By Basil E. Gala, Ph.D.
In Search of Meaning
For me and for all humans, the critical question is: “What am I to do with the rest of my life?”
I cannot live successfully on the basis of expediency or habit.
I want to live virtuously and effectively for the long run.
My values or ideals motivate my actions.
Some values are more important than others deserving more resources.
The source of values and ideals is the universe within me.
Most values help us survive as individuals, families, societies, species, and biospheres. These are essential because we cannot do anything unless we survive. What values go beyond survival needs? What should we do after we have secured our survival? My answer is: work for our continuing survival.
Old fashioned American values were: work hard, be thrifty, save, invest, and preserve family assets. New American values are: spend, borrow, enjoy, and let government provide for our needs when we run out of money.
A person without interests, loves, or ideals is a very depressed or mentally ill individual.
I will uphold my ideals with my last breath.
I don’t necessarily have to pursue my ideals with personal action; I may give my support to them with my vote or money.
The set of values have a structure and they are hierarchical: values are connected and some values are more important than others, enabling us to set priorities in our actions.
Abraham Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs and motivations starting with the basic ones of food, water, warmth, sex, rest, etc. necessary for the survival of the individual. Next higher are our social needs for the survival of the community. At the highest level he placed self-actualization and spiritual growth in achieving our full potential as human beings.
How should I derive my highest values? I shall search my subconscious mind in deep meditation.
When my inner self tells me to assume a particular value how do I determine its worth, even its validity?
Before I accept or reject the inspiration of a value I reflect on it and consult with wise people in books, or in person if these people are accessible.
Available values for humans are limited in number, can be listed, ranked, and practiced in order of priority.
In the Hindu scriptures, the acquisition of material goods (artha) is above aesthetic pleasure (kama), but virtue (dharma) is higher still, because it leads to liberation (moksa) from the cycle of birth and death.
Enhance, purify, and elevate your life goals to the highest level by analyzing your deep motives and synthesizing a better value system.
Ultimately, all values I uphold must contribute to my survival and the survival of people and other living things I love, with the highest values being those that promote and preserve life for the longest time.
How am I to resolve conflicts between values? Act according to the higher value for the survival of the larger living entity, as cells in my body surrender to the needs of the whole body. Normally, when there is no conflict, I need to take good care of myself so that I may best serve family, community, species, and biosphere.
Accomplishment: I want success, accomplishment, not what others call success but what I deem to be so in my inner self, all alone with my personal angel.
Accountability: Ultimately, I’m only accountable to myself and that entity I experience in meditation that I call God.
Accuracy: It determines the quality of what I do. The objects I operate on must be clear, distinct, and well defined. Fuzzy objects lead to fuzzy thinking.
Adaptation: Living forms survive because they are adaptable; they change. I am adaptable to a high degree, but I need to be disciplined too to stay together physically and mentally, staying flexible and strong.
Adventure: It keeps me alive even with some risks as I search for new experiences and learning, mostly learning. Refusing to try new things is the beginning of mental decay.
Afterlife: Wanting an afterlife, preparing for it with religious practices, is that a sound motivation? It is, if it leads to good things for me and others. After death, my body will quickly perish, that is certain; but that I will perish forever is less certain.
Altruism: I possess altruism when the situation demands it for prolonging lives, even to the detriment of my own interests. Evolution has programmed many of our human motivations and values in our genes.
According to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, we have selfish genes for our personal survival, but also for the survival of our tribe, we possess altruistic genes leading us to kindness, generosity, and even self sacrifice.
Our genes don’t appear programmed to deal with the survival of our species or the biosphere on earth; otherwise, with the arrival of nuclear weapons and planetary warming, we would have established an effective world government.
Our genome may accidentally possess the altruistic genes for the earth’s preservation; in which case our biosphere is likely to survive among the billions of planets that host living things.
The seeds of life on earth may have come on asteroids from a surviving planet; in that case, the chance is higher we have the necessary genes to preserve life on earth—I wait for the evidence that this is the case in the behavior of nations.
Not all our behavior is controlled by our genes. The Life Force may also inspire altruism for the survival of our planet.
Animals: I love animals in their great variety and enjoy talking with them; they evoke in me the ideal of a simple, direct, and honest life which we humans once had before we grew oversize brains.
It’s amazing how eagerly people acquire all sorts of pets to love: dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, parrots, monkeys, guinea pigs, and even tigers on occasion. I say leave animals alone in the wild or keep them for meat, eggs, milk, and fertilizer, caring well for them and loving them.
I support the humane treatment of our animal relatives in captivity or in the wild.
I share with many others today the desire to preserve animal species, to prevent extinctions caused by growing human populations and our exploitation of habitats.
Why be concerned about animals that are apparently of no use to us? Wild animals are interesting, beautiful, and are part of the web of life on earth that supports our own species.
In my ethics I feel the need to include respect for all life activated by the same Force that keeps me alive.
Antiques: We’re not doing enough to preserve antiques and antiquities, historical buildings and other fine artifacts. Some people think of anything old as just so much scrap without considering the quality and craftsmanship that went into its production.
Art: Artworks of old still move me deeply today although fashions have changed.
Artists, designers, and builders of bridges, companies, or institutions create new order with their media.
Dance is probably the finest art next to food preparation and presentation. In dancing we use our kinesthetic sense (not one of the five senses) to express patterns of movement. For the viewer the experience is visual, and auditory if the feet of the performer make sound rhythms.
In my youth I found dancing so thrilling I vowed never to give up this art. I did give it up, because I got too busy with other things and lacked a partner. Of course, dancing is an excellent exercise which strengthens, stimulates, and limbers up the entire body. I should return to the dance, before I’m too old to get on my feet and move.
For a few years I have been enjoying the art of cooking which uses all five common senses and our thermal sense: taste of course, smell (aromas), sight (colors, forms, and relations), sound (crunch, pop), touch (texture), and warmth or cold. Good food nourishes the body; the art of cooking elevates the soul.
Basic needs: I need air, some food and water, warmth, shelter, exercise, and safety; everything else I want is a luxury.
Beauty: I appreciate beauty, the experience of ordered forms, colors, sounds, tastes, aromas, tactile sensations, and movements.
Beauty to be enjoyed may be found in natural objects or human art. I am able to create something beautiful or simply to appreciate it passively.
When I’m producing an artistic object I enjoy the beauty more intensely in the work of others.
When I danced professionally I appreciated the art of the dance much more than I do now.
The beauty of flowers, birds, star constellations, musical compositions, sculptures, or paintings possess survival values, and the enjoyment of this beauty makes me feel better about my world.
Things which are beautiful, pleasant, sweet, and attractive are usually beneficial, unless our instinctive tastes have been corrupted; something beautiful tends to be healthful and wholesome, while ugly, repulsive, and bitter things are harmful, even dangerous. Medicines and Venus flytraps are exceptions.
Creating or contemplating beautiful things is far more desirable that owning them.
Beauty may serve a utilitarian purpose such as mating but it can also stand alone like a splendid waterfall or a majestic sequoia.
Some neurologists believe that beautiful music improves our minds, actually rewiring brain neurons to operate more efficiently.
Even commonplace arts like flower arranging, embroidery, or cooking are beneficial for those who practice these arts and for others. Therapists have their patients do arts and crafts to relieve symptoms and speed up recovery.
