Man Alive is three years old today, Easter Sunday 2015. Here I am rehabilitating the idea of reverence as an essential experience in the fully-human life. Why is there a Church of Splendor, an egoist, atheist church? Because we don’t need gods, but we do need worship.
Chapter 12. The love of Splendor is the life divine.
I see the adults around me, of course, and the houses and cars and trees and birds and animals. I love everything in existence, natural and man-made, and I take in everything the world brings to me. But I focus on the children. I love babies when they’re barely old enough to smile at the world. And I love toddlers, just learning to speak in verbal semaphore but already well able to laugh in delight at absolutely everything. And I love children, newly awakened in Fathertongue, newly awake to the life of the mind.
I start to lose interest in kids at about age eight or nine – when they begin to get good at inventing and repeating lies. And, to say the awful truth, I don’t give much attention at all to adults – and they tend not to like me much, either. If you’re still awake, and – man alive! – I can tell in a glance if you’re still awake, you will be as delightful to me as any five-year-old. But if your mind is dead, if you have locked it away in a mental dungeon to make sure you don’t inadvertently think or say something that contradicts some insipid dogma you swallowed whole, I don’t have much room for you in my thoughts or in my heart.
But that can’t be you I’m talking about. How do I know? Because you made it to the end of this book. You can be assured that anyone who cannot abide letting me live my life as I choose – who can’t suffer to let me say these things – fled the scene in revulsion a long time ago. To me, it is absurd to experience illness in reaction to mere words on paper, but I know from past experience that the ideas I talk about can quite literally make people sick. That is the power of the human mind – if you pit it against itself. Me, I’m doing fine, and I hope you are, too. And, if bad ideas can make you ill, I cannot see why it should not be the case that good ideas should help you stay well – and feel elated.
I live in a world of Splendor, with a deeply satisfying feeling of enduring delight underscoring virtually every moment of my life. This is a particularly good day for me – I made it to the end of this book – but almost every day is a good day for me. My mind is focused only on the good – only on my own good, my own values, my own self – and, in consequence, I live all the time in the metaphorical universe that is implied by the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – by the Ode to Joy.
I wrote this definition of Splendor many years ago. It is being supplanted by this book, of course, but I still love it as a pocket-sized map to the fully-human state of mind: “Splendor is the interior experience of being so enthralled by the act of creating the values that contribute to and ultimately comprise your idealized perfect self that, while you are experiencing it, you are your idealized perfect self.” If you want to be like a god, and not like an animal, then behave like a god: In the self-engendered universe-of-your-experience, create nothing but your own values, and nothing at all of anyone else’s disvalues. If every single watt and calorie and foot-pound of your mental energy is devoted to the things you love, there will be nothing of hatred or pain or sadness or boredom or spite anywhere in your life.
There is one more idea I want to take up with you, and I think it is the most demanding one I know. You had to wrap your mind around the self, after being told all your life to despise it, and then I sprung the notion of self-adoration on you. I undermined just about every dogma you have ever heard about, and then I made you eat anarchy-pie and like it – or at least not spit it out. And now I plan to make you stretch even farther, to go with me where no philosophy of reason has ever gone before.
Where might that be?
But, but, but… Heaven is for theologians. Heaven is for priests. Heaven, every smug academic will sneer, is for wishful thinkers who can’t handle the infinite hell that is human life on Earth.
I think you might be able to guess what I think about a claim like that. If theological pronouncements about ontology and teleology are intellectually useless, invalidities defended with insipidities, so, too, are the metaphysical opinions of modern philosophers, academics, artists, journalists and politicians. If you hate the self, in time you cannot fail to hate life as well – your own life and all of human life. You will not be able to stop yourself from sneering at joy, at hope, at ambition, at every value the fully-human life requires. You will look for nothing but evidences of failure and despair in the world around you, and your one, unique, irreplaceable human life will become the infinite hell you insist you see everywhere.
But what if you were to point your mind in the opposite direction?
