Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Alright, I have spent a few days on the next five verses of the Tao (46-50); and then I am taking a break to refresh my mind. I will add that the Tao is my favorite scripture for its humility, more than any religious text, and also for its beauty. The gospels lack the first, the dhammapada lack the second, the quran lacks either.
By the way, anybody who wants me to send the first 40 verses, send me a request and I will email them to you.
Daniel Christopher June
The world has Tao:
Racehorses are bridled to haul fertilizer.
The world lacks Tao:
War horses thrive in the countryside.
There is no greater calamity
There is no greater calamity
Then wanting more.
Therefore be content with contentment
And you’ll be content indeed!
Without stepping out your door
You can know the world
Without looking out your window
Tou can see the way of heaven
The more you travel
The less you know.
Thus the sage
Seek knowledge daily
And you’ll gain.
Seek Tao daily
And you’ll lose
And you’ll lose again.
Thus strive until you can’t strive.
Without action yet not without action
Conquer the world forever thus
The man of meddling affairs
Hasn’t the stuff for conquering worlds.
The holy man lacks a set mind
Thus everyone’s mind becomes one.
To the good I am good
The the bad I am also good
For virtue is excellent.
To the truthful I am truthful
The the liars I am also truthful.
For virtue is excellent.
The sage abides the world in peace.
Making the world universal in his mind,
The sage sees all people as his children.
From life comes death.
Three out of ten men are friends of life
Three out of ten men are friends of death
Three out of ten men are merely passing
One from the other.
Why is this?
Because they all live too intensely
But the remaining one in ten lives a good life.
He travels the land and fears no rhino or tiger.
Enters the battlefield without shield or sword
The rhino has no place to sink its horn
The Tiger has no place to set his claws
The soldiers have no place to press their blade.
Why is this?
Because he lacks an appointment with death.
Here is the beginning of my explication of the virtues I hold dear. After this I write on essay on all eight of them.
Every people that is a people is integrated. Character is the great integrator of a nation: those acts we specularize we also internalize. Man is from infancy the imitator. A few madstars escape this; the rest internalize and identify with stereotypes, consistencies, expectancies, with the ocean of directives living in each atom of public discourse.
Each nation tells stories that educate children through ideal characters and the virtues they embody. The Greeks were self-critical enough to not only formulate their virtues, but to also explicate them. Socrates evoked the four virtues of “Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice.” These were later called “cardinal” in the sense that everything swings on those four hinges. Aristotle explores these virtues, and the structure of virtue itself, in his Nichomachean Ethics. No nation or people has considered its own principles so thoroughly as the Greeks. Indeed, when Rome fell, Greece fell again—it wasn’t until the enlightenment that we regained this glory.
We inherit no set of cardinal virtues except from the Greeks. And here we must look closer. All sorts of understructures and interrelationships hum beneath them: fortitude is handling pains, temperance handling pleasures, prudence is doing what’s right for the self, justice what’s right for others; or, alternatively, Fortitude and Temperance concern moderation, whereas prudence and justice concern absolutes; etc. But ultimately we must realize that this table of virtues made sense to the Greeks—came from the flesh of the Greek heroes. Likewise, our virtues come first from our own muscles.
What distinguishes one people from another? Context helps. Why is Russia bleak not only in landscape but also in national temperament? Why do equatorial countries resemble each other as lax and tribal? Why are the countries which are given to four distinct seasons—including harsh winters—given also to the superiority of fierce will power?
Men do what they must to survive. These are the facts: we live here, and living here posits absolute demands upon us. If I am a desert dweller, I must be able to survive the heat. If winters attack our landscape, we must master them. This is why equatorial people tend to little advancement, whereas seasonal temperaments tend to capability and ingenuity. London, New York City, Paris—the cultural centers of the last two hundred years—share similar climates.
