Right Tools Help Us Know Selves
Right Tools Help Us Know Selves
2. A Primer on Synergetics<
IN THIS discussion we are interested in investigating ways and means of improving our lives; of accelerating our mental, emotional, and spiritual growth; of establishing continually better conditions in our interpersonal relations with our families, friends, and associates; of enjoying better health, more abundant survival, and a greater peace of mind. In other words, we are interested in leading more useful, healthier, happier lives.
In any attempt we make to use a thing successfully, we must first determine its purpose. And we usually achieve success in using something to the degree that we understand its purposes. Following this line of reasoning, if we want to live useful, healthy, happy lives, then the first thing we should do is ask the question, "What is the purpose of my life?"
Once we honestly ask this question we are immediately struck with the magnitude of it. Marry individuals may get this far only to decide that the answer to such a profound question is beyond their ability to comprehend. Such people go on suffering the vicissitudes of life simply because they believe there is nothing else they can do. But let us take a different attitude. Instead of deciding the question is beyond our ability to comprehend, or that we are not intended to know the answer, let us investigate to see what we can find.
It seems to me that a great many persons consider the accumulation of material possessions as being the purpose of life. Let me submit that such a consideration is the grossest of errors, that it could be otherwise than error only if life originated as a colossal cosmic accident, only if life had its very beginning at birth and experienced total oblivion at death. Even then, the purpose of life would not be the accumulation of material wealth simply because under those circumstances life would have no purpose at all.
For life to have a purpose, I feel we must take something more with us when we pass out of life than when we entered life at birth. Since we cannot take our material possessions with us when we go, then it obviously must be something else we are here to acquire. It follows that if we know what that specific something is, we could do a better job of acquiring it.
If we are to make an effort to discover our purpose, of course we must look in the right place. And the only really obvious place to look is within ourselves. Since each of us is a unique individual we have every reason to suspect that each of us has a unique purpose. If such is the case, then using other human beings as subjects will not lead us to our own answers. We must each of us seek self-understanding through a study of our own selves. We must find our own truth in terms of our own individual experiences.
Suppose a strange ship from outer space were to land on earth and leave behind an unusual machine when it departed. Upon examination of this machine, what would be the first question we would ask about it? Might it not be, "What is its purpose?" And might we not immediately conclude that if we were to determine its purpose we would first have to study the machine itself to achieve an understanding of its workings?
And so it is with ourselves. Our first
task in a quest for our purpose is an effort to achieve some self-understanding -- particularly about such things as how our minds work, our emotions and how we use them, our beliefs and where they came from, our attitudes and why we express them as we do, our motives and why we accept them, etc.
In most things the reason for being is not so much a matter of moral or ethical consideration as it is a matter of right-use-ness or wrong-use-ness. It is only in the realm of human relations that morals and ethics become a consideration. Basically we have established moral and ethical standards as guides we may use to direct us toward right-use-ness and away from wrong-use-ness. Perhaps, in order to become aware of the purpose of our lives, we must look beyond the framework of moral and ethical standards to the basis from which they sprang, the concept of right-use-ness and wroni g use-ness. T o better demonstrate the meanng here, let me use a watch as an analogy.
The purpose of a watch is to always exhibit the "right" time. There is no moral or ethical consideration involved. It is simply a matter of reality. Either the watch exhibits the "right" time or it exhibits the "wrong" time. I can use a watch to determine the right time provided the particular watch I am using is accomplishing its purpose.
If the watch is not keeping the right time, I cannot take it apart and put it back together so that it will keep the right time except, perhaps, by accident. On the other hand, a competent watchmaker can take my erring watch and correct its faults.
Why can the watchmaker do this and yet I, who am admittedly as intelligent as the watchmaker, cannot? It is because the watchmaker has studied watches. He knows the various parts, the functions of those parts, and the relation of the functions. He also knows his tools and how to use them to adjust the various functions of the watch so that they do not impede one another but work together as a whole.
Because I do not know how to do this now does not end the matter. By studying watches until I have achieved an understanding of the various parts and the relation of their functions, and by studying the watchmaker's tools until I have achieved skill in their use, I can learn to make watches function properly.
The important point hereis that the principle involved also applies to self-understanding. If we study our various functions and their relationship one to another we can learn to adjust them so that they do not impede one another but work together as a whole. All we need to do is to become aware that such a thing is within our power and then go ahead and accomplish it.
Someone suggested that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. I will agree that happiness is apparently what we are trying to achieve, but I am not personally satisfied that it is the purpose of life. Let us consider the possibility that happiness is a sensation we experience as a result of living our lives toward the accomplishment of purpose. In this case the sensation of happiness tells us to what degree we are putting our lives to right-use-ness.
In the case of the watch, in order to