This entire argument is the answer I am making to you, of course, but my own private, interior, introspective experience of living my life is my own answer. I live in heaven. I live in a paradise on Earth, and I see nothing but angels – brilliant young minds – all around me. I am one of those angels, just bigger and clumsier, because I never once thought to shut down my mind, to renounce my own thinking and ape someone else’s, to denounce my self and my body and my life for being what they are. I love my self, and the thing I love most about my self is that I have gotten better and better, over the years, at living up to my self. I am not representing myself as some paragon of virtue; too much the contrary! But what I am is a mind alive, a mind that never stopped thinking carefully, and the Splendor I know in my mind and in my body is the product of that thinking.
The uniquely-human life is everything it is, not some sliced-and-diced reductionist mess, and the fully-human life is a thing of Splendor. The true is the good is the beautiful, and, accordingly, the best expression of the fully-human life is the worship of Splendor. Thoughtful scholarship made a mistake when it abandoned the idea of reverence to theology. Human beings are everything we are, and one of the most important things we are is reverent. We worship, and so it is a thing of the most raucously comical absurdity that we have sought, through the ages, to worship anything and everything except the source of all adoration – the self.
Human beings worship – and, of course, no other animals do – and we become most worthy of our own adoration, each one of us alone in the silence and solitude of the mind, when we worship the self and all of the precious values of the self. The word adoration is a holy word, and that’s why I use it, again and again – to intensify, to beautify and to beatify the idea of self-love. You can adore your self only by always behaving adorably – by being adorable to your self – and when you do that, your life comes to be ever more heavenly with every passing day.
In the middle of this argument, I stranded you on a desert island, all alone and without Fathertongue, to see how you would do. Imagine if the first father of Fathertongue were stranded here, in the modern world, in the big city. You can put him all alone, in a place devoid all other people, but leave him every artifact of modern life, all those riches you so blithely take for granted. Give him time to learn and to study, to reap every treasure Fathertongue has managed to pile up in the thousands of years since he walked the Earth. When he finally got himself up to speed, what do you suppose might be his philosophy?
Reflect that this man may have been the greatest genius ever to have lived. Where each one of us was able to learn almost everything we know in Fathertongue, from the discoveries of other people, discovering very little, if anything, on our own, that first father of Fathertongue had to discover everything he knew. He had to unearth the truth, prove it to himself and then find some way to communicate it to his brothermen. How do we know this is so? Because discovery is particular to the individual. A blinding epiphany happens only within an individual mind. The experience cannot be shared – no more than the process of the digestion of food can be shared.
That one man was the greatest benefactor in the history of human life on Earth. He lived up to the gift of mind before there was a gift of mind. That precious treasure, for every human being who ever lived, was a gift from him alone. Without him, the human race might have perished entirely – gone extinct. I never forget how much I owe to my parents for giving me the gift of mind, but I never forget how infinitely much more I owe to that brave and brilliant first father of Fathertongue for giving each one of us – strong or weak, rich or poor, bright or dull, reverently grateful or superciliously smug – the incomparable gift of mind.
We owe that man for everything we have and for everything we are, and yet we repay him nothing. We cannot pay him back, of course. But we can always pay him forward, if we have the good sense he gave us. This is what I am doing now, what I have been doing for my whole life. What kind of philosophy might he have written, if he were alive in the modern world? I hope and I pray that this book is a pale reflection of the work he might have done. I want more than anything to live up to that man, to live up to everything the uniquely-human life can be, if I have the good sense to discover it – and to worship it. That is the fully-human life. That is the most and the best we can have – but we can only have it by worshipping the mind, by adoring the self, and by living up in every way we can to the gift of mind. That is ontologically-consonant teleology. That is Splendor, and the love of Splendor is the life divine.
I wrote this little book in eight days. It took me thirty-three years to discover and to perfect the arguments, but once I was finally ready to start writing, I felt no need to stop. I burned and burned and burned as I worked, throwing off a blast furnace of body heat as a secondary-consequence, and the words just poured out of me like molten steel. And although it might be a vanity for me to say so, I know the work I have done here is good. I set everything up as a three-act comedy – establishment, complication, further complication, resolution – moving always away from the worse, always toward the better – and then, for comic relief at intermission, at the second-act curtain, I told you I was writing a three-act comedy – in waltz time, no less. That kind of artistic integrity is proof of nothing, but it is very satisfying to me. The true is the good is the beautiful, and I want for everything I write – every map of the universe I draw – to be an accurate rendering of all three of those wonderful ideas.