The basis of climate’s influence is the need of the individuals in the community. Need is primary. Sacrifice this, and the group dies. Simple as. The environmental context includes the peoples living there. Family is an environment too. All these demand attitudes, beliefs, personalities, and characters from us in order to
1) internalize the scene as we come to it as children, and
2) externalize ourselves into our scene as we mature into adults.
The American virtues are Independence, Optimism, Directness and Productivity. All four grow from the most important American political documents: the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; the Gettysburg address. All four are sung immaculate from the lips of the most important American poets: Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. All four are delineated through the minds of America’s most important philosophers: William James and John Dewey. All four are dramatized in America’s most important lives: Jefferson’s, Franklin’s, and Frederick Douglass’.
The four American virtues correspond to the four types of habit: independence of mind, optimism of heart, directness of speech, productivity of hands. And the complex foundations of our country necessitated them.
Each of us slips into his national temperament, and yet seeks his own private virtues. Vir is the reward for virtue. Each man is his own reward. What do I hope to gain from all my labors but an improved self? Good works do not get you into heaven; they show you are already there. We do good to achieve more self. Virtue is not its own reward. Self is the reward of action. Heart is the trophy we esteem. We must each seek our own virtues
My own morals expand from the American basics. The square for Independence, the triangle for Creativity, and the radiant circle for Pragmatism; the cycle box stands for Order, the bow and Arrow D stand for direction, the x pointing skyward for Optimism, the interlocked fingers for Commitment, and the W-V for Wriving, the study of life and literature, fed into writing and truth.
I create in all things
I pragmatize my actions
I structure simple order
I speak direct truth
I optimize every circumstance
I commit to my beloveds
I study and write my life
Virtues, not morals; principles, not rules. No rule can predict the full possibility of context. And so virtuosity is not obeying rules, but interpreting principles.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This is an essay I wrote back in 2002, and have since rearranged, qualified, and rewritten a few times – the latest this last month and again this week: so I think its in decent shape! It describes a character sketch of the Idius.
Reality rewards us better than ideals. What then is the ideal we will usurp? We all know the basic virtues of honesty, politeness, wit. Yet each of us has his specific ideal, personal to his temperament. Therefore, the ideal that I now present should be frisked but not embraced.
Now as for ideals, let us consider a story. Some aboriginals were introduced to Western culture. When they saw an airplane in the sky, they made no sense of it, and cared little. But when they saw an animal hauling a cart, they cheered. They had never thought of that! But it made so much sense! In the same way, our ideals are not the end all, but merely what we are capable of appreciating in our current state.
How to become ideal: A magician practices before mirrors and cameras constantly to hide cause from effect. He is graceful, easy, comfortable, charming. The musician practices her instrument continuously for years until it is not an expression of effort, but of grace. A poet writes his argument in the best form, constantly seeking cleaner words, better meter, sharper rhetoric, stronger description, and finally presents his poem like Minerva from his head. So let us be with the beautiful personality.
Ah the loveliest! He is simple, straightforward, unpretentious, with no painful doubts, no capacity for regret, no self consciousness, no lust. He has a lust for life. He is kind with no awareness that he is being kind, for the act spontaneously arises from the habits he has made. He acts from his nature, with no inner struggle. Quiet with his opinion yet inquisitive of others’. He is Bold. He is Unashamed. He is teachable, affectionate, intimate, and single minded. He is matter of fact, yet pained to state assumptions. He argues not to win, but to learn. He loses arguments as often as he wins them, for the sake of education. He is a stranger to anger, yet hates the hate worthy. He is active, creative, analyzes without effort, and deduces with ease. He leaves no feelings unresolved. He addresses all as equals whatever their true equality. He has become his ideal, so that he is no longer in doubt. He finds contentedness in every situation, and lacks an inner ball of tension. He argues within himself to learn, but only as a pose.
When he is insulted, he innocently ignores abuse, and cherishes criticism. He ignores the evil he cannot control.
He is essentially creative: every moment in life is opportunity for his will to move and make; he brings out the best in everybody by understanding what they are, and seeing their innate potential. He creates the friend and the friendship, creates his environment, creates his career, creates his wealth, creates his love, creates his goals, his plans, his triumphs.
