This is the sixth of a 12-part series remixing Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules For Life, one chapter a week to coincide with the 12 weeks remaining for my one year celibacy vow.
“My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more impossible than a denial of life. According to rational knowledge, it followed that life is evil, and people know it. They do not have to live, yet they have lived and they do live, just as I myself had lived, even though I had known for a long time that life is meaningless and evil.” – Leo Tolstoy
To some philosophers, the presence of any suffering seems to negate any possibility that life can be considered Good. This matter is exacerbated when we conceptualize reality as a product of a persona-having God, as we can reason that they too must not be all Good (or perhaps more leniently, all powerful), since they have created such an imperfect mess that is our world.
But life can not truly be both meaningless and evil. To declare it evil is to give it meaning that it should be good. However, we can satisfy the claim if we observe life as meaningless in the objective sense, and evil in the subjective. Therefore, if Good exists at all in this world, it could be more accurately observed as a reduction on the total spectrum of evil. For instance, self-defense could be viewed as evil, as it also harms the instigating party.
In this way, all life forms cause suffering to others in order to survive, whether through direct consumption or self-defense/sustenance. You wouldn’t hurt a fly, but a fly’s nature is harmful to you, as they carry disease and filth with them (they prefer to breed in poop), and even regurgitate their food along the way. The seemingly non-sentient plants the vegans exclude from their self-righteous preservation of life also can produce anti-nutrients that can kill feeding insects (and severely damage the digestion process of humans) in order to protect themselves and sustain their own life as well.
But returning to our original point, the end of your rational knowledge should not point you to a denial of life. Your death is already an inevitable event as soon as you become alive, so how is it rational to deny life even further?
“How can a person who is awake avoid outrage at the world?…After the experience of terrible atrocity, isn’t forgiveness just cowardice, or lack of willpower?”pp. 151-152
If you recall the scene in Avengers: Infinity War when Thanos and Stark meet, Thanos tells Stark that he is “not the only one cursed with knowledge.” Knowledge is a curse in the same way that ignorance is bliss, because while knowledge is power, power can also equate to responsibility.
Extremely intelligent individuals like Tolstoy beared the responsibility of ridding the world of evil, but as it is stated in The Dark Knight, “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
“People who experience evil may certainly desire to perpetuate it, to pay it forward. But it is also possible to learn good by experiencing evil.”p. 153
The primary source of suffering for those taking a defeatist view on the evil nature of life is that they are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good: Because perfection can not be achieved, we should simply flip the table on the game of life, rather than play things out along the course we have been set on, and especially recognize the progress that we are making along the way.
Suffering could very well be the bottom layer of life, in the same way that the base layer of a civilization is violence: a nation, in it’s simplest form, is an occupied land mass that is defended by a military. Without that defense, any state will simply be annexed by a bigger nation.
One could view this harsh reality as proof that humans are inherently violent and evil, but it might not be the whole picture, as plenty of Good, or less violence, can be achieved when warring tribes and states eventually do settle into large nations. World War II ended 80 years ago, and the only reason why the Cold War is described as such is because if arms were taken up directly, the presence of nuclear bombs on both sides would have achieved a little something called Mutual Assured Destruction.
Maybe “War is Peace” (1984) after all, or at least the threat of it.
“She says she hopes that all her suffering is her own fault…if it’s her fault, she might be able to do something about it. If it’s God’s fault, however–if reality itself is flawed, hell-bent on ensuring her misery–then she is doomed. She couldn’t change the structure of reality itself. But maybe she could change her own life.”p. 154
Reality is indeed flawed. For what other reason do you suspect we created the concept of Heaven? But in the same way that is not rational to deny Life when that feature is already built-in through Death, it’s not rational to add to our suffering, especially and doubly so when we ponder about Life’s inherent suffering.
In this respect, all the non-physical pain we experience is merely a result of our intelligence: emotional and mental dissatisfaction.
The Buddhists have already studied this matter, and they’ve come to the conclusion that the source of suffering is our attachments/cravings/desires, but also our aversions.
It’s Not About Doing
This episode is titled as such because the suffering that comes from philosophers like Tolstoy is sourced from this belief that they are somehow responsible for the suffering of the world. However, this is not entirely unique when we also observe the burnout people are experiencing from the new social phenomenon of “Hustle Culture”. While we’re at it, let’s also throw in all the religious people in the confessional box disturbed at the thought that they are sinners.
It’s not about doing because there’s always some impossible standard we’re trying to meet to make ourselves better. There’s always someone telling you what to do and how to think and feel, myself included. But we hardly ever get advice that we should just be. We are Human Beings after all, not Human Doings. Now, you may think I am advocating for everyone to just sit on their ass and do nothing, but not quite, because to be Human, or anything else that is alive, is to always naturally be doing something.
