30 September 2008

Constant stars to navigate by

We are ships tossed about in turbulent seas of forces beyond our control – Necessity, Causality, Chance. But the ship has a captain at the wheel, Choice. And this is why the analogy of a ship is used, and not a leaf or some unpiloted object which would imply determinism and absence of personal responsibility. It is this very responsibility that divides people into two kinds: those who agonise over it, and those who embrace it. Which camp one falls into will to a great extent determine one’s attitude towards life; it will be a series of burdens for the agonisers, and of opportunities for the embracers.

To be the creator of one’s own meaning, values and purpose is to reject both fatalism (which places these things in the hands of an external ‘power’) and nihilism (which rejects all values and insists on the meaninglessness of existence). The defining characteristics of the free, brave individual are her self-affirmation (“I am capable of creating my own meaning”) and self-cultivation (“I live and practise my meaning”). She does not give unwarranted deference to an outside authority, whether temporal or divine. Any social law or custom that she chooses to follow is one that she deems justified and worthy of recognition. She cannot be coerced, that is although she may be physically forced to act against her will, she will not surrender that independent principle of self-creation, of self-choosing.

For the free and brave individual, her guiding principle is rational, enlightened, long-sighted self-interest. The laws of existence are the only laws she obeys without reservation; they are the constant stars blazing in the firmament by which she navigates her earthly vessel.


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