Chapter 5. The greatest love of all.
When the subject of love and sex come up, our friends in the lab coats have a field day. For one thing, gibbons and other critters pair-bond for life, so they’re “just like us.” And for another, when you’re in the thrall of your best-beloved, your brain is all but drowning in pheromones and oxytocin and a mad obsession to rut yourself raw, so you’re no different from a house-cat in heat. Everything they have to say about you omits the inconvenient fact of Fathertongue, which makes their comparisons specious and invalid. However, as a consolation to deluded butterfly collectors everywhere, a genetic Homo sapiens without Fathertongue really is just like a poorly-adapted animal.
But since no mere animal can think in Fathertongue, no members of the animal kingdom bother to study the dating and mating habits of professors and graduate students – a fact that might raise a question in the minds of those assiduous researchers, if they were of a mind to question their contra-factual prejudices. A plausible meta-goal of reductionist science, arguably unknown to the scientists but presumably very well understood by modern philosophers, is to reduce everything to nothing – to trivialize everything in order to trivialize the human mind.
It can be useful to judge intellectual causes by their observed effects, and it is certainly the case that the study of humanity in the modern epoch has robbed you of the desire to learn more about your own nature. You see summaries of allegedly unassailable scientific studies “proving” either that your mind is no better than an animal’s brain or that animals are every bit as wise and capable as you and – instead of standing up for your identity as a member of the only conceptually-conscious species in existence – you wince and turn the page. By that means, their error, knowing or not, becomes your error – an error I am working very hard to correct.
And while the subject of romantic love and sex is so interesting to me that I’m taking it up separately in another treatise, there is a love-before-all-other-loves in your life, one you have probably never thought about at all – and one you will never, ever hear about from theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists or other “thought leaders.” Yes, you love your spouse romantically and erotically. And you love your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings and the closest of your friends with a filial love, the love of families. But there is a love in your life that precedes all those loves, and, without it, no other love is possible.
What is it? Your love for your self, of course.
Or maybe not “of course.” I am writing about being – ontology – but philosophers and theologians and everyone who follows their lead are all about shoulding – teleology. And the emphatic shoulding that undergirds every putative argument of being, going back forever, is that you should never, ever love your self. To the contrary, the love of the self is held to be the ultimate evil in almost every philosophical or theological doctrine ever devised in all of human history. The most important question in philosophy is “What should I do?” but, in fact, virtually all dogmas have concerned themselves primarily with what you should not do – and what you most emphatically should not do is love your self.
Are you feeling a little stirred up just now? Queasy in the bowels, maybe, or a little hot under the collar? All you are doing is reading. If you are having an averse emotional reaction to the words you are reading, this is an evidence of the success of your lifelong indoctrination. My take is that the people who taught you to have bodily reactions to ideas are not your friends. By means of fallacious, underhanded appeals to your emotions – starting when you were much too young to identify intellectual dishonesty – they indoctrinated you against your self. They taught you to make war on your own life.
And guess what? It worked. The indoctrination “took” – with tragic results. You are attending to these words, perhaps against your better judgment, because the world you thought you understood is falling apart. And it is falling apart because the philosophies that have guided human civilization for all of human history are perverse – all of them are perverse. And in the modern world, when you scale perversion up to the size of the whole globe, you get global perversion. For the entire history of human life on Earth, theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists, politicians and other so-called “thought leaders” have commanded you to betray your own interests in the service of any interest other than your own.
Guess what? It worked. Your life is wrecked, or close to it. Your family life has been destroyed or badly damaged. Your finances are in ruins. You spend huge amounts of your time hoping and praying that you and the people you love are not living on the cusp of a new Dark Age. This is philosophy in action. This is the awesome power of perverse ideas, if they are spread widely enough. Meanwhile, your despoilers – all those theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists, politicians, government functionaries and other so-called “thought leaders” – are living the high-life at your expense. Their homes are gorgeous and their families are intact. Their finances could not be better, thanks to your generous donations and tax payments. They, too, are pretty sure dark days are ahead of us – so they’re snagging onto more and more wealth, as fast as they can. But while they might seem to “have it all,” in reality they are even more miserable than you are. That’s why they drink so much.
But guess what? None of this matters, except for what we can learn from it. The past cannot be changed. Those so-called “thought leaders” misled you, and you were more than happy to be misled. But the future is the only thing subject to change. You have been wrong – badly, madly, outrageously wrong – but there is no benefit to you in chastising yourself for your past errors. All you can do in the service of your values is learn from your mistakes, put matters right to the extent that you can, and then do better going forward. My job is to help you learn how to do better.
Start here: All human thought occurs in Fathertongue – in words or other man-made symbols – and therefore all human thought consists of the mental manipulation of concepts – ideas. The ideas you hold inside your mind will be organized into a hierarchy of importance – importance to you, not to some imaginary arbiter of canonical importance – which, of course, will change over time. To a young boy, the idea of playing with toys matters a lot more, to him, than the idea of socializing with girls – a circumstance that will change dramatically in due course. We act upon our ideas iteratively, by thinking about them, and, in obvious consequence, the ideas that matter to you the most are the ones you think about the most.
So which one of your ideas do you think about far more than any other?
