This week, I have a theme: 5 tips that have helped me live better. I hope one helps you live better, too…
I have covered the importance of curiosity, eating more plants, being active, and having great integrity. Always keep your word (even to yourself), live an active life (with or without “exercise”), eat more plants than animals, and question everything. I think those habits have transformed my view of the world and made my life wholly my own, which brings us to today’s post.
5. Live for your Self. Life is barely the whisper of a thought forming in a nigh-infinite universe. Life is so fleeting that I refuse to believe it should be lived for any one other than the individual living it. Many people think there is value in living for others or under the rule of others or by the guilt of others. They would have you feel ashamed for any success you achieve and expect you to share your health or wealth or property with others who did not earn it. I think those people mean well but are terribly misguided and perpetuating evil in the universe.
If you made a billion dollars from an idea that changed the world and improved the lives of millions, there are those who would demand you give away your profits as a penance to “pay back” or “pay forward” a debt to society you never incurred. Such people would shame you to give away your riches until you are as poor in money or health as they are in character, despite your having enriched their lives in the first place. This, to me, is the essence of misaligned evil–the idea that we should punish others for achieving.
I do not accept that “guilt” should be the default motivation of humanity.
There are many ways this concept of valuing the Many over the Individual has pervaded society like a parasitical cancer and brought down the living wages and mean success of all people. For example, consider how much of your money is stolen from you in the name of charity. Every cereal box or candy wrapper or clothing line or big box store that cleverly markets thievery under the guise of nobility by claiming to offer 1% of its profits to some charity or other or 5% for the world or a 3 cents to fight hunger… is taking money you earned and using it to subsidize what they should be paying to a charity of their choice. How many dollars have you given to nameless charities you are not even sure if you actually support?
How many tip jars have you dropped change into because you would feel socially guilty if you did not? How many homeless people, with shameless signs shaming you to give up the pay you worked hard to earn, have you felt chastised into giving part of your salary to?
Do not misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with charity or contributing to the homeless or other causes. There is everything wrong with giving away your money or time because you have been socially bullied into doing so. Imagine if, instead of having robbed from you 1% of the price of goods for unknown alleged rain forest coalitions, or cajoling your quarters from you for this association or that legion or those children who you have never met or heard of prior to someone schilling for change outside the supermarket… imagine if you could keep ALL your money and either spend it on enjoying the life YOU dreamed of, or at the very least, if YOU could consolidate your own funds and choose which person or charity you wish to give that full amount of your own earned salary to?
What if you could have all those nickels and dimes thieved away from you by social guilt or cleverly disguised bullying and were able put them toward your ailing parent or child if you needed to? Imagine if everyone had that same opportunity… to actually keep all the money they made and designate however much they chose to the thing or things they care most about.
That is the difference between living for yourself and living for everyone else. There is no shame in thinking for yourself, in questioning so-called truisms, and choosing a life on your terms. There is only shame when you accept the guilt of others as your burden for living.
This does not only apply to charity or money, of course. When you are in control of your destiny, you challenge yourself to create ways of turning the fiction of your dreams into living goals brought into reality. Living for yourself means living a life of adventure based on your moral code instead of whatever other people have told you is good or bad. It forces you to distinguish right from wrong based on logic and rational thinking because those are the primary tools of the self-made man or woman. Our bodies are living machines with external senses designed to provide data to our brains so that we may use our minds to navigate through the real world successfully. Our minds are not designed to be subjugated to other minds. This is obvious. We exist as individual beings, not as one collected homogeneous and amorphous jelly of tissue, nerves, and brain cells (by the way… gross!).
Living of my accord, however, means I can not rely on tradition, superstition, or mysticism to make decisions for me. It is at my own peril that I abdicate my ability to judge and define my world to other people or ideas instead of living on my terms.
Living this way forces me to break down concepts like “integrity” and “love” that otherwise have no intelligible definition for most of us (what is Love?). I have to think hard about the essence of these things and define them for myself. I must decide if murder is bad or religion is good, not based on news and hearsay but by really inspecting the essence of their values until I have found their intrinsic nature and motivations, and only then can I make a choice about their merits.
It is not an easy way to live, admittedly. I am ever skeptical and vigilant. I try to be both arrogant enough to know I am right because my decisions are made based on my values, yet also humble enough to accept when I am wrong because I have misunderstood or miscalculated something. That means accepting there are things I am simply not qualified to have an opinion about, either because I have not given appropriate attention to them or because I do not know enough about them regardless of what agenda popular media or friends or family might be pushing me to believe.
For example, I am sometimes asked where I stand on Genetically Modified (GMO) food because I am vegan. People on both sides of the debate are usually disappointed to hear me say, “I do not have an opinion. I am not a food scientist. I do not have degrees or extensive knowledge in chemistry or genetics and I don’t accept pop journalism or good camera work and narration as truth at face value.”
The value of living for yourself, though, is straightforward. Living for yourself means living for your Self. You can not rely on the esteem of others to build your “self”-esteem any more than your car’s engine can rely on fuel from other cars to run itself.
The nice thing is, applying the other 4 tips I mentioned at the top of this blog basically do the steering for me. Living for yourself starts with keeping your word as a matter of integrity–the essence of being true to one’s Self. Staying active ensures the machine of your body is able to continue providing good feedback to your brain. Eating plants instead of animals is the fundamental choice of Life over Death (no matter from which side you look at it) and the first step to morality and building ethical character. Being curious enough to ask questions and avoid assumptions, “Why do I think that? What if everything I have ever heard is not true? How does that work? What if I do this?”, helps provide the foundation for making decisions and living a life that is truly yours, beholden to no one else’s ideas, shame, guilt, willful ignorance, or self-destruction.
Today’s Lesson: Live your life. Live YOUR life. Or, think about it this way: if you are not living for your Self, then who are you allowing to live your life for you?