can. See how the sun is fading now, dropping near the horizon? You will not survive the coming night. If you fail to record your words today—right now—they will never come again. Or maybe, if the words arrive again in some new form some distant day hence, will you have the body, will or constitution to record what you hear? Will your mind still function well enough to put the words together in the correct order? Will you have enough energy then for the effort? Will your hands perhaps tremble too much, or your medicine dull your nerves, or your broken self simply refuse to cooperate? These are very real risks. So instead, keep a pad and pencil handy now, or a recorder, or a camera, and pull yourself aside when the muse speaks, attend to her words, and prepare your thoughts and philosophy as best you can, while you can.

  22. BULLSEYE AIM
    Our best ambition is to achieve our goals and objectives to the extent we can feel our effort is complete. That’s often a pretty high mark, even with a pessimist’s aim. The fact is we often fall short, well short, or at least short enough to cause us to bluster or regret we even tried. For myself, I’ll be satisfied if I made a good and honest effort. There’s really no time to lose.

  23. THE UPHILL CLIMB
    I’ll rise each morning and turn my attention to the uphill grade. To the slope which leads up. To the path which resists my climb yet yields ever widening horizons with each step forward. I’ll move forward and up. I’ll rarely stop, and I’ll never willingly go back or even cast a longing backwards glance at the places I’ve been and have left behind.

  24. ARENA AND UTILITY
    Every place and situation is an opportunity to practice and refine your objectives and principles. Ask yourself at every point through the day what utility and good end might be found for the employment of your reason and philosophy, which must be forever alert, skeptical and active.

 

Today’s thought and action plan

     The last part of my daily Good Life Meditation is some reflection on the coming day, and how I might make best use of the time, and what issues I may face. I also give some thought to the people I will interact with, and their natures, and the natures of the places and circumstances I will visit and engage. I typically then conclude this activity by admonishing myself to think and act this day in a deliberate and purposeful manner, watching over my thoughts and husbanding my actions, while being regardful of the impact and consequence of my every decision and substantive move.

     This entire process of The Good Life Meditation requires about ten minutes if I do it in my head, and between 25 and 40 minutes if I do it out-loud. I typically go longest, and do my best job, when I’ve got the helmet camera running and I know I will upload the video to YouTube. Sharing such videos on YouTube is never easy, as it’s rather embarrassing to talk openly with the world about my ideas, issues and challenges, though the email feedback I get always makes the process quite worthwhile.

Notes from my muse

Section Hashtag Legend
The following hashtags (#) are used to identify Good Life objectives, principles and other concepts covered in this book and as they apply to "blurbs" within this section.

  • #Death – To be always ready to die

  • #Time – The good and effective use of time

  • #Life – Develop and maintain good life principles

  • #Reactions – Cultivate good emotional reactions

  • #Actions – The performance of good actions

  • #Limits – Recognition of true limits and opportunity

  • #One - Do just one thing and slowly

  • #War – The Principle of War

  • #Reason – The Principle of Reason

  • #Homunculus – The principle of the Homunculus

  • #Good – The Home of Good and Evil

  • #Purpose – The Principle of Purpose

  • #Virtue – A sub-principle of Purpose

  • #Atomic – The Atomic Principle

  • #Nature – The Principle of Nature

  • #Pirate - The Principle of The Pirate Ride

  • #Maturity – The Principle of Maturity

  • #Fortitude – A sub-principle of Maturity

  • #Social – The Social Principle

  • #Justice - A sub-principle of Social

  • #Speaking - Principle of Public Speaking

  • #Offal – The Feast of Offal

  • #Temperance – The Principle of Temperance

  • #Simplicity – A sub-principle of Temperance

  • #Apathy – A sub-principle of Temperance

  • #Indifference – Agency and The Great Indifference

  • #Seat – The Best Seat in the House

  • #Path #Wildness – The Path of Wildness

  • #Risk – The Risk of Avoiding Risk

  • #Sin – The principle of Sin and Damnation

  • #Faith - A sub-principle of Sin

  • #Oblivion – The principle of Complete Oblivion

  • #Adventure – The Great Life Adventure principle

  • #Philosophy – The Season of Philosophy principle

  • #Arena – The principle of Arena and Utility

  • #Uphill – The principle of The Uphill Climb

  • #Stoic – Stoic ideas

 

Our most lasting value is reflected less in deadlines met, or goals achieved, than virtuous commitments fulfilled. Define what constitutes the aim of virtue, and let this pursuit and fulfillment be your highest end.