“Change is life. Stagnation is death. If you don’t change, you die. It’s that simple. It’s that scary.” ― Leonard Sweet
Unless you have received some special training, if you want to practice some prolonged meditation or other inactivity, you will eventually grow hungry, and if you suppress that hunger you will eventually die.
There’s always going to be something that we want, and therefore something to do. But when these desires and actions are not presented to us in the correct way, without a sufficient level of self-knowledge, these actions encounter an incredible amount of resistance, draining more of our natural energy rather than fulfilling us, even if we have identified that the end goal is a particularly pleasing one.
“Every person is too complex to know themselves completely, and we all contain wisdom that we cannot comprehend. So, simply stop, when you apprehend, however dimly, that you should stop…
Your experience will improve, as you stop distorting it with inauthentic actions. You will then begin to discover new, more subtle things that you are doing wrong. Stop doing those, too. After some months and years of diligent effort, your life will become simpler and less complicated.
Your judgement will improve. You will untangle your past.You will become stronger and less bitter. You will move more confidently into the future. You will stop making your life unnecessarily difficult.”p.158
Recently, I reconsidered my entire view on the practice of No-Fap. Firstly, I had already begun reducing my porn and masturbation frequency before I ever knew about the community, and was proud of my moderation back then too. I was in balance.
However, joining No-Fap is high-highs and low-lows. Just look at the thumbnail below.
Think about it. Somewhere, there’s a guy who just fapped and went on with his day, but these No-Fap gurus fap one time in six months (or longer) and have to hide it from their subscribers for several days, making this whole dramatic show of it that they’re crushed but will come back stronger, and ultimately calling it a “relapse”, as if they actually had a genuine addiction in the first place that was crippling like their life, and not their own natural sexual urges that were just misdirected towards the internet.
It’s a complete joke.
These men are unbalanced. Find the real source of pain, what’s really missing in your life, and stop this dick measuring charade.
So It’s not about doing anymore. I’m not going to do No Fap.
Yes, No Fap did help me learn plenty about myself, but while doing the practice everything felt like it was about sex, but it was truly about my emotions. I may have touched on this in my previous No Fap updates, but it feels more clear to me now because I have let go of the aversion that the No Fap community has against the acts of watching porn and masturbation.
PMO isn’t that enjoyable now only for the sole reason that it feels like me just throwing a tantrum, because I know it’s not what I really want in life: It’s me settling for low quality instant gratification to distract me from some greater dissatisfaction I have with my life. But this has little to do with sex, and more to do with emotional escape, which takes many other forms which No-Fap alone will not allow you to capture.
We may want to hustle, desire perfection, or to become more like God, but if we have not gotten to know ourselves and nurtured our authentic expression through Monk Mode, such high pursuits, especially for prestige, could end up hurting us.
Julien Blanc once said that self-improvement is actually a form of self-hatred, as it’s an explicit belief that you are currently not good enough.
So how excellent would it be to somehow find the perfect balance in life, in which we are content with where we are but also striving for improvement at the same time?
I believe we can do this by simply falling in line with our nature.
“Alexander Solzhenitsyn had every reason to question the structure of existence when he was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp, in the middle of the terrible twentieth century. He had served as a soldier on the ill-prepared Russian front lines in the face of a Nazi invasion. He had been arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison by his own people. Then he was struck by cancer…
Then he asked himself the most difficult of questions: had he personally contributed to the catastrophe of his life? If so, how? He remembered his unquestioning support of the Communist Party in his early years. He reconsidered his whole life…
Then he wrote The Gulag Archipelago, a history of the Soviet prison camp system…One man’s decision to change his life, instead of cursing fate, shook the whole pathological system of communist tyranny to its core.pp. 154-155
The most powerful tool you will ever have in this life is the simple act of observing yourself, because the most power you have in this reality is in regards to yourself.
When you take responsibility and ownership, and wrestle it away from the hands of God, and the Devil, or the government, the Leftists, the Illuminati, and the mysterious and ubiquitous “They”, you become the most powerful and free Being in the universe.
All the things that you rely on, even positively, control you. The things that make you angry and uncomfortable control you too, and these states will remain until you can realize that it is not your circumstances that cause your suffering but your perspective on the circumstances and your attachment to the drama you have created within it.
It’s not about doing because your focus makes it into a problem, and we are unhappy until problems become solved. But when we settle into the present, when we just be, we are satisfied by progress and growth, in all things, and not just the cold dead end of things.
Perfection, in a way, is almost stagnation. But humans, and our flawed reality, is blessed to always be in motion.
You can choose to be dissatisfied with yourself and your circumstances, but you are always moving, and always growing, in some direction. And that direction is your nature, and Life itself.
So be quiet, be still, and listen to that inner voice, and feel from within to where the wind blows.
Meditate on these matters.
And I will not see you on the Far Side, but next week Sunday at 12PM, every week for the rest of this series.
Thank you for reading. – Monk Moon Base
“Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
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