Great works of art expand human consciousness and raise it to a higher level: values, sentiments, and ethics all improve in us with new fine works of art and literature.
We take a different look at child labor, the treatment of orphans and the poor, after reading the novels of Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Victor Hugo, or Leo Tolstoy; our empathy and emotional intelligence grows stronger.
Creating fine art is worthy of my dedication, even if I make little money from my art; I’ll be imitating van Gogh, Gauguin, or Walt Whitman and I will be advancing human consciousness.
Fashion alters the expression of beauty but its inner essence is eternal.
Beautiful things possess order or negative entropy expressed in their structure; ugly things tend to be disorderly or noisy.
Brother or Sister: Brother is a powerful concept (Christian brothers, Muslim brothers); all men are brothers, as were Cain and Able.
Calm: I always seek to remain calm with an inner peace never disturbed by any turbulence outside of me–like flying in the eye of a hurricane.
Character: It embodies several important virtues, such as honesty, loyalty, persistence, courage, and kindness. I was born with character flaws, but with due diligence I can reduce these and augment my good traits.
My heredity, my genes that is, shaped my character, the source of many of my values; but my training, education, and inspiration also shape my character and the values that spring from it.
Challenge: An occupation without challenges is not worth my time; it leads to a stale life, lacking in creativity and passion.
Change: The world and my personal life constantly change; adapting to change is essential to survival and growth. I don’t avoid change if it comes to me; I welcome it.
Change is often thrust upon me and I must cope. Sometimes I seek change to make things better for myself or others. Change for the sake of change is wasteful of resources.
Charity: It is also known as philanthropy (love of humankind) and is praised by all major religions and philosophies. I like the word beneficence, a caring attitude, towards all humans, animals, and even plants.
Chastity: I will be chaste, using sex only if it leads to offspring, better health, or better relationships.
Children: We love our children, the dearest among the living for us, for good reasons: without children there can be no parents or grandparents to honor, no brothers or sisters with whom to play and grow up, no nation or humanity.
Cleanliness: I choose to be clean and orderly in my person and in my surroundings; that pleases me and leads me to a more effective lifestyle.
Cleanliness is next to godliness; and so is tidiness. Serious and well organized people tend to be clean and tidy; that is also in the character of some societies. Other nations indulge in messes and fun.
Commitment: Nothing much is achieved without commitment to a task, goal, or value. Focus long enough and hard enough on what you’re doing to get somewhere.
Community: I have a primeval need for community. Community goes beyond a network of friends, to a tribal affiliation with people who closely depend on each other for survival. Today this is found in small towns or business organizations.
My closest community is my extended family which has grown substantially over the years. I love my children, my extended family, community, and the God I have known. The Amish love these more than the rest of us; an Amish couple has an average of seven children to love and a close-knit community of Amish, who live detached from the nation, the world, and our times.
Compassion: Like most humans I have an inborn empathy towards other humans, animals, and plants, feeling compassion for them in their struggles and sufferings.
Tribes practiced the killing of infants that were found to be weak or female; or the females were sold into slavery. The Nazis showed no compassion towards mental defectives, gypsies, or Jews, in order to purify the German nation. With modern genetics we can improve living things without cruelty.
We ascribe compassion to God, the Ideal Spirit, projecting my own feelings. Atheists see no evidence of a compassionate God, but those who have regular contacts with Him in prayer tells us that they are comforted and assured by His kindness towards all His creatures.
Competence: Competence or talent is something with which you’re born; it’s like a seed to be planted in fertile soil, cultivated, and nourished before it produces fruit.
Competition: For high achievement we have to compete as individuals, and between teams, companies, or communities. Do not take competition too far; be a good sport.
Competition taken to extremes becomes war. War was a legitimate way to advancement and glory in ancient times. People then practiced devotion to the god of war. Stronger individuals or tribes prevailed, making themselves the fittest to survive. The defeated perished or were enslaved. I can think of better ways to improvement than fighting others.
Comradeship: It must spring up when any group is in peril for the group to survive and succeed, as with a company of soldiers in battle, a band of brothers. I find comradeship to be a glowing feeling reaching spiritual levels.
Concern: I have concern for others because I am involved with mankind.
I have concern about dangers; I fear no danger.
Conflict: Play, sports, drama, stories, business, all of our social activities involve conflict. Even living alone, we fight other animals or nature itself in its vagaries to survive. Conflict is interesting, exciting, and if resolved favorably, conflict can be satisfying and rewarding.
The greatest shows in the ancient world were held in the arenas with gladiators competing for victory, glory, and survival. In Spain people go to the bullfights to admire the skilled matador cutting down an angry bull or the bull goring the matador. Those who cannot afford arenas go to the cockfights.
What did Cowboys and Indians do? They fought each other for the land in the U. S. West. Cowboys backed up by U.S. Calvary officers won.
Cowboys lost their wars against farmers in the U. S. West. The fences stayed up.
I have no fear of conflict if it is necessary, but I don’t seek it out. Shy or timid people who fear conflict die humiliated and poor. If I’m in a conflict, I’d rather win it than lose it, unless I find I’m in the wrong and I would damage society by winning.
Content: In what I do I focus on worthwhile content at first before I seek the best form for its expression.
Continuous improvement: In my life and work I subscribe to continuous improvement, which the Japanese call kaizen.
Cooperation: I’d rather cooperate than fight with others if possible. With good communication tools I wish to coordinate my efforts with others to good ends for all of us. I experience the joy of working with people and socializing with them.
Cool-headedness: I admire people who are cool headed in a crisis. I judge cool-headedness to be a major quality in my character that I want to have under all dire circumstances.
Courage: Can I grow in courage? I can, if I continue to tackle fearful problems, face them down, and solve them. As I do that I get rid of my fears and I am left only with concerns.
It is said that a person is courageous to keep on fighting in spite of fear. I say it is better to have no fear at all of anything but to continue the fight out of a desire to win.
Creativity: Creative breakthroughs are better than continuous improvement, but much more difficult and rare.
In every area of my life I wish to practice creativity, which means finding novel solutions to problems I encounter or formulate for my betterment or the improvement of society.
What stimulates and motivates my creativity is the desire to satisfy my chosen customers in the marketplace of my endeavors. The satisfaction of my customers adds to my happiness.
Curiosity: Humans, like cats, are curious animals. We like to travel and explore, seeking adventures and new experiences. We climb mountains, sail over the waters, take to the air, sink to the depths in caves or oceans, and venture forth to other celestial spheres. Even if we die exploring, with speech or writing we pass on our experiences to nation and species.
I like to think of my body exploring earth like a surveyor probe, launched by the Life Force, which activates me and my sensors. The Life Force observes through me the events that occur on our planet as I interact with plants, animals, and other people. The purpose of my existence is the Life Force’s interest in collecting experiences for a universal store of knowledge and in experimenting with new forms of art and craft.
Decisiveness: When I have all the facts I decide issues quickly; decisiveness is one of my virtues.
Delight: First I must do my duty taking care of my health, family, business, and community; second, I must have joy in what I get and delight in my experiences.
Democracy: True democracy means freedom to choose for citizens and rule of the majority, but with respect for the rights of minorities and individuals.
Benign authoritarianism is good in managing animals, children, and ignorant populations.
Discipline: I achieve self discipline through an effort of the will, a mental faculty located in the brain between the frontal lobe and the hypothalamus, which becomes stronger each time I exercise it.
