Human happiness is lightness and joy.
It is a light and joyful glow over the fact of being alive — of living life with energy and with zeal and enthusiasm: a buoyancy of spirit and benevolent sense of delight over the anticipation of what life, in all its strange and magical wonder, has in store.
But happiness is not itself a primary. It is a by-product, a side-effect, a consequence — a consequence of things more fundamental that bring it about.
Human happiness is not a consequence of only one thing or one condition.
The full recognition of individual autonomy — human-beings able to voluntarily act and interact, free from state coercion, force, command-and-control — and the full legal protection of individual autonomy is one of the fundamental conditions of human happiness.
State coercion is the antithesis of voluntary, consensual human action.
Even more fundamental to human happiness, however — more fundamental, I say, because it is this following thing that gives rise to the fact of individual autonomy as a moral-politico imperative and ultimately grounds the principle of non-coercion, making non-coercion a virtue thereby, which in turn creates the principle of justice, which is the legal recognition and protection of individual autonomy and its corollary, which is voluntary consensual human action and interaction — and this more fundamental condition of human happiness I’m referring to is goodness.
Happiness is rooted in and is a consequence of goodness, which in turn derives from one’s sense of self: one’s sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. These things develop in direct proportion with how one lives — they operate in tandem and are reciprocal or “synergistic,” as the philosophers like to say, which makes the entire process, among other things, endless in its complexity.
The very process itself can also be described as the human experience — i.e. how we each live our individual lives on a day-to-day basis across our span of years.
Goodness is determined and measured by deeds and acts, which are in turn shaped by thoughts and ideas.
Because our thoughts and ideas occur within a context that’s endlessly complex and unique to each and every single individual human being and because these thoughts and ideas shape our acts and deeds, the brain and the body — or the spirit and the flesh, if you prefer — should for this reason never be regarded as dichotomized or incompatible but the opposite of that:
The flesh and the spirit (i.e. the body and brain) compliment each other with perfect symmetry and form a unity: a unity indivisible and yet a unity that requires a continual exertion of will in order to integrate and maintain its integrity.
This is where the word “integrity” in the context of human virtue derives — “integrate,” from the root-word “integer,” meaning to synthesize or blend together into a thing complete in itself, and “integrity” meaning to form a single unit or a unified whole: the same on the inside as on the outside.
This indivisible unity is the profoundest feature of the human animal, as it is also our most definitional characteristic. It derives from the faculty of choice, which humans alone among all earthen creatures possess. In a certain sense, it is our faculty of choice: it is our faculty of choice writ large.
All other sentient creatures on planet earth do also possess a body and a brain — “sentience” means “consciousness” which means a “faculty of awareness” which directly implies some sort of brain — and yet no other earthen creature besides the human creature possesses a faculty of awareness that doesn’t function automatically but must be continually willed.
This is why the indivisible unity of the brain and body define the human species, also known as homo-sapiens, and particularizes our profoundest and most definitional characteristic: the nonautomatic nature of our rational faculty, which is also called the conceptual faculty or the faculty of reason.
It’s also what the word sapiens refers to in the term homo-sapiens: homo is the genus (i.e. similarity) and sapiens is the differentia (i.e. the thing that differentiates or distinguishes human-beings, as against, for example, homo-habilis, a now extinct prehistoric and bipedal and human-like earthen creature).
The word sapiens is rooted in the ancient Latin word sapere, which literally translated means “to be wise.” But in a more general sense this word refers to the human faculty of reason, which is the conceptual faculty, also known as the rational faculty, which is the thing that gives rise to the fact and nature of wisdom herself.
The word sapient, which according to the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, means “possessing or showing great wisdom or sound judgement,” is still very much alive and well in the English language today, a vibrant, beautiful, breathing word one fine example of which I recently came across in a story I read: “She set her cane aside, hitched herself up on her bed, and fixed Portia with a sapient eye.”
Happiness is most fundamentally rooted in and is a consequence of goodness, which in turn derives from one’s sense of self — one’s sense of self-worth and self-efficacy — which in turn is determined and measured by deeds and acts, which are shaped by thoughts and ideas.
Thoughts and ideas are the brain or spirit.
