There will always be socialists for the same reason there will always be corporate cronyists, which is the same reason there will always be thieves. As Rothbard explained:

“The great German sociologist Franz Oppenheimer pointed out that there are two mutually exclusive ways of acquiring wealth; one, the above way of production and exchange, he called the “economic means.” The other way is simpler in that it does not require productivity; it is the way of seizure of another’s goods or services by the use of force and violence. This is the method of one-sided confiscation, of theft of the property of others. This is the method which Oppenheimer termed “the political means” to wealth.”

Socialists, corporate cronyists, and thieves all use the politcal means.

Just as the poor will always be with us, so will those who choose the political means.

Reading Emerson this morning, this jumped out:

…each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own… The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires.

Here’s the full passage.  He is encouraged by Plato, Shakespeare, and other great men. They give him hope, because…

In spite of all the rueful abortions that squeak and gibber in the street, in spite of slumber and guilt, in spite of the army, the bar-room, and the jail, have been these glorious manifestations of the mind; and I will thank my great brothers so truly for the admonition of their being, as to endeavor also to be just and brave, to aspire and to speak. Plotinus too, and Spinoza, and the immortal bards of philosophy, — that which they have written out with patient courage, makes me bold. No more will I dismiss, with haste, the visions which flash and sparkle across my sky; but observe them, approach them, domesticate them, brood on them, and draw out of the past, genuine life for the present hour.

To feel the full value of these lives, as occasions of hope and provocation, you must come to know, that each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own. The impoverishing philosophy of ages has laid stress on the distinctions of the individual, and not on the universal attributes of man. The youth, intoxicated with his admiration of a hero, fails to see, that it is only a projection of his own soul, which he admires. In solitude, in a remote village, the ardent youth loiters and mourns. With inflamed eye, in this sleeping wilderness, he has read the story of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, until his fancy has brought home to the surrounding woods, the faint roar of cannonades in the Milanese, and marches in Germany. He is curious concerning that man’s day. What filled it? the crowded orders, the stern decisions, the foreign despatches, the Castilian etiquette? The soul answers — Behold his day here! In the sighing of these woods, in the quiet of these gray fields, in the cool breeze that sings out of these northern mountains; in the workmen, the boys, the maidens, you meet, — in the hopes of the morning, the ennui of noon, and sauntering of the afternoon; in the disquieting comparisons; in the regrets at want of vigor; in the great idea, and the puny execution; — behold Charles the Fifth’s day; another, yet the same; behold Chatham’s, Hampden’s, Bayard’s, Alfred’s, Scipio’s, Pericles’s day, — day of all that are born of women. The difference of circumstance is merely costume. I am tasting the self-same life, — its sweetness, its greatness, its pain, which I so admire in other men. Do not foolishly ask of the inscrutable, obliterated past, what it cannot tell, — the details of that nature, of that day, called Byron, or Burke; — but ask it of the enveloping Now; the more quaintly you inspect its evanescent beauties, its wonderful details, its spiritual causes, its astounding whole, — so much the more you master the biography of this hero, and that, and every hero. Be lord of a day, through wisdom and justice, and you can put up your history books.

It’s fun to read stories and novels.  They can draw us in, and we can escape the emptiness and meaninglessness of our everyday life.  We can be part of Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring, or part of Raskolnikov’s redemption.  We can be heroes, saviors, or the saved.  We can live in adventure or bliss.  We can be virtuous, noble, and heroic.  We can feel fulfilled, full of meaning and purpose.

If only we could really enter in. If only our lives were stories.

What if we could write our own lives like a story?  Could we write meaning and fulfillment into them?  Could we fill them with adventure and virtue?

When we read stories, don’t we feel the fullness because we enter into the story–empathize with the characters and view the world from their perspective?  Don’t we experience their world?

But what if that story world was our world? Then we wouldn’t even need empathy or imagination to experience it. We would be in it, experiencing it directly.

But why can’t we do this? Why can’t we determine what we will do next? Why can’t we design the plot of our lives?

Can’t we?  I don’t see why not.

Each day, a new chapter.

One page can change everything.

A new scene opens,

and I decide

what turns

the plot

will take, because

I decide what I

will think.

We determine how we will respond to our circumstances. We choose our actions.  We write our story.  And we experience it. We can live a fulfilling and meaningful life, if only we will write meaningful and fulfilling things into it, and then allow ourselves to experience it.