Self discipline is one of my core values. In the event of a difficulty with another person I am more inclined to discipline myself rather than expect discipline from that person.
Discovery: The discovery of a fact is important, but what interests me more is the discovery of an idea.
Duty: Feeling good is desirable, but not a sufficient value; being dutiful towards me and others, that is a crowning virtue and after doing my duty I may seek happiness.
Earth: Love of the Earth (Gaia) runs deep in me. Our planet is a rare jewel worthy of my devotion. I will praise the Earth and work to preserve its health and beauty.
We are developing a planetary consciousness gradually, geared to preserving the earth, its plants, animals, and natural splendors. Color photos and movies from space have changed our perception of our planet.
Evolution has selected in our genes the necessary instincts to defend our body, our family, our tribe, and our territory or habitat.
We have not evolved to protect humanity and the whole ecosystem of earth, because these were not in our power to damage. Now they are, and we need to develop intellectually the ethics to preserve the earth and its entire biosphere from natural disasters and from our devastating wars, our pollutants, and our over exploitation of planetary resources.
Ease of use: Whatever product or service I provide must be easy to use. Everything I say should be easy to understand and apply by the listener or remain unspoken.
Economics: People have had wars over the ideas of capitalism, socialism, or communism. Let us sit down instead to discuss and decide which system is best for our society.
When economic zealots preach a particular doctrine, they should consider whether its application will produce beneficial results for society; the best system is what promotes the well being and survival of humanity and other living things.
For me the best economic system is the one that works well for my nation.
Education: We tend to place education and university degrees on pedestals. Learning deeply and widely is far more important than formal education.
Efficiency: It should rule all of my activities, but never at the expense of causing excessive stress in me or others.
Efficiency is achieved through constant effort focused on the task at hand and the release of all excess tension in mind and body.
Enthusiasm: It means god infusion, inspiration and excitement, and it is desirable, but the quality of enthusiasm depends on its object. I don’t get enthusiastic about football scores or the antics of celebrities.
When we’re deeply enthusiastic about doing something we may be receiving God’s guidance; we’re inspired.
Equality: In a democracy, we desire equality for all citizens; but all humans are different and unequal in ability. Equality should exist with respect to opportunity, justice, and personal dignity.
Potentially any man or woman is my equal. No one is lower or higher due to circumstances of birth. Heredity grants no permanent status in society; status is earned through effort and talent.
Ethics: We all have some ethics, inborn or absorbed from social influences; even the Mafiosi have their ethics.
Ethical conduct often boils down to doing the right thing even though it may be very painful.
Doing the right thing sounds good, but finding out what is right is often a complicated task, almost impossible to unravel. Do that which does the least harm to your cause.
Ordinary people observe established codes of ethics; a prophet like Jesus, a superman (Nietzsche’s übermensh) creates new codes, breaking new ground for the rest of us to follow. Still, before we follow, we must obtain a consensus from other supermen on the new codes to be adopted.
Following without close scrutiny the proclaimed ethics of any charismatic leader is the same as being led by Napoleon, Stalin, or Hitler.
Excellence: I admire excellence and perfection to the degree I can achieve these in my works, remembering that these ideals can be approached but never actually achieved fully.
Excitement: Gambling, sports, dramas, and other fights are exciting because the outcome is uncertain. I prefer the excitement of novel ideas.
Experience: I seek experiences with adventure, travel, and new projects, even treading on dangerous paths. I’ll get experiences in any case if embark on a major enterprise—no need to seek thrills real or imagined.
Exploration: It is a trait we humans share with cats. Exploration is going to new places on land or in thought on a voyage of discovery for our species.
Fairness: It is what we expect from others towards us, but what we seldom willingly grant to others.
Faith: It is what empowers me to visualize the achievable.
Faith in a good and wise God is the best source of values.
Some people dedicate their lives to their religious faith, working as priests, monks, nuns, missionaries, activists, and martyrs. Others apply this strong zeal to science or the arts. I don’t possess this kind of dedication for anything. Am I a cynic or skeptic? I am both.
I swear to be faithful to my ideals, like a U.S. marine, I declare Semper Fi.
Fame: It is of no interest to me, unless I can use it to promote my ideals in society. What others think of me does not concern me, unless they start throwing sticks and stones at me.
Fame will not allow me to live forever, not even in the minds of people. Eventually, everybody is forgotten, left in the dustbin of history.
Many celebrities imbibe fame like alcoholics; but they also convert their fame into earnings with advertising and promotions.
We all tend to thirst for recognition, prizes, kudus, good grades, degrees, and general admiration. It is all vanity, vanity, unless we use our popularity to do good deeds.
Better than fleeting fame is cash money, stocks, bonds, credits, real estate, gold, diamonds, art collections, coins, stamps, and antiques.
At the end of our days, we can bequeath our collections to museums for the entire community to enjoy.
Family: These are the people who continue to love me no matter how badly I may fail.
Family values build the strongest bonds with love and tolerance.
We value our children not as carriers of our genes soon to dissipate, but as objects of our love.
Family feeling is the glow of love when my people get together.
A wife (even an ex), children, and grandchildren are all wonderful to have close by to see sometimes and hug; brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, nephews, and nieces, all these relatives give meaning to life.
Flair: I achieve flair or style when I am able to do a difficult thing well without conscious effort, achieved after long practice.
Fitness: I want the highest possible level of fitness in my body and mind. Fitness is goes beyond health to optimal functioning of all organs. Muscles are nice to have, but big muscles were never important to me.
Freedom: It is the condition of being able to choose what I do without interference from others, unless what I do causes them harm.
Freedom is priceless, but we have enslaved other humans for cheap labor. We have domesticated animals as a source of cheap labor and food; I refuse to do that any more.
In some cultures women are treated like domestic animals, given very little freedom; women are equal to men, only smaller and less aggressive.
One of the worst forms of servitude is an addiction, persistence in a harmful habit. Freedom from all addictions is a glorious state, rarely possible for anyone; I aspire to this state.
Friendship: It binds sentient beings to a common ideal and purpose. Next to love, friendship is the most precious of sentiments.
Frugality: Spend only what you must in order to improve yourself or others.
Fun: Good fun, joy, and happiness rise up to heaven higher than the smoke from any sacrifice.
Fun promotes good health and well being; that sufficiently justifies its pursuit. Bertrand Russell in old age expressed regret for not making enough time for fun in his life; the wit in his writings, however, indicates he was having fun in his thinking which made his prose twinkle.
Fun is best when it comes with my work and other useful activities. A life is too short to devote many hours to entertainment and still accomplish major objectives.
Quite often what passes for entertainment and fun is simply another addiction, something we can indulge in with ease when we have the money.
Goals: Goals not based on values are like buildings without foundations; in the end they crash down. Fix your goals to your ideals so that when you have achieved your goals you will not end up with worthless victories.
We tend to fixate on our goals in life whether these goals are anchored on sound values or not. Be flexible in what you what, except in your ideals which you have determined with deliberate care.
Global view: A global view encompasses the whole blue-white earth and every living thing on it.
Good will: Any business that serves the community well is said to possess goodwill. Good will in courtesy, helpfulness, and cooperation is also valuable for decent individuals dealing with the public.
Goodness: If possible, I practice goodness or beneficence towards all living things.