#Time #Purpose #Virtue

 

~

 

Beware any feigned virtue which cloaks its mandate in tradition, faith or dogma. Any truth with something to hide, or which cannot stand alone without insubstantial aids, deserves to let fall under the weight of its own weak folly.

#Reason #Virtue #Sin #Faith

 

~

 

Apathy becomes a virtue the moment it is applied to events and circumstance beyond our control. I’m apathetic to the desert heat, though I take pains to protect myself from its effect. I apply apathy in good measure to the morning traffic, while reminding myself to leave for work a little earlier tomorrow. And the cancer which may one day destroy my body, and take my life, is equally deserving no more attendance than the reasonable application of the physician’s art, and the competent aid of good council in setting my affairs in order. Instead of worry, my time might be better spent with loved ones and engaged in earnest living. Apathy is our tool and respite from whatever affects us—yet is beyond our control. More powerful than fortitude. More tactful than desire. And far, far more graceful than giving up.

#Death #Time #Limits #Reason #Oblivion #Temperance #Fortitude #Apathy

 

~

 

But how can I maintain my apathy in the face of the suffering of others? Do not mistake apathy for indifference, where the missing quality is caring, or the ability to care. Indifference simply fails to care; while apathy considers what truly can be done by us, and then applies its energies towards these more effective ends. Compassion and apathy coexist well together. For who can be a more effective caregiver than the man or woman who recognizes, guides and controls their own emotions and whimsy, and then offers always the most genuine and heartfelt love?


#Time #Social #Temperance #Apathy #Indifference

 

~

 

I wrote the lines below to my daughter this morning, who begins her first day of work at her very first job.

We shoulder daily the great apparatus of human endeavor. It matters little where our hands or minds find purchase, as long as the grip is firm and engaged towards virtuous ends.

#Time #Purpose #Virtue #Social #Arena

 

~

 

Very often I only remember to apply apathy after the opportunity has passed. Today something happened, and apathy arrived in time to prevent the moment from taking control. I was riding my motorcycle to work in the commuter lane. Traffic in the normal lanes suddenly began to slow, with red brake lights coming on up ahead, and I went on the alert for drivers suddenly veering into my open lane to avoid the growing congestion. This happens often, as drivers frequently ignore the double yellow lines which divide the commuter lane from the normal lanes of traffic, and then fail to see the motorcycle occupying what they think is an empty lane. Sure enough, a dark sedan swings in behind me. It’s a safe distance back—no danger of collision—though my ire rises suddenly when I note the driver is alone…in the carpool lane. It’s a minor thing—this lane is reserved for motorcycles and cars with two or more occupants—though my mind immediately begins rehearsing an old internal monologue of perceived injustice. How selfish the driver is… How inconsiderate to those who make an effort to arrange carpools, or who drive fuel efficient vehicles. And what of the state of society? Where’s the Justice? Have we lost our ethical footing? It’s a long rant. Almost a manifesto. But just as I was getting started. Just as the first flush of indignation began to rise in my cheeks. I suddenly remembered apathy…that lesser known or regarded virtue of self-discipline; apathy, the ability to recognize what is—and what is not—within our control, to then administer our attention, thought and action towards ends we can actually achieve, and away from futile anger and needless upset. I caught myself. I saw that I could do nothing in that moment about the inconsiderate lone driver behind me. I became apathetic to his trespass, and in so doing I recovered control of my emotions, my thoughts, and the apparatus of my ethical framework and actions. Instead of fuming at the man, or worse, engaging him in some way, I asked myself what I could do to improve the social circumstance that perhaps led to and even encouraged his action. I decide to write these words, and to share the experience with my daughter. To remind her of the virtue of allegiance to fair and just laws. And to hopefully instill in her some example of life best practices, and the powerful utility of a virtue called apathy. A virtue which helps us recognize true limits, and apply our energies where they can do the most good.

