Editorial Note: I have been asked by a small number of people over the last few years if I were going to write a book with my pithy thoughts and aphorisms. I probably won’t because books are expensive to produce and I would like what I’ve learned from my mistakes to be freely available to anyone who wants to use it or to critique my youthful and not-so-youthful stupidity. So I’ve collected some of my thoughts from the past few years for those who are interested to review them and ponder or laugh at how silly I am. Whichever. See my thoughts from 2011 and 2012 if you care to.
December 29th, 2013 – A deep and lasting joy is not found in acquiring things, controlling others, or experiencing pleasures. It is found in a decision to delight in the wonders of life rather than wallow in its difficulties, to greet the challenges of life with a gratitude for the opportunity to grow in facing them, and to see your fellow human beings in terms of their magnificent potential rather than dwelling on their faults.
December 21st, 2013 – Our love is not strongest when we have warm and fuzzy feelings for others and act accordingly; our love is strongest when we have cold and hard feelings for them and act lovingly in spite of those feelings.
December 21st, 2013 – We do not find peace so much as make it. We do not find love so much as cultivate it. We do not find happiness so much as create it.
December 9th, 2013 – I am growing increasingly rebellious as I get older. I am also increasingly orthodox, but I repeat myself. Orthodoxy isn’t solely an act of rebellion because it cuts harshly against the grain of popular culture; it is rebellion in the deeper sense that it is a rebellion against our innately egotistical thinking and the self-serving facile moralizing which leads us to cling to the moral propositions so conveniently enabling us to gorge on our superficial desires and feed that same ego, giving it ever more authority over our actions and enslaving us to ephemeral whims.
December 1st, 2013 – Let us not hide our failures, but rather take them up and stand upon them so that we might put greater heights of success within our reach. Let us not ignore our flaws, but rather embrace them as opportunities to practice virtue.
November 26th, 2013 – If we let it, this life will burn away our fears and our flaws…and if we let it, this life will burn away our will to live and our will to love. We don’t get to choose whether or not we are burned, but we do get to choose what parts of us make it through the fire.
November 24th, 2013 – Sometimes the love of wisdom requires a willingness to let her go.
November 21st, 2013 – We all need to be willing to fact-check a claim; we should do this not because we are opposed to believing things but precisely because we embrace worthwhile belief. The first person’s claims we should fact-check are our own; the strongest skepticism we exercise should be exercised with regard to our own conclusions in order that we might come to our beliefs as honestly as possible prior to calling others to task for their failures in this area.
November 18th, 2013 – If you want to understand why other people make so many mistakes, the best way to start is to find out why you make so many mistakes. And if you can’t recall making any mistakes, then it’s a safe bet that you have made quite a lot of them.
November 5th, 2013 – It is not enough to find love. It is not enough to foster love. It is not enough to love. We are called to a radical decision to become love, to saturate our being with love, to suffuse our environment with love. Love must become our substance as much as our sustenance.
October 29th, 2013 – The Internet Age view that all religions are equally valid is a view requiring wilful ignorance about the world’s religions. If one thinks that Scientology is just as valid a worldview and ethic as Mahayana Buddhism, then one has failed to properly understand at least one of them (and probably both).
October 27th, 2013 – In the moment when a person decides that they need to become relevant, they have just admitted their own irrelevance. And if a person does not think that they are relevant, then they have much bigger problems than can be solved by convincing others that they are important, which is exactly what those seeking relevance usually do.
October 24th, 2013 – The internet is remarkable for being by far the easiest medium in which to conduct fact-checking and also the medium in which it is least likely to happen. This is despite strong competition from television, radio, and print in the area of not bothering to check facts.
October 15th, 2013 – A portion of what we view as evil only looks like evil because of our natural selfishness and unhealthy attachments. A portion of what we view as good only looks like good because of that same self-centered perspective. This is why the most virtuous people must remove from their moral calculus the very thing which is at the center of the modern moral calculus: the immediate gratification of our purely egotistical desires for false comfort and security.
October 10th, 2013 – The dominant messages of contemporary culture would have us believe that a healthy relationship is akin to renting a car that we really enjoy until we no longer enjoy it, at which point we should find another car to enjoy. In reality, a healthy relationship is much more like cultivating a garden which will provide us and those around us with many benefits in proportion to the amount of cheerful effort we expend on the cultivation of said garden. Without the cheerful effort, we can quickly find ourselves tending dead gardens.
