CURRENT READING – Fallen Leaves by Will Durant

“I propose to tell, in a very informal way…how I feel, now that I have one foot in the grave, about those ultimate riddles…” – Will Durant.1

 

 

 

 

 

For Christmas, my daughter and son-in-law gave me this priceless book written by Will Durant (1885-1981) in the last years of his life. The first philosophy book I ever read was Durant’s The Pleasures of Philosophy (1952) which served as an introductory ‘text’ in my junior high school course on the humanities. Over the subsequent 47 years I have acquired nearly all of his books including Philosophy and the Social Problem, The Story of Philosophy, Transition, his 11 volume The Story of Civilization  (several co-authored with his wife, Ariel), The Lessons of History, Interpretations of Life, A Dual Autobiography (also written with Ariel), and The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time. I previously summarized and commented on his 1932 book, The Meaning of Life on this site.2 Much of Durant’s personal philosophy is suggested in these earlier works, but what makes Fallen Leaves (written 1968-1978) so special is that it clarifies his mature beliefs in the context of approaching death. As with Bryan Magee’s Ultimate Questions,3 this manuscript offers us the rare opportunity to hear the concluding thoughts of an acknowledged master of philosophy, and in Durant’s case, history as well.       

The book consists of 22 chapters. The first five chapters offer the characteristically beautiful prose of Durant on birth, youth, middle age, old age, and death without taking on specific philosophical questions. However, the sixth chapter, On Souls, addresses some of the most troublesome questions in metaphysics. He tells us that despite ubiquitous houses of worship, we cannot know whether there is anything beyond death. He appears to doubt Kant’s assertion that we cannot know ‘the thing-in-itself’ and Schopenhauer’s belief that the world is “my idea.” In his view our perceptions of the world are instantiated in its reality.

Durant believes mind is not matter, as the pure materialist claims, since it does not occupy space. And, unlike Hume, he believes the self is real: “In addition to that succession of mental states there is, by the direct witness of introspection, a sense of continuity and personality constituting ‘the self’…” Durant is convinced the subconscious is in fact the  psychological ‘self.’ He continues: “…dormant recollections are part of the self and the soul; consciousness is not all of the soul, but only the soul’s supreme achievement.”5  Nonetheless the soul is distinct from the mind being “an inner directive and energizing force in every body…closely associated with breath.”6 For Durant the soul consists of “not merely sensations and ideas, but desire, will, ambition, and pride…” 7

However he does not expect the soul to survive death. In his words:

“Death is the breakup of the human soul – i.e. of the life-giving, form-molding force – of an organism into those partial souls that animate individual parts of the body; so these lesser souls can for a time continue the growth of hair and nails on a corpse. And when the corpse completely disintegrates there will be souls or inner energizing powers, even in the ‘inorganic’ fragments that remain. But my soul as me is bound up with my organized and centrally directed body, and with my individual memories, desires, and character; it must suffer disintegration as my body decays.”8

(continued next post)

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1Durant, Will, Fallen Leaves. Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., 2014. ISBN 978-1-4767-7155-7, page 1.

2See posts titled Current Reading – On the Meaning of Life, Parts I and II dated 1/13/21, 1/15/21, and 1/18/21 on this website.

3See posts titled Current Reading –Bryan Magee dated 9/27/21, 9/29/21, 10/1/21, 10/4/21, and 10/6,/21 on this website.

4 Durant, Will, Fallen Leaves. Simon & Schuster, New York, N.Y., 2014. ISBN 978-1-4767-7155-7, page 35.

5Ibid.

6Ibid.

7Ibid., page 36

8Ibid.,page 38.

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CHART FOR SOCIAL PURPOSE DECISION

“The great men of culture are those who have had a passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their time; who have labored to divest knowledge of all that was harsh, uncouth, difficult, abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanize it, to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and learned, yet still remain the best knowledge and thought of the time, and a true source, therefore, of sweetness and light.” – Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy

In the last 8 posts I suggested a classification system for societal roles and reasonable decision and success factors the reader may wish to consider in proceeding. Table 6 in the appendix provides a modeling of the decision process based on the earlier discussion. Below is a sample calculus and its explanation which I did for myself.