He is only interested in excellence and greatness, and has no care or concern for anything else. What is small and humble bores him except for the traces of greatness he can glean.
He has the adamant will. For a broken will is useless, though a changed will can have charm. He never let's another decide for him.
He is moderate in moderation, for excess too profits.
He follows the dictum, "be likeable–don't think" in that he does not seem to analyze, being subtle.
He is like art. Art conceals itself. Beauty is apparently simple. His personality is a sigh, a song, a diversion, humming a child's tune with the complex machinery below its skin.
He is whole: he has united emotions with thinking with speech with action: the head, the heart, the lips, the hands.
He doesn't take seriously for long. He neither demonizes nor condemns, lacking such inclinations, but baptizes evil as good and beautiful.
He wouldn’t hurt a fly, but he would kill a mosquito.
He is inexhaustibly fertile, an eternal womb, always creating, always synthesizing his values into practice.
He does not think chastity, does not consider innocence, and does not say "pure." For he has slipped into this skin and can only look out. He is innocent of his own virtues. And yet he meditates on them.
He does not teach himself. How far from him to teach another!
He laughs without a tint of defeat or triumph, irony or anger. He is easily satisfied, yet finds great satisfaction in great things; is easily amused yet admires the genius of wit. He thinks like a man and sleeps like a child. He is too innocent to suspect ambiguous evils in others, yet freely faces the blatantly wrong. He does not hide his glance, but smiles. He has conformed his mind to truth, his actions to virtue, his heart to love, his play to art. Indeed, he is at one with truth, even in its vile aspects: cheek to cheek, breast to breast. He not only knows what is right, he loves what is right. He rejoices in rebuke, and delights in insult.
When he is faced with the educated, those who read commentaries and those who form institutions of religion, he laughs. He laughs and that laugh is guiltless, angerless, pitiless, noncondencscending, innocent.
He holds his head up, even in the rain.
He shrugs God from his left shoulder, and Fate from his right shoulder; his body does not tremble under the finger of circumstance.
He is unapologetic as the wind is unapologetic. He cannot comment as surely as he cannot remember. For to the ancient creed, "know thyself," he adds, "then forget thyself." He does not explain nor does he have to. Beauty is irreproachable. The innocent cannot be taught. He listens with interest to hear of new people, and when he meets them, he cuts through any value judgments he has heard, oblivious, and seizes the opportunity to commune. Even the disparaged man he seeks to meet.
He is grudgeless, yet quick to rebuke the friend who wrongs; angerless yet willing to reveal an injury done against him. He is patient, but actively patient, never wasting his moments in frustration.
He never states his beliefs, only acts, making his beliefs concrete and undeniable, clear and exact which nobody could misinterpret, but never explaining even to the one who questions.
He is practical in every panic. Right when he would doubt himself, he says instead that he is capable of a best solution. For every terror, for every horror, for every embarrassment, for every humiliation, there is a limited pain, and way to better it. There lies his focus. No matter what the disaster, what the loss, he remains practical and says, "yes, and the best solution I can formulate now is thus and such: so I act."
He is ambitious, and aims at the highest he can conceive; his goal is as lofty as possible, and his sustained effort is ease.
He is awake, ever awake, no slave to slumber, no idolater of idleness. He "performs his best, gaily putting his whole heart into his work." He is efficacious, hard working, and persistent.
He stands defenseless.
He says yes, yes by instinct, yes to everything. And not a yes despite himself, but a yes that is the fullness of his heart, which is a yes and a yes, always a yes, never a condemnation, never a frown, but a thorough yes to the real question. He says “Yes, and…”
He treats his own as if they are the most important persons in the world, and treats groups as if he himself is the most important person in the world.
He is lazy in all but a few things, a few great works to which he gives intense energy and devotion.
