Refined Carbohydrates – Evil Incarnate


So in the spirit of the Body portion of our Triad of Virtue.  I speak a little about diet.

If someone were to ask me, “If I want to be healthy, how should I eat?” this is how I would tell them to get started:

I would start by cutting out all refined carbohydrates, simple sugars in other words. Continue reading

On Personal Liberty; You Always Have a Choice


Every once in a while my view on how society should be organized seeps into my entries on philosophy. This view stems from my objectivist leanings, as well as my libertarian outlook. I say “should be” because society is actually a compendium of different personal philosophies bastardized by the collective brutality of government, societal norms, and those who abuse natural law. Simply put, how things should be as a society are not how they are…at least not exactly. However, that does not mean that I shouldn’t strive for the “ought.” The Stoic maintains his virtue despite its absence all around him.

A cornerstone of our behavior is personal liberty. Continue reading

On Being Heroic (Objectivism)


Don’t ever get angry at a man for stating the truth.”  -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, Ch. 10

I have a Stoic philosophy no doubt.  This philosophy has had a tremendous influence on my view of life, and how I cope and prosper with the existence that I have.  So much is out of my control, and it is certain that I will have sadness and tragedy in my life.  In the end, I will be dust.

If all will be lost, if all will be forgotten, then why not just give up?  The short answer is that to give up is contrary to nature.  How do I know this?  Well, keep in mind that I am not a Stoic zealot, nor am I a one-trick pony, oh no.  I could find plenty of explanation of why it is my duty to compete in this wrestling match called life within Stoic philosophy, but a more direct, incisive path to an answer is through objectivism.  Through my own reason, using the template of objectivism, I see that to produce and to do so with excellence, is virtuous.

Objectivism is the philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand.  While her novels and essays are extensive, she is best known for her novel, Atlas Shrugged, and this novel is an allegory for how to live according to this philosophy.  The more you read about Rand’s views and her philosophy, you can see how she became so controversial, and so reviled by many.  The uncritical ear, make that the average mind numbed by all the mainstream smoke and mirrors found in our society, did not like to hear what Rand had to say.  To this day, her philosophy remains outside the mainstream…mostly something to be examined, but not adopted among the elite intellectuals.  Accepting the details of what Rand has to say is difficult for the uneducated, or even unopened mind, for the philosopher who has not taken the time to think things through.  In many ways, this is similar to how the Stoic philosophy is viewed…a philosophy to be considered, not a way to live.  As for me, I’ll take the “road less traveled” (thanks to Frost).

Photo by Dez Pain

Photo by Dez Pain


Rand’s philosophy basically has four parts, which can be found here in her own words.  I will extract the four parts as I understand them:

  1. Nature is what it is.  Your perception of it is irrelevant. Facts are facts and you cannot wish something to be true.  (Sounds a lot like “control” and “fate” in Stoicism, eh?)
  2. We use our reason to decipher through these facts.  It is what makes us human, it is our survival tool.
  3. To pursue your own self-interest is natural; thus, it is good
  4. Humans should be free to cooperate without interference or force.  When we cooperate we are choosing to do so because it is in our own self-interest.

So what does this mean in deciding “how to live?”  Well, all of my actions should be for my own self-interest if I am living according to what is natural; in essence, they are for my own survival.  This is the state of nature, it is what keeps you alive, it is what makes you prosper.  Facts are facts, wishing it were some other way will not make it true.  We use our faculty of reason every day to decide what is good for us and what is bad.  We decide every day whether to help someone, whether to ask for help, and what that help is worth.  We do this as a survival mechanism.  Each of us has special talents, and each of us can nurture those talents to leverage them for our own survival.  We can trade these talents for ones we are not so good at.

Imagine the value of garbage is a virtuous endeavor ("Photo: JohnNyberg,")

Imagine the value of garbage collection…it is a virtuous endeavor (“Photo: JohnNyberg,”)

When I perform a task that I have mastered, presumably it helps others.  For this service, others provide tasks at which they excel, in kind.  In modern society, this “service” (or product) is generally transferred through some kind of monetary payment.  Currency is an easier way for people to trade goods and services.  My duty then, is to perform a task to the utmost of excellence for its own sake…for my own sake…this is essential for my survival.  This is how I survive…because others value the task that I perform.  If my task is not valued, then I will receive little payment.  If my task is highly valued, then I should EXPECT payment.  I will not perform my service for free, because this is unnatural, and is contrary to my survival (acting contrary to survival is essentially, the definition of altruism).  In the long run, I must provide value to my fellow man, so they will provide value to me.  Also in the long run, for me to expect a return from those who receive my product is perfectly natural, and thus moral.  Unless I plan to survive on my own in the wilderness, that’s the bargain.  If I wish to have wine, then I either make it myself (which I cannot) or provide the winemaker with something he needs (albeit indirectly in today’s modern society…through exchange of money), so that he will give me his wine in trade.