We can read a book intellectually, without empathy, and analyze it from the outside. We can do the same thing with our life: analyze it from outside, watch from a distance, like Farley Mowat in Never Cry Wolf:

I wonder why it was that long ago I became a watcher of things. Always watching others do and feel things I wouldn’t or couldn’t do myself. Always standing off at a distance, isolated, detached. I envy the wolves for how they experience the world. Always in such direct contact with their environment, traveling through their territories, alert and attuned to all the signs coming in through their senses, telling them where a rabbit recently passed or the sweet water lay, revealing a whole universe to them that we can never really know. But I sit behind glass lenses, filling up notebooks and triplicate forms…

But we don’t have to be watchers, viewing our lives from afar like scientists.  We can allow ourselves to experience them.

I think meaning and fulfillment are feelings, not facts. They must be experienced. They cannot be analyzed. As soon as we remove ourselves from the subjective, existential perspective and attempt to view our lives from the outside, objectively, we lose the feeling (unless the experience of the analysis itself makes us feel fulfilled).

So, I think, there are at least two reasons why I move in and out of feelings of fulfillment and emptiness: action and perspective. If I am to be fulfilled, first I must perform the actions that bring fulfillment, then I must allow myself to experience it.

In order to experience the feeling of fulfillment and meaning , we must be within the circumstance or state of mind that brings them. Fulfillment occurs in the intuitive dimension, not in the logical dimension. This intuitive dimension is real, just as real as pain or pleasure, which means that love and meaning are also real.  They have a reality on another plane, one that may be analyzed, but not experienced, through chemical analysis.We can experience meaning and fulfillment, but we cannot ask questions.  It is as if we must abandon ourselves to it, just as we do to erotic passion.  We must immerse ourselves. Then we can be more than just watchers of things. We can be part of it.

“Short is the little which remains to thee of life. Live as on a mountain. For it makes no difference whether a man lives there or here, if he lives everywhere in the world as in a state (political community). Let men see, let them know a real man who lives according to nature.  If they cannot endure him, let them kill him. For that is better than to live thus as men do. ”  -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations X:15.

Again, Aurelius:

Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquility; and I affirm that tranquility is nothing else than the good ordering of the mind. Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and to send thee back free from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest. For with what art thou discontented? With the badness of men? Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that rational animals exist for one another, and that to endure is a part of justice, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and consider how many already, after mutual enmity, suspicion, hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to ashes; and be quiet at last.- But perhaps thou art dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the universe.- Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms, fortuitous concurrence of things; or remember the arguments by which it has been proved that the world is a kind of political community, and be quiet at last.- But perhaps corporeal things will still fasten upon thee.- Consider then further that the mind mingles not with the breath, whether moving gently or violently, when it has once drawn itself apart and discovered its own power, and think also of all that thou hast heard and assented to about pain and pleasure, and be quiet at last.- But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.- See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgement in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.

From the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:

That which does not make a man worse than he was, also does not make his life worse, nor does it harm him either from without or from within…

Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.

Unhappy am I because this has happened to me.- Not so, but happy am I, though this has happened to me, because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearing the future. For such a thing as this might have happened to every man; but every man would not have continued free from pain on such an occasion. Why then is that rather a misfortune than this a good fortune? And dost thou in all cases call that a man’s misfortune, which is not a deviation from man’s nature? And does a thing seem to thee to be a deviation from man’s nature, when it is not contrary to the will of man’s nature? Well, thou knowest the will of nature. Will then this which has happened prevent thee from being just, magnanimous, temperate, prudent, secure against inconsiderate opinions and falsehood; will it prevent thee from having modesty, freedom, and everything else, by the presence of which man’s nature obtains all that is its own? Remember too on every occasion which leads thee to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.

Someone said the rich start governments to oppress people, so people shouldn’t be allowed to be rich.  I say, it may be that the rich form States to oppress, but being rich does not oppress, only making a State.  We’ve no right to stop richness, only Statism.

And this is the essence of the libertarian position. It is not “no government” for the sake of “no government”, anarchy for the sake of anarchy, or “no big business” for the sake of “no big business”, but “no coercion” whether by government or big business. The trick is in a correct definition of coercion, one that does not itself open the flood gates of coercion.

Whatever becomes oppressive and coercive becomes illegitimate.

In this is coercion: not that I refuse to give to my neighbor what he wants or needs, or that I indirectly prevent him from doing what he wants by getting to it first, but that I physically force him to act against his will, or physically prevent him from acting.

