Peter, Jo, and Philosophy

Peter and Jo (Joanne Fitzgerald Tylor) came together, which surprised us a little. Sally had wanted to get to know both Peter and Jo better and we had invited them to dinner.

I had told Sally that Peter was a philosopher and Sally, based on what she knew about Peter's book and column, had found that hard to believe. I was hoping Peter would launch into one of his marvelously lucent explanations of some philosophical concepts which would convince Sally once and for all.

Neither of us had heard anything about what Jo had been doing after Roger left, since she was obviously no longer doing research for him.

We were surprised even more when Peter and Jo were ushered in by Andrew to see them holding hands. It was certainly not a relationship we would ever have guessed, but I wondered why we had just assumed we ought to invite them to dinner together. I say we were surprised, but the truth is, Sally did not seem surprised at all.

Dinner was so much fun I do not even remember what we had and I'm too lazy to ask Andrew what it was. It was fun because Jo turned out to have a marvelous sarcastic wit, and teased Peter mercilessly, which he obviously loved, in spite of his phony protests. Jo kept calling him Priscilla, and pretended to be evading identifying what particular member of his body he had removed to satisfy his BID desires.

"Fortunately, I'm the only one who knows," she said seriously about the imaginary missing member. "Or, perhaps not," she added, leaving it to everyone to guess what it meant.

After dinner Sally wanted to know all about how Peter and Jo had happened to get together, which I thought was none of her business. I guess I was wrong, because they seemed very eager to tell us all about it.

As with many others, it was Roger who brought them together. When he knew he was going to be leaving, he had Peter over to discuss some of his research which he thought Peter would be interested in because of its philosophical nature. Jo just happened to be there, it seems, and since she was deeply involved in Roger's research by that time, she was included in the conversation.

Jo was fascinated with the depth of Peter's philosophical knowledge, especially since she had discovered, while working with Roger, that it was philosophy she really loved and all her excursions into feminism and libertarianism were really because of the philosophical elements they included.

It was not long before Jo was writing philosophy for Peter. Jo was an excellent writer, which is one reason why her own writing had been so successful. Oddly, as serious as Peter was about his philosophy, he did not enjoy writing it. Jo did and she had an immediate grasp of all the philosophy Peter explained to her.

As she put it, "Peter did not really explain philosophy to me, he helped me to discover what I had known all along, implicitly. He helped me make it explicit, and that is exactly what my writing his philosophy is meant to do. We do not believe you can really 'teach' philosophy. It can be explained, and most of it can be explained so anyone with average intelligence can understand it, but it is not easy. To learn philosophy one must really want to understand the truth and the nature of reality. Very few people really want that, and even fewer are willing to make the effort to learn it."

Everyone agreed to that, which prompted a question for Peter from Sally.

"I know this is not a philosophical question, Peter, but you may have some insight into the answer. Why do most people believe so many things which are just plain wrong, things which anyone who can think for five minutes would know are simply absurd."

"It is a philosophical question, Sally," Peter said. "Mark could probably give you the answer as well as I since he spent so much time with Roger. It is the very thing which Roger came to this world to discover, and though he admitted he was not certain he had thoroughly plumed the depths of the question, he at least understood most of it.

"I'm sure Mark is aware that what Roger discovered is that virtually every human on this planet at some point makes the choice to surrender their essential nature as a human being. The essential nature of every human being ever born is that of an independent being with one's own mind and ability and necessity to choose, which requires all individuals to learn for themselves, think for themselves, choose for themselves, and act for themselves—a requirement which neither reality or their own nature allows them to evade.

"Yet it is their very nature that every individual on this planet defies. Instead of learning for themselves they simply accept what they are taught by their teachers, their experts, their peers, or anyone else they regard as an authority, and they accept what they are taught as true, whether they understand if it is true or not or why it is true if it is; instead of thinking for themselves they adopt whatever choices are made by their family, their group, their neighbors, or their society; instead of acting for themselves all their actions are merely copies of what they see everyone else doing and are never actions which spring entirely from their own thoughts and choices.

"It is obvious that this is what people do, but it is that choice I mentioned at the beginning which is the reason for what they do. That choice, I said, is the choice to surrender their essential nature as a human being which is their individual independence, and what they surrender it to is some collective such is their culture, or society, or religion, or some adopted ideology or movement.

"So far I have not said anything Roger or Mark could not have told you, but Roger never identified the motive behind the choice that all earth humans make to surrender their nature. We discussed it, Roger and I, but I do not think Roger fully understood that motive.