 

#Limits #Nature #Social #Temperance #Apathy#Life #Limits #Nature #Offal #Social #Temperance #Apathy

~

Apathy came to my rescue again today. I’d composed and sent an email to the team, in which I neglected to state an important fact which I should not have overlooked. When this was publicly pointed out to me, I immediately felt shame, regret and frustration rising up to twist my heart into a knot. But then I remembered my apathy, which first calmed my nerves, and then helped me to identify the factors surrounding this upset. I was then able to note what was both within and outside my control; the fact of my error could only be corrected, but never removed. To let this mistake take control of my well-being therefore was both foolish and ineffectual. Better to temper my emotion and apply this energy to a quick response, publicly acknowledging my appreciation to the person who provided the correct information, and then to consider steps I could take to avoid such error again. I calmly composed and sent the email. I then collected my thoughts and reminded myself in the future to carefully review complex matters before weighing in with a response. Apathy directed me away from what I could not control—namely the fact of my error—and towards what I could, which was remediation, and the development of new behaviors to help prevent such mistakes in the future.

#Life #Actions #Control #Nature #Offal #Temperance #Apathy

 

~

 

The fact that our species has lifted its head above the fray of tooth and claw, to look around and wonder, to imagine virtue and conceive its worthy ends, does not deny the fight which must, for now, go on, and to which we are amply built to participate.

#Purpose #Virtue #Nature

 

~

 

The Feast of Offal is not only an expression of folly and the consequence of unprincipled and undisciplined living, but also a screen and distraction from the fact of indifference, which everywhere pervades.

#Offal #Nature #Indifference

 

~

 

Ever since departing from social media, and turning off all mobile notification, save contact from instant messenger, my phone has become a mute, loyal and worthy companion. It no longer disturbs me with tweets, or posts, or likes, or news, or events. It politely answers only when I ask it questions, which leaves me freer to think, and to act, as I see fit. When the phone does buzz, it’s always someone I love. Always someone dear. Never a robot. Never an algorithm designed to adjust my thoughts, or behavior, or spending. I’m not a technophobe. Just a man who treasures the possession of his moments.

#Time #Limits #Nature #Social

 

~

 

The homunculus is no less an organ of the body than the liver or the spleen.

 

#Reason #Homunculus #Nature #Oblivion

 

~

 

My homunculus resides in a barrel within my head10. Though my outward man works, votes and pays taxes, the inner self sleeps with his back in a crook, and looks out at the sunrise through a gaping round orifice, begging passerby to not block out the sun. He walks the avenues of my mind with bare feet and a torn shirt, or shirtless if the weather is fine. While I attend meetings, my homunculus meanders alone, or with dogs, in search of an honest man. When I dine he resists hunger with a crust of bread, and a pot of cheese should he wish a feast. One day I will become that better man, that ragged, lean and honest self; when I at last put aside this vain pursuit of living, and choose instead to simply live.

#Limits #Homunculus #Nature #Temperance #Philosophy

 

~

 

My homunculus has a ledger. It’s a crude journal of inaccurate impressions, vague suppositions and conclusions drawn of far too little experience or fact. This book has a section for good and evil, and even another for right and wrong. The entries are all drawn in bright crayon, as they require color to gain emphasis, being otherwise of so little merit. My homunculus is quite proud of what he’s made. He even shares and compares with others, drawing and offering criticism, which he hardly likes. But what more or better could he use to gauge the world? His life is so short, and so imperfect—though he prefers to not be reminded of this fact—that he holds to what he’s got with more certainty than merit. That’s his fault, though don’t expect him to confess it. Few ever do.

