Spinoza wrote that the concepts of good and evil “indicate nothing positive in things considered in themselves, nor are they anything else than modes of thought… one and the same thing may at the same time be both good and evil, or indifferent.” He believed it all depended on whether a person judges the thing, or act, to be evil.
“We must make the best of those things that are in our power, and take the rest as Nature gives it.”
I am reading about friendships in a philosophy discussion; what is a friendship, who can be friends, etc… and I think of my friends.
Friendship, for me, is more than being able to call on someone when in need. I hardly consider this a point at all, more a descriptor of other personality traits such as empathy and general agreeableness (among others). A friend is also something more than someone with whom I can be myself with. For years I wanted to get a tattoo of a hydra on my arm; each head symbolic of a very different personality I would assume (and which I could not control), depending on the audience of the time. Over the years I’ve waged battle on the hydra… cutting heads over and over and over again… trying to et to a core self (whatever that is). So I am able to be more of myself to some moreso than others, regardless of ranking as “stranger” or “friend”. But I think of a friend in the truest sense (for me) of the word and only a very few people come to mind (such as Dave, my friend in the Marines).
A friend should, for me, reserve judgment over me. This is not to say that he/she shouldn’t criticize me, but that I do not have to fight through a barrage of expectations and measurements, condemnations and praises. I recognize that this is not a universal definition of friendship… for a friendship seems to be an active reflection of Self, our friendships are the verbs of the noun of the Self. Since the concept of the self is hotly debated and is as easy to nail down as is Jell-O to a wall, friendship is also difficult to fully/universally define.
For me, my own self is ambiguous but in my ever changing relations to the events surrounding me, drawing meaning from my co-creation of m life with the acting agents, a friend for me is one with whom I can be my contradictory self with, a person with whom I can fully, deeply, truthfully express the paradoxes of Self without them being morally judged as such.
My books today are Socrates Cafe, Don Quixote, Listening to the Land, and the Complete Shakespeare (Hamlet), as well as my Franklin/Covey planner. How funny it is to see myself in Don Quixote of La Mancha. How many times have I taken the more dangerous looking paths through alleyways and parks, hoping that should a crime be in process that I would be lucky enough to happen upon it to stop it. HA! While I laugh at Don Quixote I am also laughing at myself.
I’ve briefly outlined a rough sketch of my coming week, but I’ve not addressed the values section yet. There are some elements that I’ve been wanting to rid myself of but have held off doing because I wanted to perform some sort of ritual, a meaningful book-end of experience to anchor more firmly into my heart (and hopefully my character). With the coming cleansing ritual slated for the new moon I am firming up the shoreline of my soul against the tides of the world around me. One might very well evict Screwtape out of his office, but will find that Wormwood will find it equally comfortable for him as well. Before I can rid myself of poor behaviors I need to address the cause of such and replace them with more agreeable ones.
I hope to get a friend to give me a ride to Mt Pisgah on Tuesday. It is my hope to spend about six hours out there, until after dark. I need the visit to a cherished friend… the forest that I haunted so many days, nights, mornings, cold days, hot days, sunny days, rainy days. The forest there is deeply imbedded into my heart, as is the Houston Arboretum. It strike me now of how these places are every bit as fulfilling as “friend” to me, in my own definition of such. Yes, I need my friends, and no less important among them is Mt Pisgah.
An attractive woman nearby types away on her Apple IMAC. I am jealous of her IMAC (grin) and want on. It may be possible to obtain both college and an IMAC in August, though very difficult to do. But I would be positively giddy with delight if I did accomplish it.
But back to my values and virtues. I have with me no list of such, no philosophy books on the matter. I have then no ability to copy a list onto my page. My values page in my planner stares blankly at me. It is tempting to forget this and move on to Hamlet, but I recognize the mountain I am struggling to climb and upon which so many of my dreams rely… concious living of every day according to my values. This is the strength of the Covey planner and if I ignore this I do not draw from this vital aspect… I do not climb the mountain.
I carry as a bookmark in my Shakespeare book a single panel cartoon from Too Much Coffee Man.