CATEGORY RANK DESCRIPTION COMMENTS
1 INDIVIDUAL
Age 63
Health Excellent
Aptitudes Science, Math, Reading, Philosophy, Medicine
Tolerance Medium to low Candid assessment
3 EXTRINSIC
Location u.s.
Political Environent Free, Progressive Few limitations
Historicity 21st century
Human Destiny Galactic Human Colonization Optimistic preference
2 INTRINSIC
Size Large Hope for larger impact
Likelihood High to medium
Measurability Medium Can accept
Multiple Low Limited by age.
Desirability ? Timeliness
Proportion High Team role less desirable
TABLE 6.  Social Purpose Decision Chart

The first item to resolve is the ordering of the three main categories – individual, external, and intrinsic. Since I have already completed a career as a physician and am in late middle age, individual factors are the most important. This may be less true for a young person. Since I reside in the open society of the United States, external factors are least relevant making intrinsic factors intermediate.

My age forces me to work quickly making the prospect of obtaining a Ph.D. in philosophy and finding a job as a professor less judicious. In addition my relatively low tolerance of obstacles and the interference of others and my preference to work alone make the choice for independent study and writing the more desirable course for me. At this point in life, having already completed one career with medium impact, I am looking for something larger, preferably which can outlast my lifetime. Given these considerations, I am willing to accept a lower likelihood of success and of measurability.  Desirability is the most difficult consideration. Philosophy, even if limited to the study of ethics, appears to be out of favor. However, like the Stoics, I have little concern for fame or popular opinion, as long as the potential for some contemporary success and future interest exists.

The net result of this factoring process is that I chose to create a philosophy website and work on a book for possible future publication. Should this fail, I am learning key skills that I can use for a later purposeful function – perhaps a website to explain and update medical literature for lay readers.

Hopefully this demonstrates the use of Table 6, but as always, readers are encouraged to pose questions on this site for further clarification.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – SUCCESS FACTORS ( final continuation)

The last of our success factors is intention. Failure to specifically choose a social purpose or goal or to plan its fulfilment leaves one in limbo as to whether any accomplishment no matter how great will provide the subjective sense of meaning that an intentional purpose offers to one’s life. For most of us this decision will occur as we emerge from adolescence into young adulthood and comes down to choosing a profession.  For many of us the choice we make at the end of secondary school or in college as we pick a major or decide on post-graduate training may feel pressured, hurried, or even artificial. We may simply lack the time or maturity to define our desired social purpose at that point in our lives. In that case, a different route may be pursued at a later time in life.

Consider Adam Steltzner, an underachieving high schooler, college dropout, and  small time bass guitarist, who noticed the constellation Orion had moved between the start and end of a gig one night, became curious, returned to college to find out why, and ended up with a PH.D, in engineering mechanics before joining NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and designing and building the landing system for the Mars Curiosity rover.

It is worth noting that accidental or incidental societal purpose is possible, if less reliable. One may choose a field of endeavor which seems inconsistent with the larger impact we hope for, but which morphs into exactly that. As a historical example consider Ulysses S. Grant, a graduate of West Point who served in the Mexican-American War (which he personally scorned) before being transferred to a remote post in the West and finally resigning from the army in 1854. He lived in poverty and ended up a simple store clerk until the Civil War broke out in 1861. He joined the Union Army and within three years rose to lieutenant general (the first in the U.S. since George Washington), becoming the most important military figure in the Union defeat of the Confederacy. After Lincoln was assassinated, General Grant defied President Johnson using the Reconstruction acts, passed over Johnson’s veto, to enforce civil rights. Later as President, Grant stabilized the post-war national economy, supported Congressional Reconstruction and ratification of  the 15th Amendment, and crushed the Ku Klux Klan. Under Grant, the Union was fully restored, and he appointed African Americans and Jewish Americans to prominent federal offices.5 Grant shows how one’s career – even an apparently blighted one – can lead to an unexpectedly fulfilling purpose.

In summary, societal purpose is critical to a meaningful life, but typically precarious, thus we need to attend to any opportunity to increase the odds of success. In general, this starts with a calculated choice and a decisive commitment. One must not abandon one’s goal too readily; imagine if Ms. DiCamillo had decided to quit trying to get her stories published after 200, 300, or even 400 rejections. Flexibility and necessary revisions tied to realistic expectations are usually necessary, but planning and gritty determination can overcome the drift into despondency and feelings of futility and failure.