He is fully open, open in all things, in his disgust telling the other they are disgusting, in his admiration, telling others they are admirable. He is private, speaking his beautiful judgments only to beautiful ears. He says but the relevant word, and so spares his own opinion, his own beauty.
He writes and he speaks Vivoce, the living word: the letter lives! the fullness of the word is the eclipse of God, the Idius is the eclipse of God, the Idius is God, that grand shadowcaster, and say-changer.
When he picks up his guitar, he does not feel obligated to play his best. He plays what is timely. Sometimes he plays nothing at all. He sings aloud as he walks.
He never says of anything “I have lost it,” but only “Thank you life for lending it to me.”
He never says, “Oh holy holy holy,” but says, “The heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, know that they were created in jest, that jest called life.”
He doesn’t say, “He belongs who has belongings,” but treasures only a few things which best press his purpose.
He has never the sarcastic word, never the wit, never the anger, never the complaint, never the slightest doubt, never the brag, never the insult.
He says, “My joy: a librarian in a white dress! Our kiss is a bookmark in time.” For his type is not the popular type.
He was bathed in wine as an infant, and is still intoxicated with the will for excellence.
He is at peace, not rebelling. He does not dispute because he does not need to dispute. He knows everything.
He has not evolved over decades. Wars last for decades, naked certainty stands immediate.
He believes no preposition without first testing it in action. His beliefs live in his actions.
He always affirms: I am perfect to this instant. Rightness suffuses through me.
He is the Idius! Ah the Idius, the idiot genius. The Idius is the brightness of both skies: as the idiot, he is uncynical, guiltless, fearless, envyless, fretless; as the genius he is automatically analytical, unconsciously discerning, artistic and quick. He is the innocent.
His main goal in life is to bring out the best in his friends.
He is fearless and ready to challenge misfortune.
He has the eloquence of Shakespeare, the self Trust of Emerson, the nobility of Plutarch, the cleverness of Nietzsche, the simplicity of Jesus, and the practicality of Machiavelli.
He couldn't decide between king and harlequin, united the two as God, and committed it all to the instinct of animal, reasoning like a logician and worshipping life as a saint, he at last settled for the flowering of the Poet, being both idiot and genius.
He is surprised by the same beauty every time he sees her.
He lives like a child sings.
He is like modernistic architecture, simple in design, nonornamental, and without clutter. Clutter is the one thing he does not tolerate, but delights in eradicating. For the contrast is between simplicity and clutter. Complexity is a fullness of simplicity; clutter its opposite.
He speaks in an idiolect wrought through much poetry and thinking.
He has otherly ethereal detachment, like a guardian angel—oracular.
He strives none, self-criticizes none, fights none, loses none. Accusing none, sincere in all, needing her less, enjoying her more.
He seeks to deserve the crown of wisdom—a head of white hair, supporting his elderly with his youngly.
He is as a child who takes in his mother’s milk to mold his bones; so too does his genius take from society to mold his art.
He realizes his own truth. If one man fully realized what he knew to be true, he would be a God. Thus he is.
He seeks mutual perfection in his friendships, a sharpening of two knives across each other.
He is frank and polite: one the substance, the other the form.
He knows “coolness over kindness,” and so is coolly kind, never attached, never needing, never craving.
He maintains that mystique. He explains nothing.
He promises less than he will render, and renders more than he promises.
He always breaks his promises, but fulfills every other word, no matter the cost. For his true promise is his stray word.
He has “majestic calm and mature repose,” never shrill nor angry, never hating nor shouting, but in all things at peace. He is the truth, and learns from every man.
He doesn't take problems nor people seriously, no more than is polite, but after he has left, he does not think of the matters anymore. What has he to do with worries?
His muses are Uncertainty, Confusion, and Contradiction. To these, he works out a solution: art and science spring from these.
He speaks in terms simple enough to please an idiot, and sophisticated enough to perplex a genius.