October 9th, 2013 – The death of the mind is a tragedy; the death of the ego is a triumph.
October 8th, 2013 – Embrace life as a beloved parent; take joy in life in a way that transcends its inconveniences and growing pains while never forgetting that the embrace of life will end and that you will need to develop the courage to embrace death with equal enthusiasm.
September 26th, 2013 – A Christianity which does not transcend one’s politics is a Christianity not worth having; it quickly becomes a mere extension of and rationalization for one’s own egotistical and myopic vision, dangerous to the integrity of the person who holds to it as well as to the state and the religion.
September 22nd, 2013 – To choose a religion because it is a convenience for you is to defeat the most useful purpose of having a religion; that it provides an inconvenient moral compass which, rather than validating our self-serving rationalizations, calls us to challenge ourselves to more consistently practice altruistic motivations and behaviors as well as to recognize in ourselves the same weaknesses we see so clearly in others.
September 15th, 2013 – Sometimes the price of completing one’s obligations is a lessening of opportunities to love and be loved, and this is not a price to be paid lightly.
August 29th, 2013 – Contemporary culture does a great job of treating those things which are most meaningful with utter frivolity and disdain while simultaneously treating the most frivolous and superficial things with grave seriousness and high regard.
August 24th, 2013 – Our minds are not naturally inclined to fostering improvements to our behavior, but to creating convoluted rationalizations of our existing behavior and to creating tools which enable us to avoid improving ourselves.
August 22nd, 2013 – The courage to carry on comes from love. And by love I do not mean warm and fuzzy feelings, for those will not last. By love I do not mean the infatuation with a budding relationship or a new toy. Love is much deeper than an emotional high; it is the smooth and powerful current in the ocean rather than the choppy waves of our emotions. It is a commitment and a gift rather than a sentiment or a payment.
August 14th, 2013 – It’s important to be willing to put it all on the line, but just as important to be able to discern whether or not it’s necessary to do so.
August 8th, 2013 – Peace is not gained by creating a comfort zone and huddling within it, but rather by stepping out of it and re-creating our selves.
July 28th, 2013 – Loving your enemies gets a whole lot easier once you get a better look at your own flaws and realize that you are not quite so different from them as you had previously thought.
July 23rd, 2013 – No other victory even remotely compares to the triumph of conquering the self. Nor does any other struggle prepare us more effectively for virtue than the struggle against the self.
July 8th, 2013 – One of the most instructive things in my life has been witnessing the life of a person very much like what I could have become had I but made a few key choices differently.
June 30th, 2013 – As I go through life day by day, I actually see more and more that I can change about myself. My awareness of my own flaws grows and deepens, but not in a self-flagellation guilt-tripping sort of way. It’s just that the image in the mirror gets clearer.
June 26th, 2013 – The storm is life and death and beauty rolled into one amazing and terrifying package.
June 16th, 2013 – Feelings are a real inconvenience sometimes, but without them we couldn’t do really stupid noble things.
June 12th, 2013 – It’s very difficult to take the time to study something dispassionately before evaluating it passionately and doing something about it. It’s also one of the most valuable things we can do for the sake of honesty with ourselves and others.
June 6th, 2013 – Inner peace comes in large part from living up to one’s own ideals, even if one does so imperfectly. We are more in balance when who we are is closer to who we strive to be because we are genuinely becoming the person we wish to be.
June 4th, 2013 – Callous disregard for another human being is far worse than hate. Hate would have you kill them. Callous disregard would have you let them live increasingly meaningless and long lives while suffering each day from a profound sort of emptiness and desperation that makes the prospect of death a welcome relief.
May 28th, 2013 – So many people search desperately for their other half. Some of them wonder why I do not. It’s because I am not a half. I don’t need someone to complete me, just a companion on life’s journey.
May 26th, 2013 – One of the best signs that a person needs to improve morally is that they think they don’t really need to improve morally.
May 22nd, 2013 – If your primary goal in life is to feel good rather than to be good, then the likely consequence is that you will do very little good and end up not even feeling very good after you have reached the pinnacle of superficial pleasures; you will be unable to climb any higher than the ceiling in the prison of your own sensations while feeling a desperate need to do so.