Deeds and acts are the body or flesh.
In human-beings — alone among all the animals on planet earth — consciousness is conceptual, as distinguished from both the perceptual form of consciousness, which operates automatically and is what all the higher forms of animal life possess (all mammals, for example), and the purely sensational form of consciousness, which is also automatic and is the type of consciousness that earthworms, for example, and the other invertebrates possess. This sensational level of consciousness means among other things that these creatures operate purely by means of their pain-pleasure mechanism, which all sentient life possesses, and behavior for such creatures is entirely shaped and conditioned and determined by their pain-pleasure sensations, which register through or impinge upon their various sensory apparatus and are then interpreted by the creature’s brain. (Eating food in order to sustain physical life is among the most universal and obvious examples that could be cited here. The flight-or-fight response is another. Sex is another.)
This process is by definition consciousness — it’s what consciousness is — and we can see in this fact an absolutely crucial feature of all consciousness, a feature that is and has always been chronically misinterpreted and chronically misunderstood: namely, that consciousness, no matter what type or level — sensational, perceptual, or conceptual — is by definition ultimately of or about something external.
By “ultimately” I mean “first.”
This is also sometimes correctly called by the clearest-thinking epistemologists (whose numbers are dismally depressingly few throughout all human history) “the reflexive nature of consciousness.”
The reflexive nature of all consciousness is a crucial feature to grasp about all forms of consciousness for the following reason: failing to do so can only result in some form of brain-body dichotomy — the external subverted to and conflated with the internal.
This is one of philosophy’s most persistent and colossal errors: the failure to fully codify and define and systematize the reflexive nature of all consciousness, which is by definition (i.e. by virtue of what consciousness is) necessarily of or about something external.
No creature can only be aware of its faculty of awareness since awareness by definition means aware of some thing (i.e. some existent) outside its own faculty of awareness. It’s a contradiction in terms to say “I am only conscious of my faculty of consciousness.”
Reality, also known as existence, comes hierarchically before consciousness.
Reality exists regardless of whether or not there is anyone or any thing aware of it.
Consciousness is thoroughly individualized: if you or I had never been born or if your dog or cat had never been born, the universe would still exist. Our unique and individualized consciousnesses, however (and the consciousnesses of our dogs and cats), would not exist.
That is what the phrase “the reflexive nature of consciousness” means.
Unlike the perceptual and sensational, the conceptual nature of human consciousness, which is the rational faculty — the faculty of reason — does not operate automatically but must be continually engaged.
It must be continually engaged all throughout each and every individual human life.
This process not only requires but is an act of human will.
The essential nature of this human act of will is fundamentally found in the decision to focus the brain and pay attention, or not.
The perfect exemplification of this process — exemplification, I emphasize here, because the following is not an analogy but rather exemplifies with pure precision the very nature of our rational-conceptual-reasoning consciousness at work, and it does so by means of a simple, easy-to-grasp illustration which reveals exactly the way in which our consciousnesses operate conceptually and by means of a continual choice to pay attention:
Think back to any given time in your life when you’ve read any given sentence or a paragraph or a page in any book or on any screen, and your brain was not focused upon what you were reading — your brain was not paying attention — and so you had to go back and reread it.
Observe what happened in such a scenario:
You came to the end of what you’d just read and you suddenly recognized — which is to say, re-cognized (cognize as in cognizant and cogitate and cognition and re-cognition):
“I didn’t comprehend a single word of what my eyes just took in. I didn’t understand any of the words I just read — words that I know I know because I was, after all, reading them easily enough — and I so didn’t grasp a single thing I just absorbed with my eyes. I didn’t apprehend it.”
The very same principle at work in this exemplification can be applied to adults who’ve not been taught how to read or to children who have not yet learned how to read by simply shifting the specific act to, for instance, the act of watching a movie or a television show, or the act of listening to music and yet while not paying attention.
They are all precise exemplifications of the fundamental nature of our conceptual apparatus and the human faculty of reason at work within each of us on a moment-by-moment basis during all of our waking hours across the entire span of our lives.
These are common and real-life examples of our rational faculties writ large.
I used reading in particular because reading is and has long been a significant part of my daily life.