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5Wikipedia, Ulysses S. Grant.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – SUCCESS FACTORS (continued)

Our third success factor is flexibility. No matter how carefully we formulate our path of societal purpose, inevitably we will face  unforeseeable obstacles. Take Michelangelo whose lifelong passion was sculpture, but whom Pope Julius II commanded to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508. Michelangelo protested, “This is not my trade”2  and recommended Raphael without success. After four years of toil mostly on his back, recurring arguments with the Pope on composition and technique, and immense pressure to finish the work, the result was a medley of superb paintings which in the words of Will Durant, “taken together… constitute the greatest achievement of any man in the history of painting.”3  Anyone who has seen this remarkable masterpiece, and uncounted millions have in the last 500 years, can attest to the indescribable  awe one feels,  particularly of God creating Adam at the electrifying moment of the near touching of human and divine fingertips, and the unforgettable and gruesome Last Judgment. Michelangelo’s resourcefulness, adaptability, and sheer vision led to one of the most powerful artistic legacies in the history of Western civilization.

The fourth success factor is enjoyment, that is, success is more likely if one chooses work one finds enjoyable that can serve as societal purpose. In The Time of Our Lives, Mortimer Adler tells us while a portion of the life of most people involves ‘subsistence-work’ meaning work done to earn a living, we should avoid an occupation consisting mainly of drudgery which is fatiguing and painful and reduces the quality of our non-work life.

Instead choose an occupation that consists mostly of ‘leisure-work’ meaning “a useful activity serving an end beyond itself, producing an extrinsic result that is desirable… Not health and vigor, nor wealth produced, but human improvement, individual and social, is the end this activity aims at.”4  And should one be forced to do unfulfilling work for a living, choose the highest compensated work possible to permit more leisure time at a later date when non-income producing leisure-work can be expanded.

The fifth factor in success is realistic expectations. No one human being could drag mankind out of superstition to the scientific method.  Aristotle, a reasonably candidate for the greatest mind ever, developed early understanding in a multitude of fields: logic, ethics, physics, biology, political science, meteorology, and metaphysics. In physics, Aristotle got some things wrong such as the laws of motion which were more accurately described nearly 2000 years later by Isaac Newton. However Aristotle seemed to recognize the limits of the physics of his time and hinted future scientists would uncover more accurate laws to explain what he could not. In turn, Newton discovered the quite accurate laws of gravitational attraction but recognized he could not explain gravity itself. It took another 300 years for science to advance to the point where Albert Einstein could reformulate our understanding of gravity based on relativity and the space-time continuum. Each successive genius recognized realistic limits on his ability to describe reality and the possibility of greater clarity future generations of scientists would develop.

(further continued next post)

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2 Durant, Will, The Renaissance. Simon and Schuster, 1953, p. 473.

3Ibid., page 475.

4 Adler, Mortimer, The Time of Our Lives. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970. ISBN 03-081836-2.  Chapter 4, pages 33-34.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – SUCCESS FACTORS

“The uncommitted life isn’t worth living.” – Marshall Fishwick

 

 

We have now evaluated a classification system for societal roles and the main factors in a decision on cultural or societal purpose. Next we move on to success factors. The first is of course an optimal selection process such as I outlined at the end of the last post. One can convert that narrative into a customized algorithm which pinpoints one’s unique starting point assuming a precise calculus is followed. Table 6 in the appendix proposes one version of a charting technique the reader might consult (this will serve as the December 28, 2021 post). The other success factors can be derived logically and include: (1) commitment, (2) patience/time, (3) flexibility –especially adaptability and resourcefulness, (4) enjoyment, (5) realistic expectations, and (6) intention (rather than accident or default).

Starting with commitment or persistence, every aspect of the pursuit of a societal purpose demands devotion to one’s project. First there will be the acquisition of skills necessary to the purpose. Consider for example the years of study, lessons, and practice needed to become a great musician. Each of us will face periods of fatigue, monotony, and doubt as we acquire the capabilities required of our chosen calling or profession. Once those skills are developed one must persevere in obtaining a position in which to deploy them to fulfill one’s purpose and seeing it to completion . We saw in an earlier blog how Jean Kirkpatrick, the first woman to hold the post of the United States representative to the United Nations, asserted that purpose is commitment, and commitment depends not mainly on specific talents or abilities, but rather on character, that is, one of virtue. Such character  defines a person’s primary achievement in a meaningful life in her opinion.1

Similar to commitment is patience; we simply cannot rush our chosen purpose. I was deeply awed and inspired by the story of Kate DiCamillo, an author of children’s books who has sold over 37 million copies of 25 different novels. I became aware of her while watching a PBS Newshour  televised after she was chosen to be the American National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature in 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dV-_mrUkh5Q ). This remarkable woman began writing her fiction at age 30 often getting up at 4:00 AM to write before going to her regular job at a book warehouse. She succeeded only after receiving an unimaginable 473 rejection letters! Of course the obverse side of the patience coin is having sufficient time to achieve one’s goal, so it pays to start at a young enough age and make the effort to stay healthy enough to live a sufficient lifetime.