May 12th, 2013 – This day was a microcosm of life, filled with beauty and love while also being fraught with hard work and pain.
April 29th, 2013 – It’s often the case that the degree to which we are incorrect is directly proportional to the degree of correctness we suppose that we have.
April 14th, 2013 – It’s very important to know when you’ve hit your limit, and it’s best not to hit it three or four times to make sure like I usually do.
April 14th, 2013 – One of the most facile and wildly incorrect things that has been expressed to me about spirituality is that it should always make you feel good. A relationship with the divine is not a painkiller or an amphetamine. It is a relationship, and like all healthy relationships it should challenge us and help us grow to become more than we are currently through acts of love, a process which sometimes finds us on a serene mountaintop and sometimes finds us in a darkened vale while we struggle to find love amidst our selfishness and pride. What’s more, it’s often the case that we must walk through the darkened vale in order to find the strength to climb to the serene mountaintop. So to those of you who are like me and trudging through the vale, take heart in understanding that the serene mountaintop awaits you ahead.
April 12th, 2013 – Many of the problems faced by humanity have not changed all that much over the centuries because we have not changed all that much over the centuries. If we want to see a better future, we need to change ourselves first and foremost before attempting to change political structures, economic structures, and social structures.
April 6th, 2013 – If you are not willing to do what others consider to be absolutely insane to accomplish what is important to you, then it may not actually be that important to you.
April 5th, 2013 – Death is the most necessary ingredient for life.
April 1st, 2013 – It is very easy to lose sight of what is good while focused primarily on what is necessary.
March 29th, 2013 – Most people become what they truly love, but cannot truly love what they have become.
March 23rd, 2013 – A government with totalitarian powers of necessity creates a situation in which some have a far better material position than others in order to maintain its existence. A totalitarian state which seeks true equality is like an arsonist who wants to rid the world of fire; he is not believable and very dangerous.
March 19th, 2013 – One of the most crippling things you can do to an otherwise healthy child is to never let them fail. We all experience failure at some point in life, most of us repeatedly and often if we have high standards. It is critical that we learn early to identify failure, grieve for the error, make amends, and improve our behavior the next time rather than wallowing in mediocrity and self-pity.
March 17th, 2013 – The difficulty of my life and the improvement in my perspective on life seem to be increasing at about the same rate. As I get older, I realize how truly weak and vulnerable I am. I realize how little I know and how little I can do in a world so much larger than me. I also realize how important it is to do what little I can with what I’ve been given. Memento mori, memento vita, memento amo.
March 11th, 2013 – If the functional purpose of your relationship with another person is solely the achievement of your fulfillment or solely the achievement of their fulfillment, then you have effectively set up your relationship to be unhealthy and to ultimately dissolve.
March 1st, 2013 – Two of the pernicious lies we should not tell each other or ourselves: “You are worthless,” and “You are perfect.”
February 26th, 2013 – In life there are times when you must either do or die. When these times occur, I generally recommend the first option. The second option is sometimes a valid one, but it should never be Plan A.
February 13th, 2013 – I like the same qualities in intellectual debates that I like in women. I prefer that they both be interesting and honest and vigorous.
February 10th, 2013 – If you are never a hypocrite, then your moral standards simply aren’t high enough. If you are often a hypocrite, then you probably don’t take your moral standards seriously enough.
February 1st, 2013 – It is an incredibly rare person who can diagnose problems dispassionately and tackle them passionately.
January 19th, 2013 – Occasionally someone tells me that I need to question everything. My usual response to this is, “Why?” It turns out that you can really annoy people by taking their advice. It also turns out that a lot of skeptics don’t deal well with skepticism.
January 14th, 2013 – As my mental models of reality get more accurate and thus more complex, I am less and less capable of explaining them to anyone and increasingly disinterested in trying to do so.
January 9th, 2013 – Profundity is not the same as accuracy. Simplicity is not the same as accuracy. So don’t be taken in by something just because it appeals to your love of profundity or simplicity.
January 4th, 2013 – I find it interesting that people in countries where extreme poverty and death are just the course of daily life are often willing to die for the liberties that those who live in wealthier and less violent countries are so willing to relinquish.