Who among any reader — any level of reader — has not experienced what I just described above?
Any and every single reader of any level, in any language, has experienced this commonplace phenomena many, many, many, many times and will continue to experience it as long as she or he continues the act of reading.
Among the very first things I do every single day of my life and have done every single day of my life, for years and years now, is wake up, get up, get coffee, and read.
I always have at least three books I’m reading at all times, and I begin every single day of my life by reading from all the books that I have going at that point.
This is a decision I made a long time ago, when I was still a teenager, and it’s so thoroughly incorporated into my daily life that the only other things that could compare with it (in terms of sheer regularity) are things like toothbrushing or eating or exercising.
The only I reason I bore you here with such a detailed depiction of my quotidian personal life is simply to point out to you that still every single day, without exception, I read any number of sentences — sometimes, depending upon how complicated the subject-matter and how clear or unclear the writer’s writing style, several pages — and then have to go back and reread, because I suddenly re cog nize that my brain was not fully focused while I was reading the words, and therefore I was not paying enough attention to fully grasp the words that my eyes took in.
Please note also the term I just used twice in that last sentence — “fully” — because there are indeed degrees of focus and levels of attention.
Think of this process as existing along a spectrum, which is exactly what it does.
This is why we can go back and reread or rewatch or relisten to something we’ve already read or watched or heard, and then suddenly find that the thing yields up new and deeper meaning the second, third, fourth times around.
We comprehend more because we’re paying closer attention.
This process, I say again, exemplifies precisely the nature of the human faculty of reason — the rational faculty in action — which operates conceptually, which means non-automatically, which means that it’s the very definition and nature of human consciousness to think.
Thinking is not an automatic process but must be enacted continually, all throughout our lives, each and every one of us as individual human beings, and this process, this continual enactment, is an act of the individual human will.
It is the very locus of human will and as such, no matter how much you or I engage it, no matter how much of a habit you or I make it, the act never becomes automatic.
You must always make the decision — the choice — to focus your brain and pay attention, every day throughout your waking hours across the span of your entire life.
And so must I.
And all humans think by means of words.
Words are concepts.
The two terms — “words” and “concepts” — are synonymous.
The conceptual nature of human consciousness is what gives rise to goodness, which is the most fundamental condition of human happiness.
Happiness flows from goodness.
“Happiness must ensue,” as the sage psychologist Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, so perfectly put it.
Goodness is benevolence.
Goodness is caritas.
Goodness is agape.
Goodness is sweetness, tenderness, goodwill.
Goodness is patience and calm.
Goodness is lovingkindness.
Goodness is not cruelty. It is not confusion, manipulation, malice.
The word “goodness” is synonymous with virtue itself.
It is because of the metaphysical fact that every individual human-being possesses the faculty of reason, which is also called the rational faculty, that human survival is not primarily physical.
Human survival is primarily psychological, cognitive, epistemological.
The activation of reason — the will to focus, to exert the effort of attention against the strain of inattention — which is to say: to think — this is the full and fundamental act of human will. It is an activation of will that each of us must make all throughout the day, every day, all throughout our lives.
No one can exert the effort of attention for another.
This act — this decision — is self-generated and self-sustained. It is for this reason the very locus of individuality, as it is also for this same reason the very seat of free will.
Humans spend the majority of their lives inside their own minds — each human-being individually.
This is why survival for humans is not primarily physical but psychological, cognitive, epistemological.
Human survival is physical too, but not primarily.
Our physical survival is secondary, and it is so precisely because of the process of voluntary exchange, which gives rise to the fundamental social phenomena: the division of labor.
I repeat: the division of labor is the fundamental social phenomena. It is a distinguishing characteristic of the human species.
The division of labor is the reason that human survival is no longer primarily physical, as it is with all the other animals.
No other animal besides the human animal engages in trade, exchange, truck, barter.
Only the human animal.
Trade and exchange are a direct consequence of the human quiddity: the faculty of reason.
We each as individual humans live by means of our reason, which is our faculty of rationality.
This is the fundamental thing that defines and unites all human-beings — regardless of skin-color, race, beauty, sex, sexual-orientation, gender, age, country, color, class, creed, or any other superficial, non-fundamental, non-definitional characteristic or trait.