He is oblivious of all that weighs down, all sarcasms, rude jokes, complaints, insults––he does not hear them nor can he. All that weighs down has no hand holds on him; his fur is slick as a seal's. Sensitive to depressions, yet no depressions reach him for he dismisses them, reviles them as depressives, and thinks no more on them. If he must dismiss fifteen friends as beneath him, he does so cheerfully. If he must break the heart of his lover who cannot love, he does so cheerfully. He does not cling to sentimentality, for this also weighs down. He does not anger, regret, fear, or hate, for these all weigh down. He does not demand, desire, nor beg, for these weigh down.
He feels every emotion to the fullness of its moment; sensitive to the meaning of each feeling in its unique place and time.
In this life, he is isolated. True friendship is difficult for him to find, for that requires equals, and equals are rare. Yet he is innocent, and may even entertain a sort of friendship, though it is not the tenderness of equality. If he does find a peer, he loves this man with all his strength, protecting him like the pupil of his eye.
As for that true independence, he is like a unicorn. This creature in his innocence shuns men and lives in the deep of woods, never permitting himself to be seen. And so the unicorn loves his solitary paths, reserving his beauty for the beautiful. We wear masks around men. We are obscure and ambiguous. Our words are strange, and so we whisper. Our truth is whole, and so we speak in part. Only an innocent can see us as unicorns––none else. Only a genius recognizes our actions as genius. To others we are common. We belong to the group, we are conformists, we are uninteresting, we are boring. For the world we are boring, and we are nothing. We offer nothing to the world except our implacable resolution to achieve our goals in front of them, if needs be, and in spite of them.
Oh the childhood innocence! Can we not return, for it is lost. And thus this adulterated frown. But the childlike state is guarded by no fiery sword. Yet nostalgia is to remember the innocent and forget the grit. He is innocent as the child cannot be. The child will not be innocent, but with his many fears he will lie and rebel. He is innocent as an angel cannot be. For the angel cannot fear for he has nothing to lose. Man, as a weak creature, is innocent in his smallness. With fragility, he has risk. This allows for hope and faith. And as adults, we face fear squarely. For death is no scorpion. "I will live fearlessly, and try, dying." We indeed accept the phrase "be therefore perfect," for it is time to grow up and stop carousing in excuses. We must become what we want to be and cease the games. The imbecile tongue says, "not yet," or "next week." Excuses are self-deceit.
And it happened that one night the Idius walked a dark sidewalk home. Three youths followed, and soon overcame him; before he could turn, they had tackled him to the ground. In his pockets they fetched forth his keys, his bus pass, his writing pad, and then they ran away. The Idius stood up, dusted himself off, held his head high, and walked back to his house, slowly and purposively, singing away the shadows.
He graces the cheek of love. Oh love! Greetings fair greeting! Erect like an angel, subtle as a bud, shy as a doe, with amber eyes and dulcet smile. She has a voice more arresting that harp song, and hair darker than silk. She is considerate and pleasant, sensitive and subtle! She does not care as a fool, but as a genius, is indeed a master of kindness, perfecting her kindness as a virtuoso does, continuously, daily, hours a day, studying the best teachers and multiplying her skills till her kindness is a seamless performance of beauty made instinct, an aria of ardor, flowing with all the naturalness that only art can find, a sonnet of motion, a love so fully love in all its meanings that the action can only be described as perfect.