#Homunculus #Good #Oblivion #Philosophy

 

~

 

Virtue isn’t complicated. It’s just the pursuit of the well-being of living things. It’s making decisions, and performing actions which make life better, in objective, meaningful ways. Clean drinking water, good education, equality between the races and the sexes; clear communication, good medicine, and prioritized attention to the most-needy and suffering among us. Well-being also includes the preservation of healthy habitats for wildlife, clean, open spaces for recreation, and the humane and conscientious treatment of those with whom we share the planet. These things can be decided by all of us through reasoned discussion. There’s no need of dogma, revelation, or miracle to pursue such ends. Virtue is what we agree is good. And then the doing of it.

#Reason #Purpose #Virtue #Social #Sin

 

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Coming back to the USA brought many changes. A new job, new home, new commute, a different diet, new things to do on the weekends; new worries, new challenges, but very few new friends. In fact, almost none. I can probably count on the number of fingers I need to eat a cookie, the people I’ve become close to since returning to America. My wife probably needs fewer fingers than that. We talk about it sometimes. We both find it a little odd that neither of us has made much effort to cultivate new friendships, or even maintain old. Our daughter on the other hand, has more new friends than we can keep track of. We’re meeting or hearing about new people in her life all the time. Yet Yumiko and I have seemingly returned to our base configuration of having just one another. We make no effort to expand, and have little interest to do so. We like things the way they are.

A good weekend these days includes a few meals out as a family, a movie together, some grocery shopping, and lots of free time to just do whatever we want, alone or together. We like it this way. We feel like we’re settling into our 50s in a more personal and intimate way than ever before.

A big contributor to this change was my departure from the JVLOG community, which is a Japan-based network of YouTube content creators who often share much of their personal lives online. I shared a lot…over six thousand videos across ten years and twenty channels! Being on the business-end of a camera became a big part of who I was then. It made me feel like I had many more friends than I actually did.

I now enjoy maybe two or three really good conversations a week with people who are not my family. That’s enough. I don’t want any more good conversations than that. And I certainly don’t want any bad conversations, or conversations for just the sake of passing time.

I suspect Yumiko and I will continue to settle in deeper this way. There seems to be a renaissance brewing between us. A rediscovery of the first decade of our life together. A time when we just had one another and nothing else.

I can easily see us going on this way. Watching our teenage daughter grow and go. Devoting our energies to her well-being, until she needs us little, and then retiring our focus to our own humble living.

I see a small, one-bedroom apartment by the beach, and within walking distance to downtown. I see a dog. I see some favorite TV shows together, some restaurants we like, movies on Sunday where we spilt a bucket of popcorn. I see me alone in the wild for a day or two every other week, while Yumiko does her thing. I see grandkids and old age. I see helping one another through the difficult last decade. I see a sad goodbye, followed by some time alone for one of us. I see a good life together. But I see very, very few friends from this point forward.

#Time #Limits #Nature #Social #Adventure

 

~

 

The Season of Philosophy is that time between The Great Life Adventure and the period of our mental and bodily decline. Wait too long and the words will never come, or have no way to get out.

#Time #Limits #Nature #Adventure #Philosophy

 

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The Great Life Adventure is that experience in life when you step from knowledge into ignorance and return with less, and then continue losing more for the rest of your days.

 

#Time #Limits #Maturity #Temperance #Simplicity #Adventure

 

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The experience of The Great Life Adventure is like having a small hole appear in a bag of gold dust we carry everywhere secured to our waist. The gold is our certitude, and the security of our cherished world view, and our knowledge, and everything we believe. It’s best if the hole comes early, is very small, and has time to drain away much of our treasure before we realize what we’ve lost. The adventure was a success if, once discovered, we then make no effort to mend the hole.

#Time #Adventure #Maturity #Fortitude

~

 

Anxiety is an ambush predator. It takes advantage of sudden, unexpected circumstance or worry to pounce upon our back, thrust its claw into or chest, and twist hard the beating heart which drives its fury. The experience is tangible, tactile, and deadly real. When it happens to me I usually find myself wishing some retreat, some way to get away, some relief from whatever external happening I imagine is the cause of my anxious worry.

