It is easy to become melancholy about our insignificant impact on the reality we find ourselves immersed within, and yet we must love our world because we have no choice. We can only affect those things over which we have some personal control, and those things being controlled by other people we know nothing of might as well be on a distant star. And yet, with the advent of the Internet we probably can have some direct impact upon distant and yet unknown people’s behavior. These Probaway – Life Hacks have been my personal attempt to discover new things and publish them in a form where they can have a positive and worthwhile effect on people whom I haven’t the remotest chance of ever meeting. I have set for myself the same long-term goal I would hope every other human has set as theirs — maximizing the ultimate contentment of humanity.
The American Declaration of Independence set the lofty goal for our nation of free and independent people — Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I am enthusiastic about those goals, for without life there is nothing for a human to contemplate and experience, but the second quality, that of liberty, is critical too because without it a person isn’t able to strive after those things which he deems worthwhile. The third goal, happiness, is strangely ambiguous, as perhaps it should be, because it is a nebulous concept, beyond description, to define what will make an unknown person happy in an infinity of possible situations. Therefore, it was clearly stated and intentionally protected with laws, that happiness be left to the individual to choose for himself.
In an abstract sense we can define what people will want and the word “happiness” isn’t exactly right for the ultimate goal. There is the old phrase from Benjamin Franklin, one of the creators of that Declaration of Independence: “Happy, Healthy, Wise and Wealthy.” He was thinking about these issues, as were many other philosophers of the time, and it is from his short list of goals that we may progress to ask the question, then what? The answer is obvious enough — the goal of being wealthy is to be able to purchase things you want, which will then make you content. The goal of wisdom is to be able to find true relationships between things which gives contentment. The goal of being healthy is to be able to enjoy the bounties that come your way, and to be content with them. And even the goal of happiness isn’t quite the end; it is only a momentary emotional state. What we want as the even more distant and abstract goal is to be content. What that means is being satisfied with things existing as they are, and as they are becoming.
Contentment doesn’t actually require any of the things postulated as desirable by Franklin. You don’t have to be wealthy to feel that the world is a wonderful place just the way it is. You don’t have to be wise to feel the world of ideas fills the universe in an ever-evolving pattern of truth. You don’t have to be healthy to observe the living world about you carrying on with the same life force that brought you into being and be contented with that. You don’t have to be happy in the moment to know that it is a transient emotion which you have experienced and you and others may be capable of experiencing in the future.
Although we laugh at Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss and his famous bon mot, “This is the best of all possible worlds,” which was itself a parody on the German Gottfried Leibniz’s philosophy of good and evil, he was very close to what I am talking about. This is the only world we inhabit; it is the world that brought us into existence and provides us with everything we have, or ever will have, and it is the world that will take it all away, eventually. This is the best of all worlds, for us, because this is the only one we get to inhabit, and it doesn’t really matter for us if there could be another world because it isn’t where we will ever live and therefore it doesn’t matter one way or the other. In the very long run there is no such thing as good and evil because all those who are to make those judgments will eventually be dissolved back into the random stuff of the universe, a state we would call nothingness, and in that state there would exist absolutely no moral qualities whatsoever, if morality needs humans to make those judgments. To say abstract things, like distant planets crashing into their suns with their living beings on board, without human judgments or possible interactions, to be a good or bad event seems an absurdity. Human goodness requires humans to express and judge it.
We may not be content with the details of our world, and we should seek to improve that which we can, but:
Our highest aspiration should be contentment with our world as a whole.