July 2013



The Importance of Balance to Natural Gaian Hedonism

Anybody familiar at all with bicycling will realize the importance of balanced stability to the cyclist’s wellbeing. Even as expressed in early attempts to develop it by Epicurus, hedonism goes far beyond mere pleasure and pain. Thanks to modern science, hedonists can now apply to themselves the idea that the maintenance of balance permeates existence, that nature works toward balanced stability even in such major processes as ecology, evolution, the building of a universe, and every minor feature of it. That Nature does so through the destruction of unbalancing objects and processes in a “may the best one win” fashion is evident without much study. Hedonism is about more than the balance between pleasure and pain, therefore, since it can now be shown how loss of balance can negatively affect all forms of life in nearly every way, and even that which does not live. The universe looks designed? It should. Billions of years of balancing actions should produce that result.

Early advocates of hedonism may have had the right idea according to the knowledge of their time. The ethical hedonism that got swamped in the public mind by commercialism and zealous propaganda could use some help from modern science to restate its case, and to reclaim its rightful place as the predominant secular philosophy to develop a reasonable defense for atheism, humanism and secularism in general, its unheralded place in religion, and the predictive powers of science in particular.

All of those agents of naturalism seem to harbor a generally covert sense of support for hedonism’s ethical views with little awareness of what a modern, developed hedonism would have to say in their behalf. It seems that secular students of nature gain an innate awareness of that message, but find it hard to express in any meaningful way, mainly because the makeup of our modern cultures inhibits them from overcoming a lifetime of propaganda to gain that kind of knowledge on their own. They surely are not offered courses in it at any schools.

They may, driven by impulse, gain some experience of the pleasure part, and so end up with some experience of the pain portion, but will not acquire the knowledge that will enable them to make accurate philosophical connections. What they will miss will be the understanding of pleasure as a reward rather than as an end in itself, nor of pain in the role of penalty. Most people will never hear such words as ataraxia, eudemonia, disequilibrium, homeostasis, homeorhesis, let alone ever understand their meanings enough to realize their implications to themselves and their behavior. They will never get to read the thoughts of great proponents of hedonism like Epicurus, Hume, or Thomas Jefferson, nor about the gently raging debates spurred by such detractors as Pliney or Socrates. Their cultural and political beliefs will deny them the right to know that, and they will suffer the resultant ignorance as surely as any form of unbalance will induce suffering to a living being.

Picture this: the artificially developed sense of morality that we get coached about from the beginnings of our lives causes us to go through life as though on a right-leaning bicycle, upon which we must raise ourselves up from its seat to lean far enough left to maintain its balance. Political history shows us that if we lean right to match the bicycle, it will dump us. We will shed our blood for that political stance, and risk injury and loss of property. Look at the mess all the recent right-leaning folks have caused in our USA, and are continuing to cause because of their inability to learn from hard experience. There is no relief from guilt, either, for those whose lean leftward was induced by the divisive stance taken by their opponents. To act in contrary response rather than originate new trends and solutions to overcome the pervasive problems invading our world, only places their state of unbalance into opposing disequilibrium. Leaning left or right while refusing to straighten up causes the bicycle to roll in endless circles and eventually crash into the hard-headed fools rolling in the opposite direction.

To a right-leaning person, even the most perfectly balanced, vertically upright stance will appear to be leaning to the left. A leaning bicycle will travel in circles in an effort to maintain equilibrium, whichever way it tilts. What are the implications of that? A balanced bicycle will maintain an upright stance and undergo straightforward motion. Likewise, a balanced universe will have all its components traveling in such a manner that will limit their interference one against another. Unbalance caused by a rock traveling in an interfering direction will be met by calamity enough so that balance will be restored. Life itself results from a balanced state in an environment that will enable it to arise. Unbalance at any stage will endanger that process, as human beings are almost too slowly beginning to become aware.

Now, you may be cringing at such imbecilic examples, and if so, then heed this demand: Think of any situation involving any component of reality wherein a state of balance is not required, or else does not naturally, eventually result through some process tending toward equilibrium. A sign mounted at the top of a tall post stays up because all the forces involved in it are in balance. Lose some aspect of that complicated set of agents, and the sign will immediately topple. The same is true of a tree, a ship on the ocean, a building of any height on land. A cancer patient is the ultimate human example of unbalanced processes. All the doctors’ efforts go to a semblance of restoration of balance. Failure means the termination of them all for that one individual.

