Showing posts from September, 2015

Solitude, a human strategy, aphorism 482

What we formerly thought was a step toward solitude was really just a step away from weakness, which is to say that it was not really a step at all but a turning around so that we could take our first real step toward strength. Now that we are in full stride again we are surprised with how many people accompany us. We look back and laugh at the number of people our former solitude required.

Courage, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 315

Those with the courage to navigate power experience greater disasters than those too timid to hazard an attempt. There is more to admire in those with the greatest blunders than in those whose perfection is also their impotence.

Fate, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 316

Fate is an iron string nailed at two ends, with too little slack, and I can only have two high points at the expense of my highest potential.

Error, a human strategy, aphorism 483

The goal is not independence or nonconformity, but to free oneself of error in the march toward a high fate. Independence and nonconformity are only the consequences.

friendship, a human strategy, aphorism 484

A large part of our problem with friendship is our belief that we must keep our friends at any cost — and one such expense is the awareness that the “friendship” may not be harmonious. Of course, a “friendship” out of harmony cannot be genuine. This provokes two questions: Can a relationship which stands between ourselves and our progress be genuine? What is it that we really want when we preserve a friendship which is not genuine?

our limited time and resources, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 317

Given our limited time and resources, two perfect goals do not excel one adequate goal. But even if one should aspire to one perfect goal, one would first have to acquire the wisdom necessary to determine what that goal could be ... which is a very ambitious goal itself. By the time one secures this wisdom, the perfect goal is already a second goal, and for which one must begin all over again, but with less time available. Thus, whether or not the second goal ends up being this very quest for wisdom which brought us here, one will go the greater distance if one carries this original quest on to its ultimate conclusion.

the ideal identity,The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 318

For the ideal identity, expenditures often tally up to a degree of suffering inversely proportional to the actual loss: the more “irrelevant” and “petty” my forced expenditure is to the imagined perfection, the more energy I squander in ranting and railing against it. For the real identity, however, such unavoidable expenditures are never irrelevant or in any way detrimental, and this is because they are unavoidable. Being unavoidable, they are necessary. And being necessary they cannot be irrelevant.

the human condition, a human strategy, aphorism 485

The solution to the human condition and to the problems of the world as a whole, lies not with the perfection of a logical equation or judicial system, but with cultivating and passing down tastes and habits. When culture is seen as a goal and not as an inheritance that we take for granted, then perhaps we can begin to march toward progress rather than continue to retreat from disaster generation after generation. In the next great revolution, a new variation of our species will rip the pages from our law books and wave them before the world as the flags of blunder ... as the failures of our customs. This new species will, of course, be torn to pieces. Then a few others will see that laws do not matter much ... have never mattered much ... even as the evidence of blunder ... will see the lever jutting out of the darker half of the world, unmanned ... and forgetting the heap of books behind them, will grab hold and ...

eternity, a human strategy, aphorism 486

The average life is a long, drawn out process punctuated with eternity.

Subjective Knowing, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 319

Subjective Knowing: Indiscretion made more cuckolds than infidelity. And “facts” invented out of insecurity made even more.

an ignorance conducive to one's aim, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 320

There is an ignorance conducive to one's aim, but one will never know exactly what it is. It is the consequence of one's aim ... the nonessential filtered out by the requirements of the aim. It is that body of knowledge the learning of which would have one lose sight of one's aim. Consequently it is hazardous to set up the broad aim of eliminating ignorance, for then one pursues knowledge indiscriminately. And because there are limits of time and resource, one will always have a fair degree of ignorance in any event, only now one has not the filter with which to receive only the most valuable knowledge and to the utmost of one's capacity. It follows then that if one has the broad and necessarily indistinct aim of wisdom, one had better find another aim ... a complementary and specific task whose requirements filter out nonessential knowledge.

value of life, a human strategy, aphorism 487

There is no life after death and oddly enough this raises the value of life.

wisdom and ignorance, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 321

There is more wisdom secured from a bold and ambitious aim than from the fear that our ignorance might be exposed at a dinner party. These are two separate aims, whether acknowledged or not, and they determine the degree, type, and amount of our ignorance ... but ignorance should not be considered independently of the degree of wisdom we might forfeit through intellectual cowardice. Just as we often confuse the fear of being thought a coward with courage, we can also confuse the fear of ignorance, and the mass of knowledge that it gathers, with wisdom. With cowardice baiting we are vulnerable to inappropriate behavior, if not atrocity. With ignorance baiting, we have lost sight of our potential and have not even the wisdom to know the extent of the disaster.

