Monthly Archives: February 2014

Futility and Power

I just finished a book called “War is a Racket” written by a Major General Smedley Butler in 1935. The book is a short critique of war and war profiteering in the years during and after World War I.

War is a Racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes”

This was a conversation going on almost 100 years ago. A conversation brought to the public by the most decorated marine in United States History. Still nothing changed.

Truth be told I am sure these same conversations were happening 1000 years ago.  I see this pattern again in again in almost every philosophical or political subject I take the time to study. History, it seems, is an unstoppable and constantly repeating cycle. We have no control.

Without Control: Finding Happiness With Self

It seems like the only sure thing we can do is to find happiness and justice within ourselves. To live life by our own code. To focus on the self, internally, rather than those things outside our own control. We have to make a conscious decision to live life and pursue our own paths of justice and righteousness.

Mankind taken as a whole is an average. A powerful combination of humanity’s natural inertia that cannot be stopped. That average tumbles along through the years and becomes history and is our future. A timeline of humanity constantly repeating and never straying far from a standard deviation. Repeated again and again, to some degree, in a never ending cycle. Some men rule, some are ruled, some people are good, others are bad. Ad infinitum.

Ultimately, we are the helpless subjects to the king of the inevitable force of history, but the rulers of our own state of mind. Futility and power.

On Purpose

Most of us would like to believe that we are here for a reason. That our life has meaning. Others have come to the realization that there is no such reason. That we are here by chance. Our consciousness a blessing of mother nature and infinite time.

And even if some of us are reasonable enough to admit that we have no supernaturally assigned destiny we still tend to believe that we make our own destiny – if we be so conceited to believe in such a thing. We believe, even if subconsciously, that our reason for existing is somehow of different value than our neighbors.

But if we are truly the creation of mother nature – star dust miraculously combined over billions of years – we must admit to ourselves there is no supernatural meaning behind it all. And if there is meaning, or purpose, it is only because we defined it ourselves.

If we are to conclude, rationally, that all meaning has been defined directly by other humans we must also conclude that each individual has the right to define their own purpose. And furthermore, in a cosmic sense, no one person’s purpose is any more correct or valuable than another person’s.

One person may chase money and fame. Another may dream after women and fancy cars. Yet another may dedicate himself to the cause of morality and the betterment of mankind. And while we, as humans, may arbitrarily define one better than the other it is all ultimately meaningless – until we decide for ourselves to give it meaning.

So it follows – if we define our own purpose and all purposes are cosmically equal – we can and should learn to be satisfied with any pursuit we so choose as long as it increases happiness and decreases suffering.

The ultimate goal: to maximize happiness and to minimize suffering. And the path for achieving this is no doubt different for every individual.

This should be comforting. Knowing that whatever we choose to do is equally as important as what anyone else chooses to do. Regardless of one person’s arbitrary assignment of one thing being more valuable than another.

We can happily work on model planes, write a silly blog, dedicate ourselves to family, or travel the world – and as long as our purpose ultimately increases happiness and decreases suffering – you have been successful.

On Contentment

I’ve always tried to live life with a purpose.  How I interpret what my purpose is changes from time to time, but I adjust and continue pursuing whatever goal I have in mind. That goal always existing on some distant horizon.

I define myself based on that never ending quest to fulfill my purpose. Sometimes I call it passion, preventing complacency, or just zeal for life. An unquenchable desire to learn and grow. Restlessness. Pride.

But another part of me knows that this feeling is directly opposed to true contentment. That I can never be truly satisfied unless I give up this type of passion, ego, and my lust for consumption (of knowledge and of things). This is difficult to accomplish since so much of how I define myself is linked to these desires.

So how does one balance being content without the guilty feeling of stagnation? Maybe it’s all just in your state of mind.