Self-Engineering by Repetition: It is my ambition to be more than the resolution of accidental stimuli, and yet my higher identity is dependent upon repetition and conditioning. Consequently, I cannot yield ... travel in that straight line determined by the leverage that my circumstance has over my machine. I must resist precisely my natural tendencies and hold to a goal independent of my cultural and evolutionary inheritance. I am in a constant state of correction: testing stimuli against machinery ... ever vigilant; accepting, rejecting, precluding.
Repetition of stimuli is my danger ... and my means. I am, as it were, charging a cannon and must learn how to dodge ... that is, if I wish to arrive with all my limbs attached. I have mechanisms for behavior of varied and often incompatible parts. I cannot reason them away. I cannot reconcile them to a single rational principle. If integrity means whole or harmony or straightforward, then it arrives only after the introduction of an overpowering stimulus ... that is to say, only after I lose my head.
Although we still admire victory in all cases, a frequent loser who suddenly scores a difficult victory is more inspiring than a privileged victor. Perhaps this is how God made the man of integrity inspiring.
There will always be servants and masters, because society needs them. Perhaps it even needs the glutton and the emaciated, as points of measurement — since one cannot know the center of a circle without knowing the perimeter.
It would follow then that a society that produced only moderate citizens would never know its natural center. It would then in all probability be unable to remain moderate. Being unable to distinguish between necessity and desire, it would see only its desires, until it approached the perimeter of necessity ... that is, until threatened with extinction.
Most strengths puff themselves up. We want them to look as large and fearsome as possible. Honesty is the only exception ... for when precisely honesty wants to show its strength, it must admit to weakness, smallness, and cowardice. A completely honest man looks more like a junk dealer than a resplendent prince.
All that is worthy and pure in life is born out of the wedlock of desire and necessity, but there are too few honorable matchmakers for the betrothal, for it is within human nature to ravish the desire and estrange it from the necessary. The marriage becomes, from the beginning, an awkward arrangement.
A wise man is one who sees, however obscurely, through his desires and upon what is necessary to cultivate those desires. The average man, on the other hand, is blinded to the necessary by the very clarity with which he sees his desires.
I pour this tea. I want the tea, and so I tilt the kettle up a little higher. The tea, however, pours through the spout just as fast as before ... with the exception that now much of it spills through the lid. I have saved no time, have satisfied myself no sooner, and have made a mess of the whole matter. What have I learned? That an effort should be made to pull back my desires to the borders of necessity ... but no further: I do not want to root out my desires, but satisfy them. This is what others call “moderation,” but we know it to be the extreme, since there is no faster, more efficient way. The human tragedy, then, is not to desire the extreme, but to have no eyes for it.
Diverse human projectors superimpose a singular image upon the screen of consciousness: a concept. What is important here is the suggestion that singular concepts such as “Good” and “Evil” – like all moral concepts – are simplistic resolutions of complex conditions. In a different metaphor, a concept is a behavioral intersection of diverse mechanical forces. If, out of the need for simple presentation, I trace the line of one mechanical force, I might next contradict myself with another equally legitimate mechanical description. Thus, herding, dominance, aggression, habituation, territory, and the like, are not presented as if in a debate, where one is held up as evidence refuting another ... but all as separate avenues leading toward a singular concept, such as “Evil.” For example, Evil is breaking with one’s herd, with the herd's habits, with one’s rank. But breaking with a social habit is breaking with rank ... and breaking with rank is breaking with habit and herd. We appear to be dancing around one totem pole ... one ineffable stuff that requires multiple approaches in description for the fact that we can only see its results in overly simplistic “concepts.” We raise an eyebrow to conceptual relationships and begin tracing lines of behavioral forces. Likewise, we reject the ineffable ... the useless and map out as best we can the multiple avenues toward those intersections we blithely call, concepts.
There is a need for an enemy that is bundled with a need for friendship. Evil results in, and is the result of, our herd’s formation – a warm and cozy “us” is organized by suggesting a dangerous “them.” Whether or not the threat is foisted or discovered is of little concern. Either way the threat results in a reflex which assigns “Evil.” It is a unifying aggression constituting Good and Evil, us and them. And when I have become Evil, I have performed an action which identifies me as “one of them” ... and I now plead for my return to a good conscience – to my herd – in penance and humility.
Impatience is how the brain resolves the conflict of having a task more desirable than what is necessary — making two simultaneous tasks, which then require the third task of cleaning up the mess. Impatience has been slandered. It is in fact so powerful it triples necessity.