(continued next post)

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1See post on this site PURPOSE AND THE MEANINGFUL LIFE – OTHERS – FAMILY – PART III, dated 7/30/2021.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – DECISION FACTORS ( further continued)

So far we have looked at two kinds of factors in choosing a purpose to pursue in society – individual (physical and mental) and environmental (geopolitical and temporal). Today we examine the third class of factors related to purpose – intrinsic or structural considerations. There are five such facets: size, quantity, proportion, measurability, and likelihood of success. While these are affected by individual and environmental factors, they are nonetheless sufficiently discreet for separate analysis.

Size refers to the magnitude of impact and/or persistence one wishes to aim for. Should one follow Lao Tze in refraining from calculated action, thereby facilitating the flow of natural reality or perhaps Voltaire’s Candide who discovered after much searching that one need only tend one’s own garden? Or should one devote oneself to the struggle for world peace as the prelude to future exponential human progress? Each of us must determine for ourselves that magnitude of effect on our community or on civilization that defines sufficient consequence in a meaningful life.

Quantity refers to the number of different societal purposes that offer ample opportunity for aggregate success or that meets our particular standard of self-depletion over a lifetime. This likely changes as one lives longer – consider Ronald Reagan with his changing social roles as actor/entertainer, union executive, politician, world leader, and historical figure. Presumably a meaningful life is more secure with multiple changing and increasingly expansive purposes over an extended lifetime.

Proportion refers to the degree of contribution one can make to a specific purpose. No individual can hope to solve global climate change alone, so purpose is shared and incremental in that endeavor. Meanwhile the great poet typically creates alone and thus secures the value to society of her efforts as an undiluted source of meaning. Tangibility or measurability references concrete or visible outcomes. The administrator of a foodbank can count the number of meals provided to the needy while the philosopher can only speculate on her influence or benefit on current and future readers. Last is likelihood of success, which is fairly predictable for more concrete pursuits such as agriculture, factory work, or construction, but uncertain for creative writing, politics, or scientific research.

A deliberative process based on a careful evaluation of these intrinsic factors combined with a candid assessment of one’s capabilities and tolerance, one’s environment, and one’s beliefs about the trajectory of human history and the ultimate destiny of mankind offers the best approach to perhaps the greatest decision one makes in a meaningful life. It depends on a level of knowledge, maturity, and vision which hopefully one reaches before a final pursuit is selected. This writer can only offer the reader his sincere wish of good luck.

Next time we look at success factors in bringing that choice to fruition.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – DECISION FACTORS (continued)

Last time I divided key decision factors in the choice of a meaningful purpose in the world of humanity into three main categories – individual, external, and intrinsic – and analyzed individual factors of physical and mental or psychological types. Today we look at some extrinsic factors. These also fall into two general types: environmental and temporal.

Environmental factors are mainly geopolitical and cultural. The first consists of the physical location where one lives and political circumstances in one’s world. You may live reside in a rural or an urban setting, each of which involve some constraints. Rural living typically offers little opportunity to be a university professor, to engage in certain types of research, or to pursue some types of entertainment or for instance. Urban environments similarly provide limited possibilities for agricultural pursuits or for naturalism and wildlife management. Fortunately most occupations, callings, missions, and creative enterprises are possible anywhere, and of course most of us can relocate if our particular passion requires.

Political circumstances are less flexible, but at least in Western democracies, create few compelling obstacles. Should you live in a less free nation such as a strict Communist or Islamic society, a dictatorship like Algeria or Myanmar, or if you live in a less developed nation such as Somalia or Burundi, you likely need to factor in local constraints more carefully (or consider emigration). Catholic communities may reject a calling in population control or family planning or to pursue stem cell research. Women are unable to assume some roles in up to 104 countries for mostly cultural or historical reasons.1 Other cultural considerations may be more subtle, referring to societal needs or acceptability. Tangible significance may require one to fine tune one’s life pursuit to the needs of those in one’s surroundings.