We each individually possess a rational faculty, which is the human faculty of reason, which is the capacity to think, and the activation of which by definition requires an act of individual choice, which is a mental act: an act of each individual will.
This act is each individual’s decision to make, or not.
It is the choice to be aware, to pay attention — “the strain of attention and the strain of keeping the attention focused,” as the philosophical psychologist Rollo May so accurately described it — to observe and to process our observations, to consider, contemplate, deliberate, cogitate, reflect, introspect, perpend, ratiocinate: i.e. to think, which means to reason.
The words “thinking” and “reasoning” are synonymous.
“Reason is a faculty for the integration of knowledge that human beings possess,” wrote Spinoza.
To think means to contemplate beforehand upon future action and to reflect and introspect afterward upon action already taken. That process requires a continual act of will — the will to put forth the effort of attention against the strain of inattention.
This one thing alone — and nothing but this one thing alone — is the thing that gives rise to the entire field of ethics, which is also called morality, which is also called right and wrong, good and evil, and which in turn gives rise to the fields of both politics and also economics: because human individuals possess the faculty of reason, the activation of which requires an act of individual will, which is also called choice or volition, and which no one individual can perform for another.
It is a continual choice that flows without surcease across the long arc of each and every individual human life.
If human individuals did not possess the faculty of reason which gives rise to choice, which gives rise to ethics and morality, which is also called moral agency, the behavior and deeds and acts of all human individuals would be neither ethical nor unethical, neither moral nor immoral but amoral — neither good nor bad but simply existing — just as animals are amoral for precisely this reason.
The wolf, the pit-bull, the puma, the shark, the gorilla, the grizzly bear that attacks and kills and eats the innocent child is not evil, not bad, not immoral. The man or woman who does so is.
The Good is that which fosters and nourishes human life, which is not primarily physical but psychological, cognitive, epistemological.
We each spend the majority of our own individual lives inside our own individual minds.
Human happiness is the goal of human life — the goal and the ends — but it is not the means. It is a consequence.
The means are first mental and second physical: physical in how we act and enact the thoughts and ideas we develop through the use of our reason, which is not a process automatic but requires a continual act of choice, and which in turn shapes our deeds and actions, moment-by-moment, all across the totality of our individual lives.
Human happiness is lightness and joy.
Human happiness is rooted in the virtue of voluntary, non-coerced human action and in the virtue of goodness.
The fruits of lightness and joy are benevolence, kindness, laughter, lovingkindness, patience, calm, caritas, agape, the authentic smile.
Yet even though the goal of each individual human life is emotional, the means of achieving this emotional state are not, I reiterate for emphasis, emotional.
The means are first and foremost cognitive and then, secondarily, physical: i.e. in how the ideas and thoughts we develop or accept shape our deeds and actions, the totality of which define and demarcate our lives.
This is what is meant by the expression “we are what we do.”
We are each as individuals defined by our actions — all of our actions cumulatively — and our actions, in turn, are shaped by our thoughts and ideas, which come about through the effort of attention. When no effort is put forth, the thoughts and ideas that accumulate are not thoughts or ideas — not in the true and full meaning of those words — but the exact opposite: they are beliefs.
They are accepted on faith and not arrived at through the volitional process of reasoning, which is synonymous with thinking. This is another way of saying that beliefs held and accepted upon faith have not been validated: i.e. their truth or falsehood has not been investigated, checked, rechecked, verified, or proven but rather is accepted as true and accurate without any regard for the actual facts of reality.
This is another way of describing dogma, which is also known as blind belief, which is also known as faith.
Dogma that has solidified past a certain point inside the human mind can never again be softened, dissolved, or removed — not without tearing out a section of that person’s mind which, in a truly literal sense, has become a part of that person’s self.
Dogma is blind belief over knowledge and learning.
Dogma is deadly to the human mind, the structure of which operates by means of reason, which is also called the rational faculty, which is our conceptual apparatus which by its nature is thought.
Dogma is the most deadly thing known to humankind.