You breathe air while on your bicycle, your breaths coming in pants to match the effort of climbing a hill. You will lose weight if the calories your body consumes while riding that vehicle are not equaled by the contents of your meals. You will gain weight if your meals exceed the calories burned by your daily activities. You will maintain your healthiest body by balancing your intake of nourishment with what you expend, or else suffer the consequences.

Your body also makes other demands of you for its maintenance. Prejudice of any origin interferes with our considerations about some of those demands by demanding of us to deny our animal natures. Commercial hedonism interferes in an opposite direction by demanding our involvement in a gluttonous way that considers pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself without considering any of the consequences. The consequences of extremism in either direction result from the unbalanced conditions that result from their application.

We are a lazy animal, for the most part. Much of the technology of recent development tends to support that foolish laziness, and maybe inspired much of it. We work at jobs we hate just to pay for that technology, and do little to develop and promote our own innate talents and interests. Unaware of the diseased futures most of us face, we choose the easy path offered by our social structures and pray to our gods that we will somehow avoid the tortured ends we see occurring to dying members of our previous generations. Such unrighteous prayers will be denied. Nature will answer to her forces that demand balance. Like those who drink poison will be poisoned, few will escape the consequences of stress by which our laziness gets maintained.

Those gods to whom we pray result from our intellectual laziness, enforced by the fact that we cannot learn too much about certain subjects before our gods get called into question and then deposed. Our laziness demands that we avoid such a route, and our religious leaders have even created injunctions of sorts against such knowledge. Disingenuous mesmerism cannot be supported by skepticism, but requires artless, naive, gullible trust in our self-appointed mentors, so much so that we label it faith and declare their stories true because we —or they—have said so. When nature demands for balance to be restored, we will bend under the forces she applies so that our self-chosen ignorance lowers our station amongst humanity, our physical effort will struggle to equal what we have failed to gain through the application of our minds to the art of living and the maintenance of balance that we failed to learn.

It is the inclusion of balance as a requirement for moral living that completes hedonism and makes it an ethical statement applicable at all levels of any society. It applies not just to individual persons, but even more so to groups, the actions of any of which can enhance or diminish the quality of life for numerous people in one swoop. Think of a group of bicyclists riding along a highway, acting in complete accord, and their effects not only upon themselves, but upon others beyond their group, who may perceive and appreciate a kind of harmonious beauty.

Aggressive refusal to give up space on a lane may lead to collisions among the cars attempting to get past them. Accidents with such vehicles will likely result in injury and death to at least some of the bicyclists, and offers a scenario not unlike the conditions found in modern societies all around the globe, wherein the refusal of give and take results in all kinds of violence as nature attempts to maintain stability by imposing balancing forces where required. We fight against nature when we fight each other, and induce pain where hugs are required to balance relationships. We tend to offer pain where pain exists already. We have killed and injured each other by the millions over a span of time that surpasses the recording of history, and will as likely as not continue doing so in the future, just for that very same reason.

We, who ride bicycles, know the importance of balance and the consequences of failure to maintain it. We are seldom aware of our pursuit as being hedonic, but are aware of how the joy of it can bring us pleasure, and the strengthening burn of our muscles can enhance the joys we can share with others who ride with us. We know we will lose balance sometimes, and that we are then faced with a choice: to blame our injuries onto our bicycles, or to recognize that we toppled over because we became unbalanced. We face those same choices in all categories of life’s activities, and must face them with the same attention to balance or suffer the consequences.

Read more about this in the ebook, Gaian Ethics on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0050W9ZYA and

Equalitarianism on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B1U8HL2

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This is about atheism and how other people’s reaction to learning about it causes their misconceptions to become applied to me. I learn about their misconceptions when they make their comments or pose their questions. A comment made by a ‘newbie’ atheist upon joining a discussion group prompted me to write this. The comment, which boils down to, “I have known I’m an atheist for years, but I was always afraid to say so. I was 63 years old before I dared to declare my true feelings. I thought I would feel ashamed, but I feel wonderful and free. I no longer feel required to lie, but people press me with questions for which I have no answers. I came here to learn what to tell them.”