Two remaining external factors, both based on temporal reality, influence at least some decisions on cultural purpose: historicity and human destiny. Historicity refers to our unchangeable position in the human timeline. We simply exist in our time not a past era, and that historical position must be a factor in our concept of our purpose within the great scheme of civilization. Within that framework is our view of the nature of history – is it cyclic or one of progress or even devolution? The way one views one’s position in the continuing cadence of human chronology may influence particularly large or enduring purpose of one’s life.

The last and arguably most important external factor in one’s choice of purpose in civilization is human destiny. In an earlier section I examined human destiny as not only one of probabilities, but also as intention, that is we may hope to be agents in a preferred outcome.2 It seems reasonable to choose extended personal goals in light of likely scenarios of any distant human civilization, and with regard to the future we imagine for humanity and wish to be a part in bringing about.

(further continued next post)

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1According to the World Economic Forum webpage:  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/104-countries-have-laws-that-prevent-women-from-working-in-some-jobs/

2See posts on Human Destiny in the section Free Will and Fate on this site, especially posts dated 10/18/19 and 10/21/2019.

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – DECISION FACTORS

“Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be: custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.” – Pythagoras

In the last two blogs I offered a classification system for societal roles roughly ranked by impact on humanity and society. I noted that that higher levels of enduring effect are typically offset by reductions in tangibility or likelihood of success. Lower level roles may also be more objectively valuable as measured by their economic productivity. What we need next is a process by which factors in one’s choice can be organized Again any system must remain general rather than specific given the unique circumstances of each person.

Key decision factors fall into three main categories: individual, external, and intrinsic. Individual factors can be subdivided into two types: (1) physical and (2) mental or psychological. Important physical factors include age, health, physique, and physical impairments. Most of us will choose our lifework at a young age when all otherwise possible purposes are tenable. For those who delay or who seek new roles at later ages, time and physical capacity may become limiting. A man over age 60 will likely struggle to be a Marine, and a woman of 70 may be ill-advised to begin the long process of becoming a neurosurgeon. Fortunately such limitations are unusual rather than frequent, and similar callings are readily available for the hearty and dedicated.

Health and physique may be more constraining. Frail or sickly individuals may not want to enter physically-demanding careers such as firefighting or construction, but still have plenty of options such as education, journalism, or musical performance. At 5 foot 7 inches most men cannot expect to be professional basketball players or heavyweight champions whatever their desire to entertain others in those arenas, but again similar options exist such as golf, tennis, or soccer (e.g. Lionel Messi). The visually impaired may not be able to safely pilot a jet, but can nevertheless be great writers, statesmen, and so forth. In brief, one’s physical condition and abilities are rational considerations, but should present minimal restrictions on the purpose one chooses in society.

Mental and psychological factors are a second and perhaps more important layer in any deliberation. For good or bad, most of us have natural talents and aptitudes which directly or indirectly impact our choices. A person who lacks a mathematical mind or interest will find less pleasure in engineering or finance while individuals without a creative bend will struggle to be novelists or artists. An assessment of one’s tolerance of imperfection, diversity of opinion, and the personality flaws of others is also decisive at times. One cannot hope to be an effective politician if one cannot relate well to the public or interact with people of different viewpoints. A candid evaluation of one’s nonphysical facilities may be vital in the choice of a meaningful career or calling.

(continued next post)

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – ROLE TYPES (continued)

Last time I outlined a classification of role types for consideration in completion of purpose at the level of cultural reality including: occupation, callings, missions, entertainers, influencers, politicians, practical scientists and inventors, and creators, It is worth noting that there is much overlap in these admittedly artificial categories; the lawyer may service a business as a mere occupation and source of income or may devote herself to a mission to help refugees seeking to immigrate. The baker may regard his trade as a calling if it is based on a deep personal commitment to offer pleasure to as many folks as possible (how many of us can honestly say that we give pleasure to people every working day of our life?).