To train an excellent personality, as perfection is bound to do, one cannot aim at too much. Consider the one who wishes a skill, to be a guitarist or a poet: "I shall be a hobbyist," and this requires a continual interest, regular practice, a love for the deed. "I shall be an expert," and this requires hours of devotion, at regular intervals, a thorough education, a strong predilection, as a professor to his subject. "I shall be a master." This requires a certain native genius, and hours of practice each day, the study of principles, a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of the art. "I shall be a wizard." This requires a great genius, part cultivated, part innate, a certain personality that loves to play its art, as Mozart as a child, if he were to be found, it was at his piano, constantly, with devotion––so the wizard to whatever his medium, brilliant, shrewd, relentless, merciless. It requires constant practice, single-minded devotion, a certain lacking when one is not in practice, so that it is art or repose from art, and nothing else. "I shall be a God." And this is the rarity, who flinches nothing at drinking up the sea, breathing in the sky, swallowing the moon; if we are not infant Gods, we shall never be Gods. This requires perfect excellence in devotion, perfect submission in comprehension, perfect consistency in expression, to explore and pursue every excellence in the medium. “I shall be the Man,” and now you have moved to the infinite, the whole life. “I am the Man of guitar” and you must be nothing else. A complete man, a man who sees everything in the world and systemizes it into unity, the man who never stops, but at every moment, at every living second is at his work. All life, all of all is a metaphor for his main focus. To be a Man is the rarest thing of all. And men the Universe worships.
And so whether we want to be masters of morality, experts of egregiousness, wizards of writing, or whatever else we take on as ourselves, then we are devoted to it. Not every personality is strong enough for the highest, and for him, it is not the highest, and so it is not anything but a spectacle, as we marvel at a divine Paganini, or a divine Mozart. For beauty of whatever strength must recognize beauty of a superior strength. But whatever is our height, that do we become, and we are at the height even as we err towards it, but once we have arrived, then art is easy, art is nature, our nature is the height of excellence.
For every attitude and character has its sinks, those moments that are so natural to the natural, and impossible for the imitators to fake. If you wish to translate yourself into a new person, you must realize that you sink the self into those moments, if you do not fear them, but act without stupid simplicity. Like captain Ahab confronting Stubb his subordinate in “overbearing terror,” being peevish, showing inherent superiority without flinching.
For how many years does a surgeon practice till his scalpels are the mouth of a beetle, flowing and natural; how long till a harpist plays her harp with brook fingers? How many years are you worth?
But playing with virtuoso’s pride is very easy, utterly easy, for us of overflowing lust for glory --- what would be more difficult for us than arduous daily practice, sun thrusts of interminable again again again – gain the bolts, love the glory, ever always improving. Easy, only, no other option. We make a higher heaven – the heavens described so far are hollow, unworthy of our passion and heights! Perfection is easy because every step is easy and necessary and inevitable – fate flows from my heart, my eyes! – perfection is now and always my only expression. Would Sisyphus really leave the boulder after he had spun with it the fate of God?
Now I have merely ran my finger through the frosting. It is time to destroy these words, destroy them as they are reified. First do. Then do with speed. Then do with style.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Here is another essay from the first book of the Idius (“Needs”); I continue with the topic of virtues, which will be further developed in the rest of the book with a closer look at eight specific virtues.
Daniel Christopher June
Man feels, thinks about the feeling, speaks his thoughts, and enacts his words. The first feelings were instincts. The later feelings were programmed through thought. Therefore, the basis of virtue, the habit of seeking and gaining our values, begins with the thinking mind, with creative logic. Even an infant thinks a sort of logic that creates an edifice of mind that stands for life. As there are four types of habits – feelings, thinking, saying, and doing – so there are four types of virtue, and the virtue of unifying all of them together.
The virtues of mind begin with activity. The mind must act and move, explore and expand, breath and leap, dance and fly. It must play over problems, force and sculpt them, unravel and unriddle them. Activity begins in children with imitation and ends in adults with independence. Mental activity seeks focus through inquiry. Through asking questions, one directs the mind towards goals. A child ought to be taught not just to read, listen, and watch, but to question, hypothesize, and to explore how to guide further attention. Questions resolve through sustained focus. Focus dismisses everything but its one object, abstains from every interest save one. Focus stays a problem until it is solved, and so directs activity toward effectiveness. Focus creates. All logic and reason is patterned creativity: we move from premises to create a solution. Aside from thinking logically, which makes mind obedient to form, we must think spontaneously, which makes form obedient to mind. We think of a problem, realize it is unique and unprecedented, and create a solution unique and unprecedented. We must answer child with child, man with man, sunrise with sunrise, and not refer to a manual of answers. In all a man creates, he prides in his integrity, the unity of attitude, belief, personality, and character. You must be brave enough and strong enough to never forfeit an iota of the truth you have earned, but cling to the truth of these convictions and principles in the face of all opposition. This implies not only self-honesty, the prerequisite for knowing the inner and outer world, but implies also the continual integrating of all knowledge into one system. Integrity is the honesty which accords belief and action. Thus five virtues of the mind: activity, inquiry, focus, creativity, integrity.
