“When everything is questioned, nothing makes sense, not even the question. Extreme individual autonomy aims at the unattainable, and asks questions which can’t be answered. The benefit of doubting comes only after the benefit of the doubt.” – Sir Roger Scruton
Should I find my own meaning in life solely within myself?
Should I find meaning in life solely out there in the truth and reality of the universe and cosmos?
Should I find ultimate meaning in life within myself by finding meaning and truth in the universe and bringing myself into harmony with it?
The way I see it, being in harmony with God, God’s creation, and with the laws of nature is the true way to live free.
The individual person can never find freedom and harmony solely within himself because we live in an integrated world with other people, with a creator, with nature, and with spiritual, moral, and physical realities which are beyond our control, and at times beyond our understanding. That being said, on the other hand, a fatalistic or naturalistic worldview, whereby one gives up on finding meaning as an individual completely and instead gives in to a cruel and impersonal natural existence of nothing but atoms, cells, and DNA molecules colliding randomly doesn’t acknowledge or respect what we as individuals are capable of doing and becoming through our own free actions.
Option 3 is the way to go:
Harmony and freedom go hand in hand and represent truly healthy individualism. Ultimate meaning can be find within ourselves but only when we also look outside ourselves to the world, the creator, and the created order around us, and bring ourselves into harmony with it through our own free will.
Over time liberal western philosophy, instigated by the French Philosopher Rousseau and others, gained steam and eventually morphed into something bigger and eventually became pathological in our time. It became less over time about growing in maturity and harmony as an individual, and allowing the individual to flourish within society, and more about rejecting all forms of legitimate authority, thereby undermining the institutions by which individualism existed in the first place. I’ve written about this before but recently it has taken an even darker turn. Unbridled wills of narcissistic individuals are colliding in our culture in absurd ways every day. Just open the newspapers. The “rights” of one person become the tyranny of another and the whole thing falls apart slowly.
Instead of healthy individualism, we get unhealthy fracturing, discord, and conflict. We get disconnection, rage, and addiction.
All learning takes place within a historical conversation. The “ahistorical self” is espoused by the new pathological type of regressive liberalism, but an ahistorical person separated from the past or the future is a myth and doesn’t exist. For any individual growth and maturation to take place, education and formation must take place within generations, and within institutions- trade schools, labs, guilds, universities, churches, governing bodies, families, cities, clans, and tribes. To reject the historical aspect of learning is to reject learning itself because no learning and growth takes place outside of these institutions.
No person who ever lived or will live can “start afresh” and “live without constraint” in this respect, with no institutions. Freedom lies in bringing yourself into line with reality, and working with existing procedures and laws to change an institution if it needs to be changed. Destroying an institution will never bring the desired “liberating” change for individuals, because the institution itself is what creates the environment and stability in which individualism exists and can grow and flourish.
Harmony and health for us as individuals is about using legitimate procedures, not untying origins.
Every culture has certain customs you can choose to participate in, or rebel against. It’s your right in ours to do so peacefully. But to tear down and destroy institutions in the name of false individualism is more like narcissism, suicide, or death than liberation. Let’s not forget that their lies something potentially sadistic, manipulative, and evil within the heart of every person. Once the institutional accumulation of social knowledge about the human mind, heart, and character is destroyed, as it is currently, it can take a long time to rebuild, if it’s ever done.
When I started writing about physical activity and mental health, I did not fully appreciate how much our lives needs to be in harmony. Yes, I have free will. Yes, I can make things happen. But like Aristotle said, I must submit to the right rules to be free.
When I show up at the Dojo of life, prepared, humble, and ready to work and to learn, good things happen. It feels like harmony, growth, and freedom.