Gratitude: I hold no bitterness about anything bad that happens to me; instead I prefer to express gratitude to God for His blessings.
Happiness: It’s overrated. The pursuit of happiness leads to the capture of misery; true felicity follows function and fulfillment.
Happiness is not enough for me; doing what is right, necessary, or my duty, is more important. Living virtuously I’m satisfied with myself and content, even if I’m in pain and misery.
Happiness is good and better than misery, but a person in reasonably good health can sail through life happily, but do nothing of lasting value for the world.
Doing the right thing may not be the most valuable thing, but only what I was taught to do.
After I have taken care of myself and my dependents, I seek to escape misery and pursue happiness.
Sources of happiness are love, freedom, work, good health, money, and social acceptance. Misery derives from loneliness, illness, poverty, idleness, and enslavement to others or to addictions.
What I think can affect, even determine, how I feel, happy or unhappy. Sensations of pleasure or pain, tragic events or successes may influence my mood but cannot determine it.
Hard work: It involves challenges which grow my strength for higher achievements; but working excessively is a vice damaging to me and my family.
Harmony: It occurs when people work smoothly together and conflicts are resolved peacefully.
Health: Being healthy is more than being free of illness; it is feeling a sense of well being, it is being energetic and zestful in carrying on with work, family, and social activities.
Hobby: A simple hobby can offer many hours of fine amusement, sometimes becoming a money earner for the hobbyist. Stamp, coin, or antique collecting, sewing, gardening, carpentry, writing–the list is limitless. No one needs to be bored ever with all the opportunities for a good hobby. I enjoy writing which I do every day. One day I may even publish one of my pieces for others to enjoy and profit from reading it.
Honesty: It is a virtue we like to see in others, but in ourselves we’re often blind to it.
We admire honest people like Honest Abe; but honesty is expected from us by those who want to control us, for example our parents.
Honor: An excess of honor results in the sin of pride; pride with humility suits me better.
Some people will lay down their lives in a duel or war to defend their honor; I tend to be more flexible than that if I can get away with it. It’s not for me to say, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”
Humility: True humility is not a pretense, but a sense of proportion regarding my status in the world and the extent of my ability. We all appear like ants from a distance, even the greatest among us, rulers, kings, and emperors.
Humor: Occasional humor allows me to live with myself by laughing at my foibles.
Nothing is better for my spirit than a great, hearty, honest, and wholesome laugh, especially at my own eccentricities.
Independence: A secure income from assets allows me to enjoy independence from others for my livelihood and be content in a simple life. Even better is independence from money and the services of others, living on my own land and with my own skills.
Individuality: In some societies the individual has less importance than in America or Europe; the tribe or nation is of paramount value and the individual is simply a unit of the tribe, more readily used for the needs of the group than in America.
I consider myself primarily as an individual with due respect to society. I could live alone quite happily, me with the eternal Life Force.
I can imagine myself floating alone in space in a suit or capsule drifting in the void, a world on its own, but with the Life Force in me. I believe I will be placid and content even with my oxygen reserves getting depleted rapidly; I am in the same situation now on earth, tick-tock, tick-tock, the clock moving me to the dissolution of my body.
Industry: Like Benjamin Franklin, be always employed with something worthwhile, saving time, and cutting off all unnecessary activity. Never kill time; time is the stuff of living.
Innovation: It is more rewarding than safe stagnation with the same things and thoughts.
Integrity: It is the quality of being honest, whole, and straight in thought and action, avoiding ambivalence.
Investment: Invest your savings in productive businesses that serve people well and employ needy workers. Avoid high risk enterprises; leave those to investors who like to gamble.
Knowledge: All knowledge is valuable, but some facts are more universal and more useful than others. Abstract knowledge appeals to me, yet concrete knowledge is closer to the senses, appealing as an experience, and essential in applying abstract concepts to invention.
Knowing the truth empowers me to organize things towards greater order and beauty.
Justice: I want justice for myself, even more so for others. Your might doesn’t make you right.
Can I support justice for others when my own interests are opposed to it? That is the crucial test for my conscience. Can I grant justice to animals? Do they at least deserve my respect and humane treatment? They do.
Every member of our society should have equality of opportunity, fairness in courts, and freedoms of speech, sexual orientation, movement, and employment. We should also consider granting some justice to our animal relatives, even to plants in our habitat.
Land: Possessing land with animals and plants goes beyond the utility of land for producing food. We have a mystical connection with the land and its creatures, which explains why some wealthy families buy millions of acres for enjoyment and preservation.
Even a small piece of land with flowers, bushes, and trees is of value to me—a garden next to the house.
Lawfulness: I choose to adhere to the laws of my society, even if sometimes I find a law irrational or wrong; eventually the legislators will correct their mistake.
Leadership: I am prepared to lead if I am best qualified for the job in my group; if not, I am ready to follow. Leadership is a primeval function in humans, elephants, wolves, and chickens.
Devotion to a leader is bred in us from times when a good tribal leader tipped the scales for life rather than death.
Leaders frequently claim to be fathers or mothers to their followers, calling them their children.
A leader may pose as the father, mother, or identity of a nation. Louis XIV of France said: “I am the state.” Queen Elizabeth I of England: “I am married to England.”
A great leader is bathed in heavenly light in the eyes of followers. Often leaders end up with an exaggerated idea of their importance, like Alexander, Napoleon, Henry Ford, and Hitler. “Hail, Caesar, those who about to die salute you.”
Great people want mausoleums, monuments, or pyramids for their bodies. I say, just put my ashes in the earth. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”
Leaders like parades and triumphs. They display their image for the admiration of all with paintings, sculptures, and other television. Let my image fade and the ideas I admire shine.
Smart and successful people are apt to start life with big egos, egos which grow after each success until they explode. Temper your ego with proper humility.
Loyalty: Leaders demand loyalty from their followers in order to be effective. Loyalty was part of the code of chivalry in feudal Europe. In Japan, loyalty was one of the eight virtues of the samurai bushido code.
The purpose of leadership and loyalty is the success and prosperity of the group; if not, I’m prepared to transfer these appointments elsewhere with due notice.
Loyalty is the price we pay to keep our job or spouse.
Longevity: Longevity has its merits. I can accomplish goals which would be impossible for me without a long life. Yet, more important than a long life is the quality of each day of work and enjoyment.
Love: If one is alive, it’s never too late in life for love and romance.
Maximum utilization: I will achieve more in life with a maximum utilization of all the resources at my disposal. For long stretches I have allowed some of my resources to stay fallow, such as education and training or bank deposits.
Meaning: We all seek meaning in our lives, searching for the values which make us feel alive, successful, and happy.
Meditation: It is valuable in itself outside of any benefits it gives. In meditation I hear my inner voice or conscience that guides my steps; yet I must submit this guidance to critical thinking with my conscious mind.
Meditation could be the way to achieve contentment and union with God in spirit, enabling me to withstand any of life’s vicissitudes, loss of health, fortune or loved ones, even aging and death.
I tend to be more meditative rather than active. I am apt to spend much time thinking, planning, organizing, and preparing before taking action; I need to take more actions to solve my problems more promptly.
Meditation can lead to destructive thoughts; I must guide it carefully with my conscious mind, as I guide my actions in the outside world.
Merit: I remember the merit badges I strived so hard to get as a boy scout, badges recognizing excellence in particular skills; I still seek merit badges from the public, but not as feverishly now.