The mind moves the body, and so creates four virtues of action. Work is the habit of producing goods, or producing what can be traded for goods. Work is the basic action by which all material and spiritual goods come to man; only by the sweat of your brow will you own anything. If you want it, deserve it. Effectiveness in work comes from strength and skill. Strength is the capacity to force one’s desires into the world. This creates health, competency, and pride. Through repeated production, one learns the skill of acting effectively, with the least effort for the most output. This implies economy of effort as well as wisdom of effort. One must also have the perseverance through physical endurance and dogged consistency to do the job till it is done. Thus four virtues of acting: productive work, strength, skill, perseverance.
These actions are inspired and rewarded by virtuous feelings. Sensitivity is experiencing appropriate feelings at their appropriate degree during their appropriate context. We must program our impulses to serve us best, loving the lovely, loathing the loathsome, fearing the frightening, despising the despicable, admiring the admirable, etc. Of special concern to seeking values, and so of goal setting and achieving, is the feeling of ambition. Ambition craves to accomplish greatness. Ambition must persist through confidence. Even if I am wrong, it is my ambition to do it until I am certain of that; and so I will not beg, apologize, or skulk, but will boldly gain my intent in the face of any opposition. If all the armies of heaven oppose me, still I will not flinch until I am thoroughly proven through valid argument to be wrong. To persist, we must cultivate the virtue of optimism, which enjoys sustaining long concentration, even in the hiss of discouragement and failure. Failure is merely one more encouragement and promise of success, for optimism is faith in our goals. Finally, when we have achieved our goals, we are rewarded with the feeling of pride, that we have succeeded, that we applaud our own power and effectiveness, that we esteem our own achievements. Thus five virtues of feeling: sensitivity, ambition, confidence, optimism, pride.
In all these, there are three basic virtues: activity, skill, persistence. The essence of virtue is health the form of virtue is unity.
Unity is the head of all virtues, and brings every element of man, every idiosyncrasy, into unity with his purpose. Unity is the virtue of virtues. A man must choose, define, and maintain his own unity. Unity sacrifices the vices that upset the singleness of the system, yes, and also the virtues that upset the singleness of the system. A perfect person strives for the excellence of a unified self, every part derived from the central principle. Every act, every whim, every feeling, every slip of the tongue, pours from and ornaments this principle. What beautifies man is that he sees the principle of his core, and that he gives it structure and visible order. For there are principles that spread fruit trees randomly throughout fields, but it is a conscious principle that grows an orchard. Even if all principles were once conscious in the mind of the child, the mature mind is better cultivating them. Man the artist makes his soul his canvas.
Does this make morality relative? Morals aren't relative. And neither are men, you maintain? Yet there are followers and there are leaders. One law of lords and men is tyranny. Morals aren't relative. Yet they had better be relative to me or I have no use for them. Morals aren't relative. To what? Personal choice? Yet no other choice is moral. Morals aren't relative. Aren't relative to what? Whim? Yet whim isn't relative either. It too serves need. Thousands of different diets are healthy, are possible. Yet even diets differ in need from person to person. I need more calcium, you are allergic to peanuts. It is universal that all men must choose their standard, relative to personal needs and environment. We all need to execute justice. Yet each must execute justice according to his personal understanding, and with the power and procedure appropriate to his abilities. This is moral for him to do, for he is able to do it.