At age fifty-three things have changed. I’ve learned there’s little I can do to alter external circumstances which are beyond my control, and which are the cause of my worry. Simply wishing I was away from the problem is a fantasy, as long as I want to retain my duty and abide my responsibility. Wishing others would be different is likewise folly. As is the demand for justice where no enforceable law has been broken. After all it’s not illegal if someone is lazy, incompetent, or simply does not care to do their job well. These things are all largely outside our control. And it’s worthwhile to remember this when anxiety strikes. If only to remind ourselves of the bounds of our power and control.

What we DO control is our reaction and response to whatever is happening in the world around us. We decide what we will think, say, or do, in almost every circumstance. We’re especially in control of our inner world, which is the place from which our external actions arise. This internal world is the focal point of our power and control, and the realm we must master should we become invincible to external onslaught. Not immortal. Not impervious to pain. But invincible to whatever we recognize as not ours to control.

A very busy work day is our problem if we fail to manage our time well, and let our responsibilities pile. That’s our bad. It’s good to feel pain in that circumstance. Let it soak in and prompt us to do better. But if the day is madness because some system or process fails, or someone calls in sick, or our boss lays on too much work, or it’s a Monday. Then what are we to do beyond reasonable protest and a request for help? If these attempts fail, then our natural response may be to worry.

But this is where things have changed for me. Instead of anxiety, which is a form of fearful standstill in the face of a threat we cannot seem to overcome, why not try temperance, and apathy, and recognizing the nature of others, and the nature of circumstance, and most importantly the true scope and reach of our own power and influence, our own nature.

We temper our anxiety when we deliberately limit our consumption of anxious thinking. This process involves literally pausing before we ingest a thought, to examine it and lay it aside if it is found to be unwholesome. To only consume the thought if it is good and worthy, and helps us towards worthwhile and virtuous ends.

Apathy is our tool to disarm whatever is beyond reach of our direct control. This is done by first recognizing our inability to reach the thing, to then let it go, and then plan some contingency or scheme for a better world in spite of the thing, using the powers we do have.

Finally, nature. I ask myself: is it not the nature of lazy people to be lazy? How foolish of me then to continually expect otherwise. Is it not the nature of systems or processes to sometimes fail? Why so distraught then over system or process failure? What about Mondays? Is it not their habit to come once each week between Sunday and Tuesday? If these are true and accurate descriptions of the nature of these things, then let me get over my foolish expectations otherwise. Let me strive to recognize the nature of all things, and though I may cautiously hope for better, I will expect nothing more than their nature. These are the changes which give me better control of worry and anxiety. The tools are: temperance, apathy, and the recognition of the nature of things, along with my own nature, and my desire for reasonable justice and the pursuit of a more virtuous life.

#Reactions #Limits #Nature #Virtue #Justice #Temperance #Limits #Apathy #Oblivion #Stoic

 

~

Is there any end which can’t be reached by faith? This fact should raise our guard. That every world religion uses the same path to a different truth must tell us something about the path. Can they all be right? Can this method not be used to any end? Is there any claim which cannot be believed by faith?

#Reason #Sin #Faith

 

~

 

Happiness depends upon no factor more than our willingness to be content.

 

#Limits #Temperance #Stoic

 

~

 

The nothing beyond life should be a terror were it not so easily imagined around, or avoided altogether through the petty pleasures, dramas and distractions of life. I’ll busy myself with living, or imagining a life beyond this living, rather than look past life’s end to the apparent nothing that offers nothing.

#Limits #Sin #Oblivion #Stoic

 

~

The claims “God must have done it” or “God must be behind such design or action” have only the power of hypothesis. These statements alone lack sufficient force to persuade anyone other than those already inclined to believe. To convince further, the authors of such statements must next pass their ideas through the rigors of well-designed test and critical evaluation. Simply saying so is insufficient proof. And appeals to faith only weaken the case to the point of disregard.

 

#Reason #Sin #Faith

 

~

 

I’ll live where I can’t touch bottom. Swim always where dark, cold water touches my toes, and where imagined threats eye me hungrily from way down in the deep. I’ll leave the shallow waters now and never return. Never again to stand with my chest and arms in the air. Self-condemned to tread water with difficulty until I’m dead, and then to sink at last to the same blind depths where we all must one day go. Never again safe. Never again certain. Always in doubt. Always at peace. Confident only that I’ve found a good way to live.