fear, a human strategy, aphorism 488

 “There is absolutely nothing to fear since death is not a human experience,” and so how do I account for my remaining fear? My fear, then, must be that which has been left out of the above logic. Fear must be a part of the human body, just as is a kidney or a finger. I can not reason away a kidney when it makes me suffer. I can however amputate it, just as I am sure that I could have some piece of my brain amputated so as to eliminate all fear. But what must necessarily be attached to that amputation? Would my courage be greater than that of the seafaring pig in the storm? How much more firmly do I stand through the opposition of gravity? How much more am I with fears to oppose? I would even express gratitude for my death, but that it is also a point of honor never to yield an inch to an enemy.

turning points, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 322

When we attempt to engineer a future event, we demand complete research, “complete” being defined as not exceeding nor falling short of all details related to our aim and obtainable within our time limit. There is much that must be excluded. Thus our research requires a strategic ignorance. But the research is still not the plan. We have yet to cull out of the totality of facts simple “turning points” calculated to accommodate human behavior, and of course only on condition that they increase the probability of our success. We often have to impose a simplicity upon a reality that does not in any way merit the slightest implication of being simplistic. If our standard of excellence places greater value on the successful execution of the strategy than on our talent for detailing the problem, then here too we condemn the intellect to a strategic ignorance. Of course, it is true that simplicity is not necessarily the same thing as clarity, and can often be its opposite, but s…

pride and learning, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 323

Just as a hunter takes no pride in letting arrows fly for the sake of letting arrows fly, efficient learning takes no pride in acquiring details for the sake of acquiring details.

Death, a human strategy, aphorism 489

Death is not our greatest fear. There are many willing to risk death for fame and glory, but few who can withstand, for five minutes, the ridicule of their peers ... yet only the one who can withstand derision has a chance to master life. He who masters death masters death.

puppet master ..., a human strategy, aphorism 490

Let the bleary eyed stare at this corpse all night long. I would find my strings in the very darkness of the stage ... and, as my own puppet master, would have me live.

Skeptic ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 324

There is a skeptic who lays pick and ax to every root and leaves nothing behind. There is another skeptic who cultivates the land he has inherited. The former wants only to display his ability to uproot and expose and so he leaves a barren land. The latter only digs and uproots so that he might have fruit to harvest and enjoy – and given that he has a deadline, he finds it wise to go around an oak tree or two.

virtue, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 325

Selfless virtue is its own punishment.

Nothingness..., a human strategy, aphorism 491

As far as I am concerned, I shall never pierce through the membrane of this life. Nothingness is only “thinkable.”

grace..., a human strategy, aphorism 492

Let us so grace the world with our lives that we beg for nothing in return for our deaths.

living virtues ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 326

The only living virtues are selfish impulses under intelligent restraint.

The Leisure Principle..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 327

The Leisure Principle: One does not have to hack and hoe one’s path to the meadow once a year, if one makes the trek every day. And do we know that habituation can be the union of religion and pleasure? Do we know that labor increases with the refusal to cultivate habits?

At St. Peter’s Gate ..., a human strategy, aphorism 493

At St. Peter’s Gate: “Heaven” and “Hell” are in the “next world” — in the sense that this new repetition of key circumstances will result in the death of this and birth of that next mental state. I do not experience it now, and do not know it; I have faith in the progress of this self-science: honesty. And if I have lived honestly here, then I will be rewarded there. Heaven is the sudden ascension into and endurance of higher and higher contexts in this life. Hell is the ignorance of the process of God’s creation (Nature) and the punishment is to slide backwards and downwards, every repetition a decrease in life force.

Reincarnation ...a human strategy, aphorism 494

Reincarnation: My short-lived experiences with the “Eternal” ... the “universal”: 1) the recognition of like-experiences, the confidence that we can reach a state, in this life, where our identity unifies with past lives, akin to finding ourselves accurately portrayed in Shakespearean drama; or 2) the creation of a work of art, the confidence that other future lives will also experience, independently, our highest states. I therefore “continue,” in the sense that another, future self will have like-experiences, will look back and smile upon me, as though looking in the mirror.