In a natural state, all of this should and would be voluntary.  The part that so many don’t like to hear in Rand’s philosophy is that this is all driven by self-interest.  What they miss is that self-interest does not mean selfish.  In fact, what they miss is that cooperation is built into self-interest.  I’ve written about the false philosophy of altruism before, but the heart of the matter is that our motivations, our relations, our morality…all of it, is driven by each of our own self-interest.  In a moral society, everybody has a role, and everybody contributes…for their own survival.  I must emphasize that this participation must be voluntary for it to be moral; otherwise, somebody is a slave to somebody else…somebody is a slave, and somebody is a freeloader/slavemaster…somebody is expecting something for nothing.  In essence, freeloaders (called “looters” by Rand) are performing the worst kind of immorality.  The ones who enable the freeloaders, the so-called altruistic and the collectivists, are the slavemasters and they might even be worse.  In an unnatural state, the slaves are those who pull their weight, but have their products forcibly removed from them by the looters and slavemasters.

To survive, yes even to flourish I must provide the highest value product to my neighbor.  I must do this because I need what my neighbor has to offer.  To be virtuous is to live according to nature, and nature demands that I do my part before I take.  That is why I don’t just give up, even in a state that is currently unnatural.  My job is to enlighten about what IS natural and to act that way regardless of externals.  That is why I wrestle!

Taking Care of Yourself: A Parable


Like the traveler on an aircraft, you are vulnerable.  At any time, the cabin may lose pressurization and you would not have enough oxygen to breathe.   If there were to be a rapid decompression, vapor would fill the room, the pressure would drop, and your lungs would deflate.  Your lungs would be unable to provide you the required oxygen, because there is simply not enough pressure.  Of course, if everything worked as expected, the oxygen masks would drop providing you with enough pure oxygen to survive until the situation was under control.

(In the video:  The Masks Drop at 1:28)

But did you remember what the flight attendant said?  “Always put your own mask on first.”  Why?  Because if you tried to put your child’s mask on first you would pass out before you might help either her or you.  You must put your own mask on FIRST.  Once you do, you can help others.  So make, sure you are taken care of, then move on to helping those closest to you.

Notice that you don’t have to be safely on the ground or 100% secure to help others, but you do have to at least have the tools to function as a servant.

The Problem with Maslow


In all of my studies of Maslow (which are limited to brief undergraduate and that for this article), nowhere does anybody speak of the fact that we can CONTROL our desires.  People throw around Maslow’s Hierarchy like humans are just animals, acting instinctively with little control over our minds.

Maslow's Hierarchy

Maslow’s Hierarchy

On the spectrum of things we can control, our desires are one of those things that we have quite a lever on.  This is where a Heroic Stoic can use the tools of philosophy to modify the hierarchy.  For example, if I must have caviar and filet every day, then certainly I have set a high bar for fulfilling my physiological need of food.  What about shelter?  Do I need a 5,000 square foot home or a tent?  These things are for us to decide.  Certainly they are not easy decisions, and they require some judgment.  Many human beings live in simple dwellings with no heat/cooling, while I cannot imagine not having a powered system that controls my indoor environment.

Live here?

Live here?

Or could I?  My awareness of this fact is half the battle, isn’t it?  Could I live without central heating?  Well, first of all I live in a mild climate so I am ahead of the game.   But seriously, could I?  At first, I think it would be difficult, but eventually I can imagine that I would adapt with less clothing in Summer and bundling up in Winter.  Imagining this is therapeutic.  It allows me to see that my life as I know it can change, and it also helps me appreciate the needs I have fulfilled.  In a sense, this awareness allows me to jump up the ladder of needs fulfillment.  It helps me realize that central heating is not physiological but maybe a safety need.  When I don’t need caviar and filet for my food, then I can move on to higher needs.

...or live here?

…or live here?

Then, I can control the higher needs as well using what I know about control, fate, and impermanence.

More on that, later.