#Limits #Oblivion #Adventure

 

~

 

Faith is the sin of belief as a means to an end we could not otherwise achieve.

#Sin #Faith

 

~

 

It’s increasingly evident where I’m now headed. As it’s the same place I was going thirty years ago. Only then I’d never have arrived. Not a chance. I had to go the long way ’round.

It’s clear to me now there’s no direct path from where I was at age 23 to where I am now at 53. I was facing an impossible climb then. It’s a lucky thing I changed course at the very last moment. Truly, not a second to lose.

Now I’m clear the rough stuff. It’s relatively smooth passage the rest of the way. Even if I live to one hundred. Even if I die soon from accident or disease. Even if I suffer ’till the end of my days. Even if I must watch my loved ones die first.

I’d like to apologize for so much introspection. Yet what else of real value do I have at this, the autumn of my life? I can talk of love, charity and benevolence to others. All good things of course, and things within my power. Yet these are given traits and qualities of any man or woman who has tried to live well and good. That’s the reason I write of these other things. Characteristics of a more alien and foreign nature. Things discovered on the path I’d never planned to take, and never knew existed. Never even knew I was on.

#Time #Limits #Virtue

 

~

 

I’m watching my mind squirm and wriggle now. It’s wants to escape. But it can’t go anywhere without me. And I won’t let it. I won’t agree to what it wants. The experience is a little like a resolute parent watching with folded arms while their child tantrums on the floor.

The part of me that protests is very ancient. Very primitive. And very, very wise. It’s not me really, but instead simply the part of my brain developed of millions of years of survival. It’s the part of me that’s survived every single life and generation from my parents right back to the protozoa which were our common ancestor. This part of me knows danger. Knows how to spot it. Knows what to do to stay safe. And screams at me now to run away.

The warning voice is telling me not to go out to the desert tonight. It remembers the awful experience two weeks back. It knows the heat, and dehydration, and solitude which are waiting to wring my age-weakened body like a sponge.

I won’t listen… And though I respect and appreciate that warning voice, and the vast epochs of time which give its shrill words credence. I think I know better now what’s good for me. I know there are far worse things than mere suffering or death. The Risk of Avoiding Risk.

 

#Reason #Nature #Temperance #Oblivion

 

~

 

Fortune once held sway over my well-being, as I judged myself blessed or cursed by its caprice. This same force now flails at me like a child; weak arms pounding little fists at my every vulnerability, connecting with dull force and vain impact. The difference is my abandon of well-being as a function of well-being. Instead now, virtue alone defines and measures my success or failure in all things. Of this, fortune has no say.

#Limits #Reason #Purpose #Virtue #Nature #Maturity #Stoic

 

~

 

The withering edifice of my person shall carry all that I am to the bottom of the sea. There are no lifeboats on this vessel. No preservers to strap on before the stern goes down. With a little courage, the band plays on to the last moment. Dark waters below. One last breath.

#Time #Death #Reason #Nature #Temperance #Oblivion

 

~

 

There’s time aplenty for a well-lived life. With no heaven above, and no hell below, we are relieved of the dream of forever, and free to invest well these few remaining moments. How well lived the life of a mortal, who reminds themselves daily, even hourly, that there is no tomorrow.

#Limits #Reason #Virtue #Oblivion #Stoic

 

~

 

My years living before the sea. And my years before the rugged and wild mountains of Japan. Were but like whispered hints and rumor of my life now before the desert.

#Nature #Adventure

 

~

 

The concepts of heaven and an afterlife are more than a promise of immortality. They serve also as a cache of relief from our failed mortal dreams, our mistakes, as well as a promised balm against all current confusion. If only we simply believe, then our worthy burden shall be relieved, if not now, then after we’ve no chance to know otherwise.

 

#Death #Limits #Sin #Dogma #Oblivion

~

 

Do you remember the time before your birth? Neither do I. Then why leave anything on the table with regard to a well-lived life, when there’s no good reason to think we’ll find anything after this life other than the same dark and quiet empty we didn’t know before. Live well. Live honestly. Love…and be kind to those who share our path. Leave a good and honest reckoning of our time and trials here before passing at last to eternal dissolution and nothingness. Live the best life possible during the only life we’ll seemingly ever know.