Moderation: As in chemistry, let everything you use be in the proper amount and for the proper time so that you function at your best for the rest of your life.
Money: The value of money is proportional to the lack of it for basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, warmth, and medical care. John D. Rockefeller, Sr., however, had an unlimited appetite for it. I balance the acquisition of money against other pursuits of importance to me and the world.
Openness: It is a complex of character traits: imagination, artistic sensitivity, attentiveness to feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. I possess openness to a degree but I desire more of it.
Order: Order or organization is essential to living and a product of living. I prefer order to chaos as long as I live and love. I will not allow any dislike or hatred displace my preference for order. I shall have a place and a time for everything and everything in its place and time.
Living things create order in the universe, opposing entropy.
Living means putting things in greater order, reducing chaos and entropy in my environment.
Artistic objects contain order of a high form.
Occasionally, we disturb an existing order or arrangement to clear the ground for new forms, a process known as creative destruction, like an exploding supernova supplying heavier elements for the creation of new planets.
We can do works that create order or negative entropy, reducing chaos in the world. Any useful structure does that, such as buildings, machines, social systems, computer programs, and legal codes.
Patience: I can accomplish nothing of great value unless I exercise patience and persistence. I can be as patient and persistent as needed to accomplish my life’s goals.
Patriotism: I feel patriotism for Greece, my country of birth, and America, my chosen country; in either case, I will not say, “My country right or wrong.”
Generally, I follow the principle that my family is above myself in importance, our community above our family, our nation above our community, humankind above the nation, the biosphere above humankind, and sentient life in the universe, God, above all.
Peace: Although fighting can be exciting and profitable if I can win, I prefer peace and tranquility. I admire non-violence though I am not always capable of it.
Personal growth: I am dedicated to continuous personal growth and improvement, kaizen for myself.
Plants: They are sensitive and have feelings; they respond to kindness and care. We need them for our survival on earth for the oxygen they produce and for the food in their seeds, fruits, and roots. I eat plants only, trying not to damage them unduly.
Pleasure: I try to find pleasure in whatever I need to do, but I don’t chase pleasure without regard to usefulness.
Pleasure should tread after purpose.
If I’m sure of what’s right, I do it even if it’s painful and avoid it if it’s pleasurable.
Pleasure falls far below happiness, which is a much broader and more responsible feeling of contentment and tranquility.
Pleasure as a goal in life is a dead end, leading only to addictions and deterioration.
I aspire to create beauty or discover truth, not to fill my belly or to pleasure my skin.
Those who stay on Pleasure Island too long soon grow a tail, long ears, and bray.
Politeness: It is always apt, even if you’re hurting somebody or somebody is hurting you.
Popularity: Teenagers and politicians crave for popularity; popularity means very little to me.
Positive mental attitude: Many motivators praise a positive mental attitude, looking at the bright side; I prefer a constructive attitude for myself, looking at what I can do best with a problem without banking on a positive outcome or fearing a negative one.
Power: It is neither good nor bad, but it is a tool for advancing my values. Truly great power may corrupt people, blowing up their egos out of proportion, with catastrophe as the result. But if I have extinguished my ego with proper humility, power will not corrupt me.
Practicality: It is a character trait I did not possess when I was younger, but with advancing years, necessities stamped it on me.
Preservation: The preservation of our planet is a top priority for mankind: the preservation of forests, natural habitats, clean oceans and soils, and a pure atmosphere for us and other living things to breathe. Protecting the ecosystem is more important than our species preservation.
Privacy: I respect the privacy of others and I expect them to respect mine, especially government and business organizations.
Problems: All our lives, from birth to the end, we face problems, tests, and challenges to overcome, with old age and dying the final test before being admitted back into the fold of God. Problems are good if I can manage them without getting discouraged. Solving problems is fascinating and keeps me from getting bored.
Progress: It is not what is touted to be, not greater wealth, not material possessions or tinsel and glitter, but learning, understanding, and adapting for joy, peace, and happiness.
Prosperity: Most of us desire prosperity, wealth, and possessions for ourselves and our communities, but we need to set limits to these things and avoid devoting too many years or resources, personal and environmental, to them.
Punctuality: It is achievable if I can plan ahead with a margin of safety to arrive at my destination on time.
Quality: It is that all important excellence that should enter every aspect of my life and govern my actions when I produce something for my own use or for sale.
Reason: Reason is the ultimate arbiter of everything.
We humans have evolved in Nature or are endowed by God with the supreme faculty of reason.
What is reason? It is that faculty that allows me to see the folly of some of my excessive passions.
Reason tells me what is the utility of a value I pursue; how it will affect me or others, and what is its intrinsic worth without considering its effects.
When I’m inclined to assume a particular value in my living I examine this value carefully and using my reason to determine whether it’s worth pursuing, to want extent, and for how long.
Reason is judgment of what is best in what I can do and what is second best, and so forth.
Reason guides me to choose values according to their importance. I can then apply my faculty of the will to execute my resolutions.
Reason tells me to moderate any interest or passion to keep it in proportion to other things I value.
Reason dictates that I take each of my interests, passions, and other values in the right proportion to my overall system of guidance.
I am a logical machine deciding how to act and how to feel, with due regard for my natural sentiments, such as love or antipathy, arising spontaneously, but I keep these emotions under control at all times.
Rebellion: A rebel opposes a leader because of lack of respect or because the rebel wants to be leader. I tend to go my own way, becoming neither a follower nor a rebel.
Recreation: After working long hours or being bored by necessary routines, I need a bit of recreation to re-create my spirit. Indulging in some addictive activity, like movies, fancy dining, pulp fiction, gambling, or casual sex, is at best escapism, not recreation.
True recreation is an activity which renews your enthusiasm for work and living, which rests your body and mind, rebuilding your energy reserves for greater effort.
Recognition: People thirst for recognition of their work and service from their fellows or employers. They like prizes too. I only care for the approval and recognition of my own conscience.
Rectitude: That is the virtue of doing the right thing at the right time—sometimes conflict of interest makes this virtue very difficult, but not impossible. Do what will cause the least damage; do something.
Regularity: Regular times for eating, sleeping, resting, and working make for greater efficiency, but don’t be a slave to regularity when the situation demands it. Afterward, return to your beneficial routines.
Relaxation: I need and want relaxation when tension goes on for too long in my work or social life, relaxation that goes to every nerve and muscle in my body.
Religion: It is an organized form of faith, such as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam—and all the sects in these religions. Each religion teaches and dictates somewhat different ethics, devotions, ceremonies, and celebrations.
Religious dogmas that contradict one another in various faiths cannot all be true; either some dogmas are false or all are false. I can skip over these dogmas.
Religious dogmas are like legislated statues or codes; ethics, morals, values, and aesthetics are like case law–growing from experience and myriads of decisions by experts and the populace.
All major religions praise charity, compassion, kindness, pity towards the unfortunate, forgiveness, and cooperation. I can accept such teachings.
“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” but in all nations certain groups practice revenge. I reject revenge; it’s better to appeal to higher authority to settle a wrong and obtain justice.
Our charity should not encourage more overpopulation, which ironically is the biggest threat to life on earth, together with excessive urbanization, commercialization, and industrialization.
We get our particular religious faith from our parents as a rule, together with our taste for certain foods. When we get older we may adopt the thinking of our peers, but we never completely forget parental teachings.