If there is one thing worse than ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 328

If there is one thing worse than being accused of indulging in a harmless pleasure, it is being accused unjustly – one solution being to take the injustice out of the equation through one's prompt indulgence, decreasing the affliction by two-thirds: One no longer (1) resists the pleasure (2) nor suffers from an awareness of the injustice; (3) only an accusation of harmless indulgence remains.

It is a blunder to cultivate a virtue ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 329

 It is a blunder to cultivate a virtue that dulls one’s best talent. It is a blunder to think that having a sharp edge is a vice simply because one did not at one time know where to strike. The opposite of the well-rounded ... and we thought that was vice!

The removal of the desire for immortality ..., a human strategy, aphorism 495

The removal of the desire for immortality constitutes the step higher. One step reached assumes that another must be left behind, and what is it really that we leave behind? An error ... the truth being that neither everlasting life nor death pertains to the essential problem of this life. Reality as we know it, with the single addition of immortality, would simply be a re-interpretation of the old problem, our insignificance rephrased: “What is significant about this everlasting reality?”

probability ..., a human strategy, aphorism 496

Mortal Acceleration: If one accepts probability, then worldly joys outlast those of eternity. If one accepts the possibility of eternal life, as unlikely as it is, then one still wonders if there can be joy without achievement and advance. One progresses, one perfects, one achieves — only through present exercise. The rest is wishful thinking. And so even if one actually advanced throughout all eternity, the key difference between concentrating on this present challenge within mortality and that later challenge beyond it would be our postponement. Preoccupation with questions whose answers depend upon information we cannot have is not necessarily irrelevant; it becomes as relevant as any other immovable obstacle which is pondered and not bypassed. To refuse the timid wish for immortality is as good as moving any other obstacle out of the way. We accelerate.

reputation ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 330

Only one with the strength to break with reputation deserves a reputation for strength of character. No one is good who cannot also serve as the epitome of evil to another.

immorality, amorality ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 331

I find it insulting when someone throws me a moral compliment in the same manner with which a biscuit is thrown to a dog for good behavior. On the contrary, I am in fact encouraged when others refer to my “immorality” or “amorality” – for that has always accompanied my most honest efforts.

a constructed course in life ..., a human strategy, aphorism 497

We seek out a constructed course in life toward something “higher” — our lives becoming a significance of something higher — the marking of a trail which would seem to those who desire immortality as futile ... not seeing that we too climb the steps of desire, that the lower, stronger desires are replaced by the higher but weaker, requiring a greater degree of self-control and intelligent cultivation ... and that only from these higher levels can we see that the energy behind our desires, revulsions, and resentments have been translated from the objects into processes and methods of self-transformation ... that these desires are trustworthy and offer longer lasting satisfaction. However, not seeing what we see, they conclude that we refuse all desire ... that because we do not respond in like manner to the same stimuli, we therefore deny ourselves any response whatsoever. They believe that we deny ourselves a love for immortality, when in actuality we love this life enough to …

immortality ..., a human strategy, aphorism 498

As an idea, immortality may only be a divine punishment for rejecting the joys given us through this world, this life.

Honesty ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 332


Honesty is a single concept superimposed upon the screen of consciousness as the result of multiple projectors. It is not one thing:

Honesty is returning a five dollar bill to its owner. Honesty is knowing that one only did so out of fear of spiritual condemnation. Or, it can be the self-flattery of holding to a righteous gesture which constitutes one's superiority over the dishonest.

Or, honesty is the suppressed fear of crossing the borders of one's cultural inheritance! Or if not fear, then a laziness – a perfect addition, but of only the most convenient facts. The one who is not clever enough to uncover his private motives for every moral action is stupid enough to claim honesty. To one man, honesty is sincerity, but to another it is exactly the opposite: honesty is a struggle to align one's opinions with one's reality, which presupposes that the two do not always line up – and this is tantamount to saying that the honest attempt is a presupposition of a fu…

Inefficient Morality ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 333

Inefficient Morality: We resist the unflattering notion of humans as self-flattering machines. We are not even humble enough to see the extent of our pride.