In fact, the sense of the magnitude of one’s purpose, like meaning itself, is ultimately subjective. The onus is on the individual to view his or her chosen ‘work’ or ‘labor’ as a cherished purpose in life. Moreover, for many and perhaps all of us, societal purpose penetrates deeply into the human world via a chain of causation. Consider the nurse’s care that heals a patient who can then continue on with his or her purpose. As with all events in the universe, in fulfilling our societal roles, we act as triggers of a web of innumerable effects on living and future people.

Before closing I wish to look at two philosophers who allude to purpose in the social sphere: Adam Smith and Thomas Hobbes. Smith, the economist, sees work being of only two types: productive and nonproductive. By his economic assessment, the carpenter is productive while the king is nonproductive. This quasi-scientific classification seems excessively black and white. By such a standard, poets and researchers also are nonproductive. While this may be true in an objective sense, the willingness of society to trade the results of productivity for the output of these individuals seems to be sufficient justification for the sense of purpose they enjoy.

Hobbes takes a somewhat different approach from Smith and me. Power, especially instrumental power is the supreme measure of purpose in society. One example is wealth combined with liberality. Here I must confess, Hobbes adds to my design; that is  one may choose one’s occupational or entrepreneurial path as a means to accumulate wealth that in turn supports one’s true societal purpose, the betterment of society through philanthropy and support of positive processes. But Hobbes adds other categories of power such as reputation, affability, nobility, eloquence, and dignity.1 His classification system of the means towards social power nicely blends social virtue with social purpose.

Whichever approach the reader chooses to take – economic, power, or role-based – in all likelihood, a consideration of expected or desired outcomes will drive his or her unique answer for locating purpose in the extended world of humanity.

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1Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan. The Great Books, 1952. Volume 23, pages 71-73

 

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PURPOSE AND  CULTURAL REALITY – ROLE TYPES

“It was not the matter of the work, but the mind that went into it, that counted – and the man who was not content to do small things well would leave great things undone.” – Ellen Glasgow, The Voice of the People.

 

Last time I ended on the daunting if optimistic note that the final touch on a meaningful life may be completion of one or more objectives within the larger world of sufficient magnitude to meet one’s own standard of significance for self-validation. Alternatively we might say that eudaimonia entails self-actualization within the human community. Such a profound pronouncement begs for additional clarification, which is the subject of today’s essay. What types of roles or accomplishments make up the universe of possibilities? For this blog, the answer must be general, so do not expect specificity in what follows.

As we think through the potential roles that fulfil authentic purpose they fall into groups we can roughly rank in terms of increasing significance but typically decreasing tangibility:

  1. Occupations – those who contribute to current community necessities or security, or which are adjuvant to higher roles. Examples include farmers, grocers, bakers, factory and construction workers,  attorneys, business people, law enforcement officials, military personnel, etc. The  results of their labor are  measurable hence more tangible; for instance, the automobile line worker can see the cars rolling off the assembly line and know he or she was partly responsible for them.
  2. Callings – a profession to which one feels summoned in order to help others. This often applies to teachers, social workers, mental health counsellors, medical providers, and the clergy for example. There is some feedback of appreciation or even visible benefit to others, but services of this type do not aim towards a concrete final product.
  3. Entertainers- such as actors, performers, and professional athletes. As Santayana saw, one powerful purpose of civilization is varying experience. Contributing to the pleasure of one’s fellow humans is a worthy goal for any lifetime.
  4. Missionaries – those who devote their lives to helping the unfortunate or downtrodden. Ultimate results may or may not be definitive, but the missionary is likely to experience gratitude and perhaps some lasting effect on the life of others.
  5. Influencers – those who choose a career which informs and/or guides societal understanding. I would include journalists, media consultants, cultural critics, and political or scientific writers in this group. For the most part their work is timely rather than enduring, but vital to an informed population and the optimal functions of society.
  6. Politicians – a self-evident term. Good governance and the creation and execution of ethical law are intangible goods, but clearly vital at the levels of local, state, national, and international communities.
  7. Practical scientists – mainly researchers and inventors. The former typically produce incremental rather than revolutionary knowledge, but can anticipate some tangible outcomes. The fortunate inventor can expect a tangible product with potentially enduring impact on humanity.
  8. Creators – writers and artists. The pleasure, inspiration, and insight they offer to existing and future people is perhaps less tangible than in other fields, but the prospect of enduring impact makes for perhaps the highest goal possible for any person. Consider the longevity of the works of Aristotle,  Michelangelo, Shakespeare, or Beethoven.

(continued next post)

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