The faith to which I subscribe includes all the values I find worthwhile, including some from different religions which are not contradictory but harmonious.
I greatly admire the teachings of Islam, submission and service to God, teachings revealed to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. I would include other important prophets, such as Socrates, Buddha, Laozi, and Confucius among our teachers of values.
A universal religion for all humanity would include all of the insights our great prophets have garnered in their meditations and none of the dogmas in contention between religions. Such a religion would have the task of persuading people to be more tolerant of the opinions of others and less fanatical in their own beliefs.
As the arts have evolved to be freer, less constrained, and rigid, so have religions to a lesser degree.
Those dogmatic principles which clerics use to stir up conflicts among religious people are never settled and are not worth adopting. I like Hinduism’s free-wheeling ways because they allow me to choose any form of worship for God’s myriad manifestations.
Should I subscribe to the Hindu belief in reincarnation? I am not in the habit of believing something is true when I have no evidence to support my belief. But we have some indications of reincarnation in the behavior of very young children and the rare talents of geniuses.
Every religion is the accumulated wisdom or folly of prophets, clerics, and their scribes. If I want to be a man of good sense, I need to separate the wisdom from the folly before I study and adopt any religious ideas.
Some people, like John Wilkes Booth, experience the feeling that God guides their hands in action, performing life saving surgery or killing someone they feel is evil. It is likely they are suffering from delusion.
All religions are subject to errors, the same as scientific disciplines.
Both science and religion devise models to make predictions, science about the behavior of inanimate objects and religion about the behavior of humans.
We are running out of time in advancing religion to the same level as science, technology, and industry before our abuse of these makes us extinct.
We are advancing in religion. Our ethics have evolved since the time when people sacrificed children to their gods; today we look upon such actions with some disapproval.
We no longer burn heretics at the stake to save their souls as often as we did in the past.
Religion and science are symmetrical: science looks outwards for knowledge, religion inwards.
Science is about knowing, religion about wanting. Science is learning how the world is; religion is choosing how the world should be.
Can we develop the mathematics of religion, a calculus of values? Beginning with the principle that values support the survival of life, we can calculate the amount of contribution each of our values makes to survival and the effect of an entire complex of values on life.
Bertrand Russell defended his thesis in “Why I am not a Christian” by saying that our values and ethics must come not from religion but from inside ourselves.
The beliefs expounded by the great prophets all came from inside these mystics.
Mystics encounter a powerful being inside their minds, the One, the Source, Lord, the Universal Mind, Cosmic Intelligence, Life Force, or the Compassionate One, the Godhead, the Creator in a transcendent experience going beyond ordinary reality.
It’s difficult to see the compassionate nature of the Creator in all the random suffering, disasters, and cruelty of our world, but compassion is there in that nothing is really lost forever; like a super nova star, it is returned eventually to the universe somewhere.
Mystics tend to believe that the messages they receive are free from error; unchanging, and carved in stone; but the messages are filled with static noise.
When prophets believe they have received the final word of God, they signal the end of their usefulness to society.
Psychiatrists interpret dreams and other outpourings from the subconscious mind to find cures for psychic traumas; similarly, specialists should interpret the mutterings of people in a trance to derive something of value.
Encounters with God fill the mystic with awe, and sometimes boundless terror. I have had no mystical experiences filled with fear.
I remain calm in the face of God’s overwhelming splendor and might. In a trance, I have no tendency to shake, speak in tongues, or dance around.
God could be the total consciousness of all sentient beings in the universe, or a fifth force of physics, activating all living things.
The nuclear forces, strong and weak, act inside the atom; the Life Force acts inside the spirit.
I don’t see the fifth force as a personal God, caring and compassionate towards me and other humans. He bestows benefits to all living entities without any preferential treatment for any species. It’s up to me to earn my survival and the survival of those I love with my share of the life force.
The experience of an alternate reality in meditation is sometimes a hallucination. Test any beliefs that emerge as to soundness with your own judgment and the judgment of those you respect.
People in deep meditation may receive enlightenment, feeling that they’re one with whole universe; they conclude that they have a profound insight. They don’t. Our bodies are part of the physical universe, but our minds are separated from the outside world inside our skulls.
Our minds can have an effect on the outside events indirectly only, through our hands and other organs connected to instruments, tools, and machines.
How do we test the validity of religious statements on ethics and values? We do it with much effort, reflection, and consultation among experts, the same as in science.
Religion and science are not in conflict unless one intrudes into territory of the other.
Religion gets into trouble when it attempts to explain natural phenomena through revelation, as in Genesis. Evolution is a better theory; an up-to-date religion does not challenge the theory of evolution regarding our bodies, a scientific theory supported by an immense amount of evidence and by common sense. God did not create our bodies but our spirits, which are also evolving with His help.
Old religions failed when priests tried to appease the gods in the face of natural disasters. In the past, people were more helpless than we are. They prayed at sea to Poseidon to keep tempests away and favorable winds to blow, and in a storm they begged Zeus to hold back his lighting. Benjamin Franklin offered us better protection from lighting with new knowledge about electricity and his invention of the lightening rod.
Praying to God in our meditations, we may still get help from our subconscious in exploring the universe and devising new and powerful machines for our survival. That’s mind over matter, but indirectly.
If properly conditioned, our minds can directly cause our organs to function more efficiently. Unlike things outside of us, our organs are interconnected and made up of sister cells, sharing the same genes; hence the placebo effect.
Nature created all the order in the physical world and all the chaos in equal measure. God created all living things and humans, using evolution, and living things increase order in the physical universe.
Religion fails me when it tries to explain the physical world, but science cannot give me ethical guidelines because it deals with facts and logic.
Can we develop a religious method comparable to the scientific method? Can we ever compound values and ethics to which we can all agree after calmly discussing the issues as scientists do? Yes, and I’d like to contribute to this discipline, call it axiatics.
Science and technology succeeds because they are self-correcting–they evolve. Religion can also evolve if theologians open their minds to opinions they oppose.
Science questions Nature outside our minds to get answers that we can all accept as true; religion similarly should question God in the mind to discover true values and ethics. We must agree on the validity of the answers or discard them. The validity of an ethic depends on its usefulness for survival.
What is the source of our inner voice or conscience is a subject for debate. Sigmund Freud and other psychiatrists ascribe conscience to our subconscious mind which absorbed various dictates from parents and others when we were very young and impressionable; these admonitions we received are forgotten by the conscious mind, but remain in the subconscious and guide our behavior.
The subconscious stores all sorts of memories which don’t float up to the conscious mind, but still guide our beliefs and behavior; some thinkers ascribe our sentiments to gods, demons, or a cosmic consciousness.
In science we pose questions to outer nature and seek answers from nature using experiments and observations; we test the answers and ask other scientists to test them as to their predictive power and utility.
An experiment by one group of scientists provides results which other groups of scientists should be able to duplicate, otherwise the results are invalid, as with cold fusion. The same method should apply to religious findings.
In religion, we pose questions to our inner nature and seek answers from our subconscious self, the Self, or God, observing events in our imagination and experimenting in our behavior. We test the answers to see whether they lead to creativity, happiness, and success in surviving, and whether the answers enable us to predict our own behavior and that of our fellows, including other living things. We compare our results with those of other researchers in the field of religion and come to a consensus with them as to the validity of our religious propositions or theories.