a positive stimulus toward this life ..., a human strategy, aphorism 499

I must admit it reluctantly, the end is perhaps necessary, but not to its own credit, and certainly not for anything which could come “after,” but necessary as a point of reflection, as a positive stimulus toward this life. The significance of a sentence requires a stop, which serves as a point of return — it limits and emphasizes all that has preceded. My whole life has both a beginning and a continuing, a tendency, but requires a stop ... a point from which I might propose a “forward” and a “backward,” a point demanding a summation ... and an accounting.

illusion of immortality..., a human strategy, aphorism 500

If the prospect of everlasting life exalts this mortal life by existing as a rung on the ladder, and that we might climb all the higher only when we leave that rung behind, then nothing is left out and this overcoming of self-deceit finds its place within the human equation: the opportunity to sacrifice the illusion of immortality strengthens us and increases that pressure which is contained within the admission of mortality, which must go somewhere: let it rise up with our discipline ... from which a severe honesty looks down on the fate its height depends upon and which it cannot, nor would not, alter.

Humility ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 334

Humility still has a future. It remains a tool with which we avoid squandering our force and time on idiots or on the self-destructive reflex of one-upmanship. It cautions us against the arrogant presumption that our thoughts are “primary causes,” while it leads us to the humbler probability that thought is a consequence of (1) human machinery and (2) the conditions within which that machine finds itself.

That the “self” is not real, as an experience, is false, but otherwise, true

I am completely human.  “I” am an illusion produced by something best understood as “machinery” and not at all like an independent “spirit.”  “I” am a projection of a projector. My entire consciousness is in fact a projection wholly dependent upon what is humanly understood as "machinery." I cannot escape being this projection: my machinery/senses force "perception" upon all intelligent action and social communication. As a consequence, there is no intelligent human experience which does not include a “perceiver,” an experience of a "self" that is distinct from what is perceived.  The claim that the “self” is not real, as an experience, is false, but otherwise, true.  This is neither a paradox, nor a contradiction.

Arrogance is ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 335

Arrogance is how we could avoid the hypocrisy of humility-on-display, but because the arrogant display is self-destructive, it is expedient that we become inverse hypocrites. That is, our hypocrisy goes in the opposite direction of theirs. They begin with a humility motivated by that universal need to redefine superiority. It is a species of arrogance to be humbler than others. Our hypocrisy begins with a private acceptance of arrogance and ends with the strategic display of moderation.

strength and virtue, a human strategy, aphorism 501

Were Job told by God that he had no hope of Immortality, of an everlasting companionship with God ... he would surely, even at his lowest point, have loved God ... as he would have had none of that ingratitude which asks for more than this life, as he would thereby be loving the gift of this life. He would have no payment for moral behavior other than his own honor in having the strength not to demand any other reward. He would even be grateful to God for permitting this one and only means of proving this ultimate degree of strength and type of virtue. It is divinely ironic that first we must renounce all claim to a Beyond and a personal Immortality before our love of God becomes genuine. I find the depth of such an affirmation, which only appears as a renunciation, truly significant and worth more than any eternal compromise.

we weren't engineered..., a human strategy, aphorism 502


We weren’t engineered to be happy; we were engineered to survive, but securing confidence in a happy future is no small contribution to this end.

courage and humilty, The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 336

Not conceptual opposites, but stages within a process: Our courage to examine our own blunders is our humility. We are not humble so much as humbled ... and by our own errors. We are proud of a wisdom achieved only through our most humbling experiences.

Confidence ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, aphorism 337

Confidence is the last step in the mastery of any skill. Without confidence, no matter how great one's sacrifice and effort in the development of the skill, mastery is forever withheld from us. Fortunately, even the smallest progress in developing the skill brings with it a new potential for confidence, which if called up from within us aids in turn our future efforts to develop the skill. Nonetheless, rallying up a confidence from within us and which believes it can send us beyond our previous achievements is imperative. Even if one's definition for virtue is not self-mastery, one still must accept that there can be no virtue without self-control, and there can be no self-control without self-mastery. The achievement of virtue entails a confidence not only in its worth and in its definition, but also in one's skill of application. Overconfidence, of course, is a blunder, and so we might then caution ourselves with a definition for humility. Nonetheless, virtu…

The dispensable lexicon that we are:

To arrive at any scientific destination our departure begins with a subjective struggle with human biases – rivalry within an imagined social hierarchy not being the least of them. In this struggle, if we forbid the word “ego,” any effective human strategy will require that we substitute another word of equal subjective utility, which of course will be equally irrelevant after arrival at our destination -- a formal presentation of our ‘science’ – all of which however was wholly dependent upon getting around our human biases.