Our actions and deeds follow us all through our lives because our actions and deeds are us: they compose each and every one of us and are themselves shaped and molded by our thoughts, which are a product of our human capacity to reason, which is performed by our own effort, each one of us individually and continuously, which is also known as our capacity to choose, which is our free-will.
The means to the ends is rooted most fundamentally in the rational faculty, which is volitional by its very nature: the choice to be aware or not, to think or not.
This and nothing but this is the full and final act of each individual’s free human will.
Human happiness is the ends. It is the goal.
Human happiness is a side-effect, a by-product, a consequence: a consequence of more than one state or condition but the most fundamental of which is caritas.
Caritas is goodness.
And goodness is timeless, as it is also chosen.
“When we analyze human nature with all the tools that modern psychology brings to us … we find ourselves pushed back to the level of attention or inattention as the very seat of free will.”
[The following is excerpted]:
The defining feature of a free society is that under such a system of freedom everybody has the chance of achieving prosperity.
Laissez faire gives everybody unlimited opportunity, and everybody knows that hard work and strenuous effort yields fruit.
In such a place, under such a system, all paths are open to the ambitious and the energetic. Optimism and an awareness of one’s own strength and efficacy reign supreme.
People who live in a land of liberty are filled neither with despair nor dread nor pessimism but rather with self-confidence and hope, benevolence and goodwill. Even when met with failure or when unfulfilled at the end of a life, there is no cause for alarm or despair. The children will start the race anew, and they will have the chance to succeed where the generation before has perhaps fallen short.
Life in such a land is worth living because life is loaded with promise and potential.
Under such conditions, the rising generations are driven by the spirit of the adventurer. They’re born into a society of human prosperity and progress, and they carry the spirit of human prosperity and progress, and they grow up with an implicit knowledge and understanding that human progress and prosperity are healthy and good — they foster and breed human happiness — and that they as individuated human-beings are efficacious and can contribute to progress and prosperity. They will shape the world according to their ideas. Tomorrow is theirs, and they must prepare for the great things that life, in all its strange and magical wonder, has in store.
Such people in such societies do not sulk in victimhood, awaiting retribution, complaining endlessly while at the same time proclaiming and demanding the privileges that their youth purportedly affords them. They act, rather, as healthy young humans should act:
They do not boast about their youth or their dynamism because they know that, being young, they are dynamic, and so there’s no need to call attention to it. Why should they?
Neither do they disparage the previous generation or generations, nor challenge their elders with arrogance and self-aggrandizement. They seek to build upon the world of the previous generations with their actions, not their talk.
This is precisely the spirit and the sense of existence that government regimentation and bureaucratization annihilates forever.
This is precisely the spirit murdered by coercive governmental programs.
This is precisely the optimism and energy of youth and the natural condition of youth forever exterminated by the culture of victimhood and the entrenched mentality of victimization.
All-around regimentation spells the doom of individual ambition, individual initiative, individual human happiness which is also called the energy of life.
Bureaucratization once allowed grows unstoppably.
Government work offers no opportunity for the display of personal talents and skills. The routine of bureaucratic work may provide a sense of security but it’s the security of a prison cell, and the cost of it is colossal: it is the crippling of the human mind forever — the mind never free to make its own decisions and shape its own fate, human beings not relying upon their own strength, but forever taken care of by bureaucratic masters orchestrating the working of the cogs.
Propaganda is one of the very worst evils of bureaucracy and full regimentation.
Propaganda is always the propaganda of lies, fallacies, and superstition.
Truth does not need any propaganda.
Truth holds its own.
The defining mark of truth is that it is the accurate representation of reality, and it carries on by the mere fact of being accurate.
True means accurate.
To say that one’s aim is true is to say that one’s aim is accurate.
Truth does not fear liars. Veracity easily withstands their competition, which is really non-competition — the non-competition of prevarication and propaganda.
Yes, we on the Indian reservations are privileged, make no mistake. We are the epitome of privilege: because we do not exist by right. The very definition of a right is any act or action which can be exercised without another’s permission or say-so.
We on the reservations exist in a system of all-around state regimentation. We exist by government permission and privilege alone.
Freedom once gone is gone forever.
Don’t let it die.
Reservation Trash and the White Rose