Answers we get from the Delphi Oracle are often ambiguous, but so are answers from Nature. Ambiguity should lead to further search for the resolution of ambiguities.
Scientists are often in great disagreement about scientific theories, but they don’t usually cause the shedding of blood as religious leaders do. Scientists focus on facts, not emotional issues.
Science is not as clear cut as laymen tend to believe. Scientists frequently make errors or offer biased results, not giving us the whole picture of a phenomenon. Truth about a natural phenomenon emerges painfully, laboriously, and slowly; the truth scientists uncover peering outwards is always incomplete. So is a religious truth as revealed by introspection.
Religious revelations are always incomplete and patchy. Jesus said, I have come not to destroy your faith but to add to it. We should be looking for new revelations from every generation of mystics, such as Muhammad and Meister Eckhart, rather than getting bogged down in what was prophesied in past ages.
Religion is non-rational, sometimes becoming irrational. I have to be wary not to acquire fallacious ideas from religion. A fallacy is an error in thinking which results from the violation of the rules of logic, rules formulated to work unfailingly.
Value judgments often involve ethical issues. Religion is a main source of values for most people and prophets instruct us what to value. A sound value leads to good things for me and others.
Jesus said we shall know true prophets from false ones by examining their fruits, the consequences of their teachings.
The first five commandments from Moses instruct us to honor God and our parents. God is the life-giving spring and our parents were His instruments in giving us life.
The last five of the Ten Commandments spell out our social duties.
God represents all our greatest ideals: wisdom, might, glory, compassion, knowledge, immortality, and presence everywhere.
It does no harm to appeal to my Divine ideal vision for help in prayer and ask for guidance on what values to pursue in my life.
Resourcefulness: You can always come up with another approach to solving a problem if time constraints allow.
Resolution: I resolve to do what I should do and do promptly what I have resolved.
Respect: I choose to respect the dignity of every sentient being and demand the same respect for myself from others.
Responsiveness: I will respond to the pleas of others for help to the extent I am able to do so.
Results: When I accept a service from people I look at the results of their efforts, not their peculiar way of getting these results.
Safety: A prime consideration in what I do or receive is safety, but I don’t look for perfect safety in anything.
Sanity: This is different from mental health. It is an ideal condition of the mind that no one can fully achieve.
The insane and the fanatics are like you and I, except that they stretch their notions way out of proportion to the situation. They tend to believe that what they imagine is real because they desire it to be so.
I strive to be sane and rational every moment of my life, and don’t get discouraged when I stumble in my thinking or actions.
Satisfaction: I desire satisfaction for myself but even more so for my customers.
Saving: Save everything except clutter.
Science: The search for knowledge and truth with the scientific method of theory, experimentation, measurement, and acceptance or rejection of a theory.
When scientists becomes convinced nature is exactly as they conceive it, they’re entering the attic of knowledge.
Disciplines such as economics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and politics are rightly called soft sciences. To the extent these disciplines urge people towards virtuous or ethical actions these disciplines are biased and unscientific. Carl Marx was not an economist; he was an ethicist.
Scientific findings can be useful in debunking some values and ideals, but cannot create them.
Science observes, theorizes, predicts, and explains human behavior but does not provide motivations.
We don’t get much help in understanding sentiments and motivations from scientific measurements, numbers, or abstract mathematics. We can survey opinions and apply statistics to the results, but the statistics do not guide us how to choose values or adopt sentiments.
Scientific findings are neither good nor evil. Scientists themselves may turn out to be mad or evil like any other human, but less likely to be so because scientists tend to be objective and impassive.
Scientific experiences are the result of curiosity, wonder, awe, pleasure, enthusiasm, excitement and love, but do not cause these emotions.
A scientist may be motivated by curiosity about a phenomenon, but curiosity is not a part of science unless it is an object of study. Looking at the night sky I may be filled with wonder or awe, but wonder is not scientific.
The scientific method says nothing about emotions, but speaks only of objectivity, keen observation, and impartiality towards the facts.
I survive largely because I’m curious about the world like a cat; but my survival is not the purpose of science. The purpose of science is to understand and explain all of nature for the survival of the human species and the entire ecosystem.
Scientists make fools of themselves when they attack religion and attempt to explain values and ethics scientifically.
Scientists may apply measurement and mathematical reasoning to human motivation, taste, ethics, and aspirations; quantitative methods are used in economics, biology, politics, and psychology. Surveys of human behavior, questionnaires, and polling combined with statistics can tell us a great deal about human preferences and religious experiences. These methods cannot supply motivations for anything.
Anthropology illuminates what are our hereditary tendencies and propensities, what we enjoy doing best. Since hunting and gathering are activities our ancestors did for millions of years, it’s not surprising that many people today love hunting, fishing and gathering foods from the wild, if they have the opportunity.
We evolved to survive in social groups, hunting bands, tribes, and villages in the last ten thousand years or so with the advent of agriculture and the domestication of animals. People still appreciate the community of close neighbors and friends in church, club, workplace, or farming areas.
With hunting and gathering essential to the survival of the tribe, humans evolved as territorial animals, defending their habitat against competitors, other humans or animals, such as the wolf, tiger, or lion.
Farming for grains and beans for thousands of years, we humans developed our intense dislike for crows, rodents, and insects, which would appropriate the food we produced with our labor on our territory.
Science examines the universe outside my eyes; introspection examines my inner self, a universe of feeling, imagination, and motivation–the province of religion, philosophy, and literature.
Security: I seek a secure life for myself and my loved ones, but ultimately nothing is completely secure.
Self-reliance: As much as possible, I like to be self-reliant for all my needs; but I don’t refuse help from my fellows when I must have it.
Sex: Is it a means or an end? When I discovered adult sex I thought this was indeed life’s sweetest reward and considered devoting my life to sex; but I also wanted a family, the end to which sex is a means.
The allure of sex certainly fades with aging; the old become indifferent to it and incapable of it like small children.
Sex cannot be a life-long preoccupation except as a scientific subject. Dr. Kinsey, here I come.
Sincerity: Sincerity is saying what you really mean and meaning what you say. Sincerity is a virtue which people appreciate as much as kindness, which is sometimes in conflict with sincerity.
Sincerity is appealing to those who don’t know what it frequently masks.
Service: Service to people and other living things is a chief source of meaning in my life.
We get satisfaction and earnings from serving our community. If we’re very good at what we do and put our services on a sound business basis, we can also make a fortune and become famous.
Simplicity: Something rarely appreciated today in our consumer society where new features and gadgets are promoted strongly.
Silence: It is better to be pleasantly silent than to talk idly about trivial matters.
Skill: I love developing different skills, small or large, so I may cope with new challenges in my life and work; I admire seeing great skill in others.
Solitude: Occasionally, what I most desire is solitude, being away from everybody in a natural setting, seeking inner peace.
Some people find contentment in solitude and meditation; others prefer crowds, excitement and interactions with other people. I prefer solitude most of the time and only occasionally a social event.
Speed: Speed is for the young who can afford to stumble and get up; for the rest of us, staying on our feet is more important.
Spiritualism: It is the belief in spirits. Spiritualism is respect for our deepest feelings and aspirations with faithful adherence to the ideals represented by God.
Sports: Sports and games are conflicts conducted with rules. If we’re active in sports we train our bodies and minds. Spectator sports are recreational only and don’t interest me much.