There have been more comments and questions over the years than I will ever remember, some with good intent, and many quite apparently prompted by malicious feelings. To my relief, the first have outnumbered the latter. To my displeasure, much of the latter came from other atheists. To my joy, the malicious responses have declined over time, as the people around me become more tolerant due to their increased exposure to alternatives to their beliefs, and my own increasing ability to provide them with better responses. I have only a couple of rules to follow: Treat every comment or question as though the person really wanted to learn; and tell confrontational people something like, “You seem upset with me, and I don’t want you to feel that way so I would rather not talk about it now.”

Questions/Comments:

Well, what kind of atheist are you? I would suppose that question would come from there being so many sects within the Christian cult, layers upon layers in fact, if I had not heard that question also coming from atheists. My answer is that the only kind of atheist is one whose doubt concerning religious claims led to rejection of them all until believable evidence arrives to convince him or her otherwise. Beyond that, we are just people in all the shades and shapes of our species, so any other description of us must be about that. There is, however, a spectrum of varying strengths of atheism, on a scale that runs from strong to weak. On the opposite side of the same scale is a faith meter that runs between self and others in the opposite direction, so a strong atheist’s faith will indicate self-confidence, and a weak atheist’s faith will show as stronger faith in others.

There is an aspect of your question to which it seems no one pays much attention. I will use myself as an example: I spent my childhood in a Christian home under the influence of a variety of opinionated, argumentative people in our household and circle of acquaintances. Baptisms were performed on me in at least three different churches while I grew, and I fully accepted the seriousness and meaning of the rite. I got sprinkled, dunked and splashed, prayed over and prayed for, and fully accepted my future role as a spokesperson for the god named God. Somewhere, as my sins got washed away by all that water and all that grape juice drunk in the name of wine, backsliding set in and my brain began to function. I asked too many questions for which the only answer seemed to be, “Just another one of God’s mysteries, m’boy.” Too young to know about context, I began to notice how verse-fragments used to make a point, once I put them back together, too often had nothing to do with what it had been used for.

My loss of belief made me an atheist, but giving up my Christian upbringing made of me an apostate. As such, I am still a Christian according to my history and the teachings I had been given. “Just another one of God’s mysteries?”

What caused you to make that choice? There was no choice but between honesty and hypocrisy. This is one of many comment-hiding questions people make that tells more about the asker than the one attempting to answer. From it, I learn that you chose a belief and chose to believe, and so you expect that has to be true of everyone. But, hear this coming back to you: “What caused you to not believe in Paul Bunyan, Porky Pig or Rumplestiltskin?” Were you told they were fictional characters, or did you figure that out for yourself? How would you respond to being made to feign belief in them just to appease your parents, neighbors and friends?

That means you are involved in the war against Christians! I am no soldier for any army, but reading so much of your literature should convince anyone that Christianity has declared war against the rest of humanity. Almost every case available to my awareness shows nonparticipants to your cult responding to aggressive actions on your part, or done under your banner. Christianity goes beyond suffering from the failures of monotheism to demand aggressiveness of its participants and so tops the list of the three most hated religions world-wide, which are also the most successful. There must be a lesson of some kind here.

You have doomed yourself to eternity in Hell! Your problem is, I do not believe in hell, and your only way to convince me is to try to raise enough Hell so I will stop doubting your word. Of a long line of you down through the years repeating to me that it’s the word of a god named God, not one has produced believable evidence of all your claims. Hell without a god, or with a god that has vacated the planet, is equally as meaningless.

What about refusing to say “under God” while saluting the flag of our Christian nation? Freedom of expression has to include freedom of refusal to perform under duress, and freedom from duress. Being forced to choose between making a spectacle of yourself by leaving, or to make a spectacle of yourself by standing mute, or having unwanted attention given you by overzealous authorities, is a form of duress that often leads to misfortunate consequences.