If I have added value to your life – if I have led you to a better understanding of your nature as a human being, of your own uniquely-human life, of your self and of the immense values to be reaped by your daring, at last, to adore your self for being so good – if I have shown you how to correct and make up for any errors you may have made in the past and how to do much better going forward – if I have taught you how to discover, how to worship and how to achieve Splendor as you have never known it before – I want for you to pay me. The book itself is free and it always will be. If you found no value in it – or worse, if I have led you to nothing but pain – I do not want even one cent of your money. But if I have earned compensation from you, then I deserve it, and that kind of justice is completely in keeping with my philosophy of human life. How does it square with yours?
But simply paying me in money is not enough. Philosophy begins with ethics – “What should I do?” This book is my answer to that question. I’ve known for my entire adult life that I had to write this book, that I owed it not to you but to that first father of Fathertongue who gave me so much more than I can ever hope to pay forward. The exposition of this philosophy has been my own “What should I do?” You can pay me forward by freely sharing this book with everyone you know. Chances are, they need to hear these truths even more than you did.
The grand edifices of Western Civilization – of Western thought – are crumbling to rubble not because the universe is malevolent and not because some drunken raging paranoid fraud is somehow simultaneously a brilliantly calculating mastermind of evil. No, your world is collapsing around your ears because you have been thoughtless where you should have been rigorously thoughtful, careless where you should have been scrupulously careful, mindless where you should always have been full-to-bursting with the infinite wonders of the mind. This was a mistake, but you were hardly alone in that error. As I am reaching out to you, to pull your philosophical lifeboat back onto dry land, it is only simple justice for you to do the same with everyone you love and value. I’m not trying to enlist you in my cause. I am recruiting you into your own cause.
But even that is not enough. Redemption is egoism in action – in the real, existential actions of your life, those that can be seen by other people but especially the actions you take purely introspectively, alone in the silence and solitude of your mind. You have been madly, badly, sadly wrong for a very long time, and undoing all of your errors, and all of their cascading consequences, will take some doing. So get busy! I told you at the beginning of this journey that I love your mind – but I refuse to love your mind more than you do. I am happy to teach you as much as I can about how to love your self – and how to fight for it in this world-wide war on your mind. But you have to do the fighting. There is no greater favor you can do for me and for yourself – and no greater honor you can bestow upon me and upon your self – than for you to make it your business to do everything you can think of, today and every day, to live up to these ideas.
My friend Jim Klein owns the most rigorous, the most penetrating, the most thoroughgoing mind of any human being I have ever been blessed to know. He started life driving a taxicab in Detroit, and like a great many hard-working people – and unlike most “thought leaders” – he knows by his own first-hand experience the physical, emotional, financial and ethical consequences of error. Like me, he never stopped thinking carefully, and his ability to cut right to the core of any issue is a wonder to behold. Jim came to visit us as I was writing this treatise, just as I was dropping that second-act curtain, and we had a chance to share food and share ideas and share Splendor as only self-adoring human beings can know it. It was a beautiful experience for me, very rewarding, not alone because I was in the midst of crafting this very-detailed map to Splendor.
As we were leaving the restaurant, walking to our cars, we saw a laughing toddler with his father. That little boy could not have been three years old, and his smile was like the dawning of a cloudless day. We each one of us see the world we’re looking for, and I see a world full of angels, a world full-to-bursting with blindingly brilliant children. I made eye-contact with that child, which I can always be counted upon to do, and he graced me with a look of delight that could not possibly have been more confident, more serene, more joyous – more perfect.
Though he has not yet mastered Fathertongue, not yet gathered in the precious gift of mind, that little boy was seeing the heavenly world that I see, the universe where the true is always and only the good is always and only the beautiful is always and only the ever-more-perfect truth. I want for him – and for you – never to stop seeing that world – never to cling to falsehood in fear of the truth, never to behave viciously in the vain attempt to evade the awesome responsibility of virtue, never to surrender the ineffable beauty that is Splendor, in a mind that has earned and deserved it, only to descend by default into the unendurable hell of Squalor.
This is the philosophy of the uniquely-human life, of the fully-human life, of the life divine – the adoration of your self that is Splendor. This is everything you have always known could and should be possible to human beings, but which you have never dared to hope to find in your own life. This is ontologically-consonant teleology expressed in three simple words:
Love your self.