When I saw this I was struck with the truthfulness of it, the picture of the rebellion of my heart against the normal road of life as believed by the “men” from my home state of Arkansas. On one hand I do not want a job simply so I can afford Scandinavian furniture, on the other hand, I still work crappy jobs because it is all I can find and I wish that I could afford Scandinavian furniture. HA!
I made mention one night that I wanted to finish my college degree. The owner of the club made the comment that college is over rated, that some day he’d sell the place to me. This I do not really want. I do not aspire to be a club owner, even though aspects of it are promising… particularly in the material realm. But while I’ve made concessions, given in to material needs plenty of times, I believe that I’ve had a greater integrity to my heart in such regards. My move to Oregon seems like a distant memory… I do not feel like a Texan, nor an Arkansan any longer… but I call Oregon my home. I feel that I am now beginning to become a Northwesterner, that my personality has found a region of the U.S. where it fits with the teperment and climate.
So what are my values, my virtues, my mission? I would guess (as I am continually a mystery unto myself) that my first goal is to live life, and in this regard I copied the quote from Epictetus earlier as the Stoic’s words strike a firm chord within me. When I look at myself in the future tense, an old man… I hope to see an old man with a deep heart, with deep friendships and a wellspring of love, a deep library of knowledge and wisdom, a patient hand, deep currents of emotion, and a broad integrity across all categories. Just what I do as an occupation in this notion I am uncertain. All that I am really clear on is the sort of person I am, not the occupation I fill.
So… what values might this old man have nurtured through the years? The first one that leaps to my midn is one of integrity. Integrity is, to me, when all aspects of one’s character, behavior, thoughts, align. This isn’t to say that ideals match… to be sure there will be conundrums and paradoxes within the heart and mind. But to deal dishonestly with an employee is to deal dishonest with a wife. If one doesn’t, it is a matter of politics instead of a matter of honesty.
Another aspect of this old man is wonder, and wonder is a very important element, leading me in matters of both knowledge and in spirituality. For me there can be neither without wonder.
Another one I wrote of a few days earlier is intent. How many times this month has my anger and pride vanished when I looked closely at my feelings under the lens of intent? How much more truthful are my friendships when I see more clearly my underlying intent?
Humility… how often I leave this one virtue out. Too often it falls on the wayside, or self-abasement is used in the guise of such. Humility carries with it no instantaneous lowering of self… but an empathy of others, an understanding of the similarities between us all, the recognition that the abyss we see in others is a reflection of that within ourselves. Humility isn’t a lack of self love… but a sharing of love with others.
Growth. Growth is important to me, that it is a means of not only fully experiencing where I am at (the present moment) but also in reaching toward the higher next. There is no next without a now, and to grow one must not only look toward next, but take stock in now. Different avenues of moving from now to next, such as goals, exist. Goals are a primary way of not only living mindfully … but also developing the idea of what a better self is and a means to achieving that better self. Growth also asks for pain, a necessary ingredient of such. There is a price to be paid in growth, whether physical muscle, intellectual study, or emotional stability… pain, if attended to properly, can lead to growth.
I think now, of what other virtues I might describe. What of courage? Do I know what courage truly is? Do many people know what courage is? We are tested every minute of the mettle of our courage it seems. But what is it? Is it a virtue, a skill, a method, an action? I do not list courage because I do not think it to mean a trait in the manner most assume it to be, such as intelligence, introvertiveness, courageousness. More likely, to me it seems, courage is an act of love… a love for an idea. Can one truly turn one’s back on a true and deep love? If all the world were against a man and his love (whether that love was a political ideal, a person, a stretch of land, his bank account) wil not that person fight and die for that love? And if a person does not, if he should buckle under pressure and ridicule, is he not acting in accord to the greater love in his heart (acceptance… security)? To be sure, this is too simple of a reason why men act they way that they do, yet I shant include courage in my list, believing (perhaps wrongly) that one cannot act out of accordance with the deepest wishes/loves of the heart.
Introspection. Should this be a value? Is it not a means of the value of looking into intent? To be sure, introspection needs intent if it is to be honest, for even monsters can introspect.