Misinformation regarding the nature of our secular nation has grown rampant over the past few decades, in the name of Christianity, as you allow outsiders and pretenders to use your religion for their own gain by misquoting history and out of context scriptures, quoting and creating apologia to preach against what were common practices in the Bible or never mentioned in it, and by preaching intolerance in the sacred name of love. Here, from your own sourcebook: 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1John 4:8

All that green grass and trees out there, and you don’t believe in God? [1]Evolution offers a better (because it is verifiable) explanation than creationism for the presence of those trees and that grass, plus all the flowers and grains, the animals grazing among them, and the animals feasting on them. The balance of Nature is a wonderful system that permeates the entirety of existence. It would take care of itself, if we would stop toying with it.

Who do you pray to? To whom do I pray? I think, sometimes. When that occurs I hear my voice inside my head, and so I believe I am talking very privately to my own self. Is that what you mean?

Doesn’t atheism make an empty hole in your life that God used to fill? That psychological hole you referred to came from dumping a memeplex and all its associated baggage. The strange emptiness comes from the unfamiliar feeling of freedom such as most of humanity, in our time, never gets to experience. It feels empty because we have never been schooled in what to do with it. If we fill it up again by simply switching to a new cult or sect, we miss what can be the only opportunity we’ll ever get to advantage ourselves with that freedom.

That hole also arises from the former habits reinforced by religious rituals and the associations with former acquaintances with whom we performed them. Serious involvement in religion takes up a lot of time, during which we now find ourselves suddenly unoccupied in ways we had not expected. Atheist organizations may be missing a tremendous opportunity to earn the rewards of helping future apostates prepare for the various effects of making the break away from a centralized control of their lives so they can succeed at developing an autonomous existence.

Who’s going to forgive your sins? If I recognize that I have sinned, it was done against my fellow human beings and the life forms with whom I share this planet. My only recourse is to acknowledge my wrongs and work to correct my errors however I can. The damage my ignorance caused has been done and cannot be repaired without increasing the amount of it. Corrections must happen in the future, as the past and its missed opportunities have faded and gone, leaving only the results, for which I must forgive myself so that I can go on unfettered with guilt over misinformed actions. Who will there be to forgive those who misinformed billons through all the generations and led them into sin disguised as religion? Our world melts while awaiting the answer.

What do you believe in, then? I believe a fully developed, fully understood version of hedonism such as described in [2]Equalitarianism. Hedonism as expressed by the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, never had a chance to get off the ground. The word ‘pleasure’ expressed as an important aspect seems to be where all thinking stopped and all emotions took over. Hedonism became about pleasure only, to religious and commercial interests. A better, more accurate choice of words would be of a triad: reward, penalty and balance, the last to replace such as ataraxia or eudemonia in the antiquated language. The philosophy is simple, do good and feeling good rewards you; do bad and face the consequences; maintain equilibrium in your life and enjoy a less stressful existence free of depression-inducing influences.

Where will you go when you die? My ashes will be placed in the ground at the cemetery in Mina, New York unless the children change that plan while I’m not there to care.

How can anyone trust you to stay moral without God’s Commandments? Really, I need to make that inquiry of this questioner. I began to compile a legitimate list of rules to live by, and have gathered 111 as of this writing. You have only ten that you proclaim, even though over 6-hundred can be found in that same location. I know that you have rejected the 600, for the most part, and practice maybe eight out of the ten. I try very hard to keep my 111. Jesus proclaimed only two, and a whole lot of you folks violate half of those in bright daylight while acting proud to do what shames the likes of me to even think about.

Morality, of course, depends upon your frame of reference. A Christian will think a Muslim immoral for having more than one wife. A Muslim will believe you are immoral for insisting that you be allowed to display your idols on every public property, especially the sword that stands atop of your churches. I look to Nature to see what behavior will help me fare best as a human being, and have seen that a hedonic [2]Equalitarian approach is all around best in a civil social setting. The Muslim and the Christian may see that as an immoral philosophy against which both may have been misinformed by their religious leaders, which I consider immoral.

That is, of course, not all there ever will be. The Cumbax Trilogy levels hundreds of responses to aggressive queries like the foregoing. Make yourself ready for when they next appear on your doorstep to play games with your mind. If you own a computer, you can read any of these ebooks with the free app offered by amazon.com.

The Cumbax Trilogy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0064QDSSA


NOTES

[1]Evolution ebook:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00529BSBE

[2]Equalitarianism ebook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B1U8HL2

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