It is morally absolute that “If you believe an action is immoral, do not do it.” That would apply to everybody. For if they make an honest mistake, they are at least honest. Is there any other specific moral absolute that everyone ought to follow? Yes, self-honesty.
Yet much of morality is personal. I want to study carpentry. Should everyone? I want to eat as a vegetarian. Should everyone? I want to attend a symphony. Should everyone? Rather, what is the general principle behind each specific choice? It is this: Every man produces his moral code in accordance with his needs as he understands them. What is imperative? That a man is mindful enough to let this morality grow. Each man ought to cultivate a moral system that grows to better fulfill him. And ought means for life.
Consider the principled man. His choice: "you may rescue these 500 innocent prisoners if you murder a single man." No. My principle is that you must never sacrifice an innocent. If you were to offer me the cure for cancer, if you were to rescue the entire human race, if you were to lasso the deity and pour him into every man's heart, whatever you could possibly deliver, offer, provide, or save is out of the question, for nothing can dominate a principle. No innocent man should be murdered for another’s well being.
Utility ethics is good for utility companies: those who make laws for the masses must assume them to be of the same stuff. On the other hand, no individual should consider other human beings as “majorities” or “the many” or “the greatest number.” We are individuals, some greater, some lesser.
Morality is different than virtue. Morality is what you follow to fit with the group and avoid the alienation of being snubbed or imprisoned. This has little to do with virtue: virtue is increasing power. Virtue stands on courage.
Family values and community solidarity are morals, not virtues. Virtues are those virile things like courage and honesty. Communities and families are often built on euphemisms, silence, if not downright deceits.
Virtue is in power. A virtuous woman is by no means a chaste woman. Christianity confused our terms. A virtuous woman would have mastered her sexuality, not subdued it.
I have been translating the Tao De Jing using a dictionary and comparing translations. I have found all of them lacking – thus my ambition to make my own translation. I have already sent out the first 40 verses last year, and have just now picked up the work again, translating five more verses over the last two days.
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Translated by Daniel Christopher June
Circular is the Tao’s movement
Tender is the Tao’s use.
All things spring from her.
All things come from nothingness.
The superior scholar hearing the Tao
Practices diligently and always
The mediocre scholar hearing the tao
Practices sometimes, ignores sometimes
The inferior scholar hearing the Tao
Laughs out loud.
If he didn’t laugh, the Tao would be unworthy.
Thus we have the saying:
The Tao seems Dark
Progressing on the Tao seems a retreat
Walking the level Tao seems rugged
Highest power seems as low as a valley
Great whiteness seems tainted.
Great power seems to lack
Solid power seems wobbly.
Solid reality seems shifting.
The great square lacks borders
The great vessel lacks completeness
The great music lacks loudness
The great Tao is hidden without name
Yet for this very reason
The Tao aptly provides and fulfills.
Tao begets Unity
Unity begets Duality
Duality begets Trinity
Trinity begets all things.
All things shoulder the yin
And embrace the yang.
Blending the breath between these
For this reason,
those who detest widowers and orphans
Kings title themselves by these names.
Sometimes a gain brings loss
And sometimes a loss brings gain
Others have taught it and so I will I,
The violent die violently
I make this teaching chief.
The world’s softest
Gallops over the world’s hardest.
Nothingness can enter
Where there is no crack.
I therefore know that nonaction benefits:
Wordless the wisdom
Motionless the benefit.
Few in the world obtain it.
Fame and health, which is dearer?
Health and wealth, which is best?
Gain and loss, which is worst?
Therefore, extreme love exhausts.
Therefore, huge hoards impoverish.
The contented man shames nobody.
The restrained man risks nothing.
He thus long endures.
Utter perfection seems flawed
Yet its use is never exhausted.
Utter fulness seems void
Yet its use is never spent.
Great Justice seems crooked
Great skill seems clumsy
Great eloquence seems stammering.
Briskness daunts the cold
Stillness beats the heat
Peaceful and Serene rules the World.