Stability: Don’t reach higher until you are stable and secure where you stand.
Standardization: Standardize your responses to life’s challenges with good habits, but be ready to adapt quickly when circumstances demand change.
Status: People put too much stock on status, each one wanting a little throne higher than somebody else; his highness or her highness is no higher than you or I. We spend too much effort trying to impress others, when God is not impressed with us.
Story: Everybody has a story to tell from their own experience. Stories capture our imagination through empathy for the hero or heroine. Dramas, novels, comedy, poetry, cinema, and theater all embody stories to touch our hearts and inspire us. A great story motivates us to follow the example of the hero, as the Iliad and Achilles inspired Alexander the Great to seek glory, not a long life.
Success: That is what ultimately decides the value of my efforts; “I tried,” doesn’t cut it for me.
We all want to succeed and win in a competition, but for us to win the other side must lose.
A win-win proposal is invariably offered by someone who wants to hoodwink us.
In games of chance, or investments, the most skilled players who know and apply statistics and game theory, usually win; but the people who control the game always win.
If I play a game against a better player than I, I expect to lose but to gain by learning how to play more effectively; easy opposition allows me to win but does not teach me anything.
Survival: It is the ultimate ideal and the cause behind all virtues for everything that lives. Of course, I am referring not only to my own survival, which is very transient, but to the survival of my family, nation, species, and biosphere.
I must evaluate every ideal I hold for its contribution to survival and rank every interest I pursue and every activity in which I engage on the basis of its importance to survival.
Without survival, I cannot pursue any goal; without survival we have no future.
If an activity does not contribute to survival in some way, it has no value.
An activity is a virtue only in the service of survival; that is its utility. Something is utilitarian or useless. Nothing has value in itself, not beauty, not truth, nor knowledge, nor a person, not anything.
We can deeply appreciate and enjoy art, the explorations of science, the joys of social intercourse, and sex, provided that these activities serve the cause of survival.
Systemization: To operate successfully, an individual or a business needs a system: written manuals and actions specifying goals, policies, and procedures, changing but always in place.
Talent: Talent is a native ability to do a task extraordinarily well; it’s in the genes, the inner self, and one is born with the seed of this ability. I cannot acquire talent but I can cultivate whatever talent nature has given me to its fullest extent.
Talent is magical. It’s what I do best, what I enjoy the most, what comes easily to me, what allows me to serve others well and brings me monetary and psychic rewards.
Talent, combined with character and inspiration, determines success in a field of endeavor, so follow your best talent in your career.
Teamwork: Rarely are worthwhile deeds accomplished without teamwork by two or more people. A leader plays a big role, but the team does the job.
Temperance: I seek moderation in food or drink, but also in everything I consume, taking just enough but no more.
Thrift: I have always been thrifty having grown up without many luxuries. As I have acquired some means, I have not yet learned to make sufficient use of my resources for my enjoyment or the enjoyment of my loved ones.
But thrift is good for all families. Instead of ostentatious consumption to impress neighbors and friends, affluent families should be thrifty as long as they have taken care of their basic needs and comforts.
Excess family funds should be invested in socially responsible companies, and if these investments are profitable making a family wealthy, then community needs exist for gift giving: to the poor and unfortunate, the hungry and homeless, the sick and injured, family planning clinics to curtail the birth of unwanted children, hospitals, libraries, schools, universities, museums, zoos, arboreta, art centers, performance centers, orchestras, medical and other scientific research centers.
We need to be thrifty with the resources of our community and nation too, and the limited resources of the planet as a whole, recycle everything, stop polluting, and conserve the earth for our children and future generations. The earth is also home to millions of species of plants and animals, which may give rise to other important beings besides humans. We should allow them to survive too.
Thrift is good for the earth.
Timeliness: Order means everything in its place, but also everything in its time. Do things when due, not too early or too late.
Tolerance: I try to practice tolerance towards everybody and everything; I am too aware of my own defects to criticize the faults of others. I usually have the option of avoiding those I find too objectionable.
Tradition: The traditions I uphold—such as celebrating birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and July Fourth–enrich my life and the lives of my family.
Tranquility: No mental state is sweeter to me than tranquility. Let others enjoy their exciting adventures and disturbances, but give me peace and quiet to meditate. I refuse to be upset about anything, not even my own end.
Travel: I just like to travel where I need to go; videos take me everywhere else with the skill of cinematographers.
Trust: I trust no one totally, even myself. I trust enough to get things done with the help of others, but I’m always alert to the possibility of betrayal.
Truth: To a large extent what is true depends on a point of view, yet truth as an ideal is worth pursuing, even though it often elusive.
Unity: God is one and so is the universe; we divide things into parts to study successfully a thing or two in a lifetime, but we cannot neglect the connections among the parts.
Utility: I subscribe to a utilitarian philosophy of life: what is useful is true. Bertrand Russell objected to accepting as true what is useful in religious thought for human conduct, that is, the morality that holds a society together. He said that arguing for religion because of its utility was intellectually dishonest—something was true or false, and if false we should reject it for our store of knowledge.
I say, much of what we do and think in science (especially medicine) is based on pragmatic or practical reasons, because it is useful and it works. What works is often linked to what is real but not apparent to our reason or common sense, such as the quantum mechanics of particles and waves.
Any device or idea that helps us make useful predictions about human behavior is worthwhile, even though we may not understand how it works exactly, such as meditation, yoga, or prayer.
Victory: I desire victory in my battles, but I accept defeat with the same equanimity as I receive victory.
Will: I can attest to the existence of the will from personal experience, although neuroscience has not discovered its locus in the brain as yet.
I know that my will, like other faculties, gets stronger if I exercise it and weaker if I don’t regularly stress it with challenges.
My will gets stronger when I undertake a difficult or painful task and I persist until the task is done; or, when I refrain from doing something very pleasant, but harmful to my goals.
If I could activate my will under all challenging circumstances, I would have immense power to change my ways and potentially change my world.
We may admire the will; we may respect ideas. Like Schopenhauer, we may see the world as will and idea. Thinkers produce ideas inside, which become pieces of the world outside with the exertion of the will.
Wisdom: I have always sought to know what is right and virtuous; I will continue to do so as far as aging will allow me.
True wisdom is the knowledge of how foolish I can be.
Women: I admire women and I am lucky to have fathered two of them. Women are equal to men, just smaller. In many societies women were treated as possessions, similar to animals, to be used as men felt they should be, to slave in the fields or kitchen, to bear children, or to serve men’s carnal desires.
It’s not surprising that societies which continue to demean women are backward because they make poor use of half of their population.
Wonder: A sense of wonder under the stars and love for my people are a sure cure for despondency.
Work: Any honest work which serves society can be a source of pride and it is far better than idleness. Toilet cleaners or garbage collectors have my approval in calling themselves sanitation engineers.
Maybe I’m descended from apprentices or slaves, because I’d rather work just for my room and board rather than be idle. Work exercises and strengthens my faculties; idleness causes atrophy.
The personal machinery I control, all parts of my body and mind, evolved to work for survival, to produce things of value.
If I’m miserable, I’m less miserable working than idling.
My work serves others and may earn me money; idleness depletes my assets or the assets of those who provide for my living.
With my good work I make the world a more orderly and better place for myself and others, decreasing noise, chaos, and entropy in my physical and social environment.