It’s your self. You may never have thought of your self as an idea before, but that’s what it is. Your self is your own internally-abstracted concept of your life, and there is a sense in which every idea you might consider is a manifestation of your self. Your body is your self’s personal, private puppet, and every purposive, voluntary action you take is an expression of your self: “This is what I do.” “This is how I behave.” “This is how I express mastery of this task.” “This is how I display indifference to this other chore.” “This is how I dance with my cousin.” “This is how I dance with the person I hope to marry.”
But even though we usually think of the body when we use the word “self” (as in, “I wash myself”), because of Fathertongue your physical body is in fact simply an extension of your self. The you that is the real you, most fundamentally, is the idea of your self that you hold in your mind. Everything you do with your body – with your hands or your feet, with your voice and your vocal intonations, with your facial expressions, with your stride or your posture or your gestures – each one of those actions is actually a secondary consequence of the mental actions you are taking upon your self in the silence and solitude of your mind. Those behaviors we call a person’s mien or manner or style or character are simply the automated, habituated expressions of that person’s idea of his self.
Every purposive action – every consciously-chosen action – you take in your life is taken first by the self upon the self. By an overwhelming majority, most of the purposive actions you will take in your life will be taken only upon the self – with no externally-observable secondary consequences of any sort. This is the mental process called introspection, but it is an error to think of introspection as being simply a matter of rumination, wool-gathering, void of all consequences. To the contrary, every thought you have either enhances or diminishes the idea of your life that is your self. Every action you take with your body is deeply meaningful, since much of your notion of who you are will come from your having seen who you have been in your actions. But even actions you don’t take – such as thinking about doing the right thing but ultimately not doing it – will have permanent consequences for your self.
We’ve been talking for quite a while now about human nature, so it might make sense for me, by now, to define the nature of human life.
So: Your life as a fully-conscious human being, most fundamentally, is your awareness of your life as a fully-conscious human.
You have a body, including your brain, and not only does it resemble in some ways the bodies of other organisms, it is also influenced in important ways by the same sorts of internal and external goads that influence the behavior of other organisms. But because you mastered Fathertongue as a child, you are a being of rationally-conceptual volitionality, and because of that critical, insuperable, bright-line distinction, your life is nothing like that of other living things. Non-human organisms do what they do because this is how they are made, and they cannot voluntarily deviate from their in-born nature in any way – nor even conceive of that nature.
But your own life is the product of nothing but your conceptions. Your experience of your life in real time can have bodily manifestations and consequences, but it is your awareness of that experience that matters to you. I used to say that your life as a human being consists of your awareness of your experience of being alive right now, your memories of past experiences and your anticipation of future experiences. I would expand that description now to include your awareness of actions you might have or should have taken in the past, but did not, as well as empty dreams you indulge about your future, knowing all the while that you will never follow through on them. All of these ideas are the substance of your self, and the self is the essential characteristic of the uniquely-human life.
What’s the purpose of life? Scruffy, bearded teenagers of all ages have been asking that question for thousands of years, and each one of them has come up with an answer even more ludicrous than the absurd prescription put forth by the previous nitwit. But here is the full answer to that age-old question:
The purpose of human life is self-expression.
The purpose of every organism’s life is to be lived, and since your own life, most fundamentally, is the life of your self, the purpose of your life is to make your self manifest in every way you can. This is a matter of ontology – of being. It sounds like shoulding – teleology – but in fact this is what you are regardless of what you or anyone else might say about human nature. Every purposive action you take is taken first by the self upon the self, and this is the unavoidable consequence of your having come to be a self. You didn’t cause this to happen – your parents did – and you could not have stopped the process even if you had known it was happening. Only a mind already possessed of Fathertongue could even conceive of the possibility of preventing the cultivation of Fathertongue in any human mind.
You are a self as a matter of inescapable ontology. The effect was caused by volition, by choice, by an iterative shoulding process initiated by your parents. And of course it can be terminated – by your death or by a serious head injury. But the fact that you are a self is a fact of being, not a behavior to be caused or prevented by shoulding. While you are a self, you cannot not be a self. You can pretend you are not a self, albeit not as deceptively as you can pretend your house-cat is a vegan by feeding it nothing but spinach. But you are a self by no choice of your own, and you cannot stop being a self by any act of volition short of bodily self-destruction.
This is what you are, regardless of what anyone says about it. It can be worth your while to read all of those descriptions of your nature promulgated by theologians and philosophers and academics and artists and journalists. They don’t have very much to do with your true nature, do they? Why do you suppose that might be so?
Everything I have described to you is clear and obvious on its face, really just thoroughgoing elaborations on common sense. Truly, there is nothing I have to say that is not plainly obvious to any five-year-old child newly graced with the power of Fathertongue. I can express the truth of human life in greater depth than he can, with greater precision. But there is nothing I know that he did not come to understand well-enough in that scales-falling-from-the-eyes epiphany that is the birth of Fathertongue within an individual human mind.
But don’t stop reading yet. There’s much more to be covered. Take note that we have talked about nothing but being so far, even though I told you at the outset that the most important question in philosophy is “What should I do?”
So what should you do – to make the most and the best of your one, irreplaceable, finite, uniquely-human life?
That’s easy: Love your self.