#Time #Death #Reason #Social #Oblivion

 

~

 

Dogma enjoys no respite from certitude. This fact is only an issue when we realize the gods gain their morals from us.

 

#Reason #Sin

 

~

 

The threat of complacent living. The risk of the settled life. We may die never knowing what really killed us before we were even dead.

#Limits #Risk #Oblivion

 

~

 

I’m right on the edge of the desert now. The killer is nowhere in sight. Is it gone now for the night? I feel a strange reassurance now. Strange only because I feel reassured here, in this otherwise threatening place. It’s the same comfort we feel when we’re safe at home with our loved ones. A deception of sorts. One we never quite outgrow in civilized climes. But out here this feeling is a stranger; an imposter even. The killer will stalk the night tonight here in the desert. Just as it’s doing now where you are. Only out here I have a better chance of seeing it come.

#Limits #Risk #Oblivion #Adventure

 

~

 

The view from the position of mortality is immediate and clear. There’s no fuzzy line to a wished for forever, and no escaping our troubles but to either solve them or wait for them to outlive us. Even humble things become blessings then. Not because they are gifts. But simply because they are.

#Time #Limits #Reason #Oblivion

 

~

 

I’ll measure my days like a castaway his scarce rations. I’ll apportion then but just 24 hours each day, and allow myself just that. I’ll tolerate no greedy dreams of excess, nor any waste of these perishable and perishing moments.

#Time #Limits #Reason #Temperance

 

~

 

Have you ever gone below decks with your life, to examine your hull’s weak and ruptured places, and note the cold water pouring in. To mark the growing depth of intake at your feet, and to listen as your vessel twists and groans with the gathering stress and pressure of incremental decent. Or maybe it’s better to remain above decks always. To gaze at heaven and the stars, and to dream of life everlasting.

#Atomic #Temperance #Oblivion

 

~

 

Ghosts rely on us for their insubstantial substance. They float and haunt only where our imaginations allow. They fade when forgotten, and moan again when another generation takes up their cause. We join their ranks after we’re gone. But only if remembrance and circumstance provide a means of resurrection.

There are no ghosts where our imaginations no longer venture. Nothing spectral haunts the desert where forgotten tribes once lived. No phantoms linger upon shipwrecks lost at sea. And the heavens and hells of dead religions are empty of every pious soul and sinner who ever believed.

#Reason #Nature #Sin

 

~

 

Miracles are attributions of wonder we neither understand nor care to discover. We marvel from a distance, and dismiss the cause and effect before our eyes, or the hard work of natural agents, or the simple marvel of chance, in favor of some reason we can never support, yet which makes us feel good while affirming our own comforting world view.

Meanwhile, the water-cycle receives no credit for the life-giving rains, the doctor’s art no attribution for our cure, and the near miss of an auto accident no credit to chance.

It’s a less glorious or interesting thing to take nature on face value. And far less reassuring to our selfish self-interest and sense of importance. If only the universe would truly care and love us. If only we were chosen. Then we could get on with less worry. Then we can have peace without the hard work of thinking and discovering for ourselves.

#Reason #Nature #Indifference

 

~

 

Life is far more interesting than it is dangerous.

#Limits #Reason #Adventure

 

~

 

Both my fear and my courage have increased with age. My fear; as a result of perceived consequences. And my courage; by way of running out of time.

#Time #Maturity #Limits #Oblivion

 

~

It does not matter that I complete a book of Hawthorne, Melville or Steinbeck when death arrives at last; but that I simply be upon the page of one of their books, or another of like quality, as my final act of passing time. I have no objection to death sneaking up upon me while I am so worthily employed.

#Time #Limits #Reason #Oblivion

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ABOUT

Going Alone was begun by Kurt Bell in an effort to help others understand and manage  the recognition of the apparent indifference of the universe to our well being, happiness or even our existence, and to find ways to make a good life in spite of this fact.

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