Encouraging words from Butler Shaffer:

The state is still in a position to do a great deal of mischief and destruction, but it no longer enjoys the illusion that its vertically-structured facade of authority is capable of controlling complex events.  From the government’s failures in post-Katrina New Orleans, to the current oil spill in the Gulf, the well-funded and legislatively empowered political apparatus has been unable to make any more effective responses than to have presidents show up for photo-ops or to babble meaningless platitudes.

The world is becoming increasingly decentralized; the horizontal is replacing the vertical.  Such changes are not being occasioned  by ideological thinking, but by the pragmatic necessities of sustaining life.  Just as a tree does not grow from the top down, the lives of individuals and of societies cannot be directed by external authorities, no matter how long they have been revered.  It is becoming more evident to more people that there is nothing that anyone in power can do to resolve the problems created by political thinking. More and more of us are discovering just how weak is any system that must rely on threats and violence to achieve its ends.

Emptiness.  Discontentment.  Striving for fulfillment.  Is there no escape from the continual cycle of seeking, finding, and then growing discontent again?  If not, then what difference does it make whether I seek fulfillment in the life of an animal or a man?  Why not just plunge into mindless physical pleasures, living the life of an addict?

Is there such a thing as achieving perfect fulfillment?  Is it possible to reach a state of fulfillment that leaves no room for improvement? Will there ever be a time when I will be done striving, done seeking fulfillment, when I have arrived?  Or, am I doomed to forever striving, but never reaching, fulfillment?  Is this what the Buddhists are trying to escape in their nirvana?

As I wondered about this today, I thought of heaven, and how I have often wondered how such a state of timeless bliss would be possible.  Wouldn’t it get boring, singing praises to God and walking the streets of gold?  I remember a sermon I heard at Main Street Baptist in Lexington, KY in which the preacher addressed this question.  He said that no, it would never get old.  Every time we got up from bowing down in adoration before the Almighty, we’d catch another glimpse of him and fall again in rapturous ecstasy.

And here was my answer.  Even in heaven, there would be cycles of fulfillment and dissatisfaction.  I think there would have to be.  Fulfillment comes from reaching a goal.  But once the goal has been reached, what happens then?  It seems to me that the fulfillment always leaks out.  You look around and see more goals, more fulfillment higher up.

The only escape is the extinction of all desire.  If there are no goals, then there is no endless cycle, only endless contentment.  But no fulfillment.

No.  The cycles are worth it, and they are not circles.  They are not endless circles going nowhere.  Maybe they could be, but I think they can go down or up.

Fulfillment vs. time with focus on animal pleasures

Fulfillment vs. time, option A

Option A.  Going down.  The path of the animal.

The animal lives only for physical pleasure.  He (or she) lives for sex, alcohol, drugs, food, emotional highs, adrenaline rushes, or material possessions.  He lustily pursues his goals, gorges himself, rests briefly in satisfied bliss, but finds his fulfillment leaking out, and the gnawing hole opening again in his soul.  Worse, he finds that after it is done leaking out, he is at a lower level of fulfillment than he was before.  He desperately seeks a new fix, a new rush, and climbs again, only to slide back, to a lower level.  Each binge leaves him weaker, in a worse position, and less able to achieve higher fulfillment.

Fulfillment vs. time, option B

Fulfillment vs. time, option B

Option B.  Going up.  The man.

The man who lives as a man and not as a beast looks to the future and sees that his choices today will affect his potential for fulfillment tomorrow.  He may forgo pleasure today in order to prepare himself for higher fulfillment tomorrow.  He seeks fulfillment in ways that enhance his capacity for fulfillment.  He forgoes the prostitute to prepare himself for the princess.  And so each cycle of striving, finding, and striving finds him stronger and higher on the scale of fulfillment, with no ceiling at all.  Like a man climbing a mountain, each new peak gives him grander views of the valley, but also reveals peaks higher yet.

The difference between A and B is the difference between abusers of prostitutes and saviors of princesses, it is the difference between sinking in quicksand and climbing a mountain.

And this is the answer to the riddle.  The fact that there is no ultimate fulfillment, no end to the striving does not mean that it is an endless, futile cycle.  It means that there is no limit.

From the Courant:

When Michael Levesque ran to help a screaming woman being stabbed on an Emmett Street sidewalk, he took a knife wound to the face and a hit that caused a concussion.

He says he’d do the same thing again.

“I don’t see how people can live with themselves if they don’t’ stand up for other people,” Levesque said, “and this woman is making it, her kids still have their mother. That makes me proud.”

"You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor..."



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