I am a “mechanist” and so I hold that within a formal scientific presentation there is no substantialbasis to mentalisms such as “Ego” or “Self” or even an “established Neuroscience.”The entire journey however from human bias to scientific discovery is still only the distance from one end of subjectivity to another, separated only by “mentalisms” that do not have “substantial basis.” These mental concepts however help each of us navigate our unavoidable subjectivit…

I have often suspected, a human strategy, aphorism 503

I have often suspected and it is only now beginning to prove itself true ... that I am not that “objective” creature I thought I was, but a puppy. I look around the trunk of the tree and eagerly chase that furry, happy tail until my indifferent master whistles me home again. I fly toward Him, happier than before, for I have no memory, not a very useful one anyway. Here we are again. I am the puppy. He is my master. And somehow I am uncontrollably happy with the situation.

life and all of its particulars..., a human strategy, aphorism 504

What remains cheerful about this life and all of its particulars is that the “higher life” ... the “universal” is wholly dependent upon it. It is of this life and of all of its particulars from which the brain organizes itself into a divine perception of this life.

virtue is ..., The Mechanics of Virtue,, aphorism 338

If virtue is of the highest value, and if taking pride in valuable achievement is a human reflex, then we must accept the role of pride in the pursuit of virtue.

vanity and ambition ..., The Mechanics of Virtue, quote 339

Most say that vanity and ambition are incompatible with virtue. On the contrary, it appears rather that they are at times the impetus to virtue and that at other times they are its natural consequence. To say that virtue is its own reward is to assign a real value to virtue. And if virtue really is more valuable than any alternative aim, as our moralists say, then the more intelligent one’s approach to virtue, the more virtue becomes one’s vanity and ambition. To say otherwise is to say that genuine virtue has less value than at least one alternative. In fact, when we take ambition and vanity out of our equation, the consequence of a priceless virtue now appears to be dishonesty.

Where hope and reality meet ..., a human strategy, quote 505

505  Where hope and reality meet there is happiness. If one begins with hope and curtails reality, one’s chances are slim. If one begins with reality and curtails hope, one stands a better chance.

The universe is not a riddle ...a human strategy, quote 506

The universe is not a riddle; it is man as riddle-maker who now stands disappointed before his own fact. That we need riddles again but can no longer believe in them ... that we step outside of ourselves and helplessly watch hard facts grind our significance into pieces is unworthy of a species with a reflex for laughter.

A task can only be as exalted or as petty as the ... mechanics of virtue quote 340

A task can only be as exalted or as petty as the goal which it serves. Thus, the problem would not be the pettiness of any expenditure but of the goal upon which one squandered one's potential. Thus, if confronted with a task too petty to undertake, one should not regret the expenditure so much as appreciate this aid in correcting one's aim. 
Raising the aim, one also raises the value of all that is necessary to the fulfillment of that aim. From this perspective, there are no petty expenditures, only petty aims. The threshold of one's intellect limits the height of one's aim, creating the illusion that what is one's own highest aim is the highest aim available. Now, even an atrocity is redeemable, if it serves one's highest possible aim. But to the precise degree that one justifies the atrocity, one also measures one's highest possible aim, which would in all likelihood also be a measurement of one's stupidity.

The Mechanics of Virtue, ambition quote 341

Because our ambitions cannot be attained without restrictions, our virtues often take center stage.

the emphasis of a relationship, a human strategy, 507

Inevitably, the emphasis of a relationship moves from sex toward conversation. Whether one feels this change as positive or negative reveals two important things about one’s future: whether or not one is capable of finding a “spiritual” aspect upon one’s reality and also whether or not one is capable of even the smallest degree of happiness. And conversation just so happens to be one of the most spiritual of the types of happiness. An added blessing, and not at all obvious, is the very real abundance of this Joy: what is lost in immediate sensation is more than compensated by the nearly effortless, lifetime accumulation of little nothings into a consciousness rivaling the universe.

if one is strong enough...; a human strategy, 508

508  If one is strong enough, one’s whole life can serve as preparation for today. A repeated success which is both “preparation” and “immediate satisfaction” replaces hope with confidence, regret with achievement, and heaven with now.