"Remember what it is that has to be surrendered for a human being to become less than fully human. It is one's independence—the refusal to ever act except on one's own choice determined by their own thinking and knowledge, which means being responsible and bearing the consequences for all one's choices and actions. It is fear of that responsibility which is the motive for the surrender of one's human nature and it is that fear to which all humans on this planet, with very rare exception, submit.

"The actual choice is probably an accumulative one, not a one-time decision to which one is permanently committed. At some early age a child is confronted with a choice to go along with what someone else has chosen when his own best thinking concludes it is not the best choice and not the right choice for him. Such a choice might be something as simple as what game a group of children are going to play. If the choice is non-essential, that is, if the game all the others choose is just not one a child prefers, but still enjoys, it is no surrender to go along with the rest; but, if the game all the others choose seems so silly, or in some other way offensive, to go along with all the rest would be a surrender of the child's own values. A child determined to maintain his independence will simply not play the game but will not attempt to change the mind of the other children. Most children, however, will go along, even when it is against their own best reason, because they are afraid of what the other children will think, or say, or do.

"Even when a child has gone along against his own best reason, it is not a total surrender of his individualism yet. There is time for him to learn such gems of wisdom as, "sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me," as wise parents will teach their children; or the other, "if all the kids jump out of the tenth-story window, are you going to jump out too?"

"However they learn that it doesn't matter what other people think or say about them and it doesn't matter what anyone else believes or does, only those who do learn those lessons will finally make the choice to never surrender their minds and wills to any other individual or group of individuals. As simple as they are, no one on this planet ever learns those lessons, and eventually, their continued surrender of their wills to the wills of others becomes their nature, and they are no longer fully human.

"There are two characteristics that dominate the psychologies of all earth's not-fully-human beings: fear and gullibility. The fear is fear of responsibility which is why they are gullible, ready to believe anything that promises to relieve them of that responsibility.

"There are two agencies in this world, the existence of which are made possible entirely by those two characteristics: religion and governments. Both work on the gullibility of men by constantly providing them with endless horrors that await them. The horrors religion threatens men with are horrors of the after life such as an eternal hell, or purgatory. The horrors governments threaten men with are horrors of this life, such as crime, evil foreign invaders, natural disasters, or economic deprivation. Both religion and government then promise they are the only relief from these pending and certain horrors, and the paranoid and credulous multitudes run to them crying, "save us, save us."

"Probably ninety percent of the absurd things people believe are taught by their religious and political leaders. The rest of the nonsense people swallow is taught by academics who have no real stake in the productive world, since they produce nothing of any objective value, and depend primarily on the largess of religions and governments for their wealth, though government more than religion these days.

"That's a long answer, I think, Sally. Sorry to have run on so. There is a short answer though. The reason most of the people on this planet believe so many things that are not true is because they are all stupid idiots, but I must add, they were not born that way. They have all chosen to be stupid idiots, because they are afraid to be anything else, and besides they get to enjoy the company of a whole world of idiots, which apparently comforts them, and no matter how stupid they have made themselves, there is always someone else more stupid they can feel superior to."

Sally was captivated by Peter's explanation, and laughed at his conclusion, but it was Jo who made the sarcastic comment:

"Peter doesn't seem to regard humans very highly, does he?"

"Whatever do you mean, Joanne Fitzgerald Tylor, Peter retorted. "I have the highest regard for all the humans on this planet—all twenty of them. Of course, that number does give them the benefit of the doubt.

Sally apparently did not quite agree with Peter's explanation, or perhaps did not fully understand it, and began to question him.

"Peter, what about all those honest hard-working people who do the best they can with what they have, not asking anything of anyone else, but, not being overly bright, find answers for their questions in religion, for example. I know what they believe is wrong, but they don't harm anyone else? Are they not fully human?"

"If an individual learns all they can possibly learn, is always honest, first with himself, then all others, never allows any contradictions in his thinking and makes of himself all he can in every way, I would say he's fully human, even if he is religious," Peter answered. "The truth is, very few people learn all they can possibly learn. They give up learning very early in their lives, because learning is hard, and they discover they can get along on having learned some basic things that enable them to earn a little money and enjoy such pleasures and entertainments as their society provides. It is probably true they will never intentionally harm anyone else, but many of the things they support, such as in politics, will result in the harm of others, especially those whose productive efforts make the kind of life they enjoy possible.

"The surrender of one's humanity always includes the surrender of that personal ambition that leads one to seek the best of all things possible in oneself. The nice guy who just wants to do his job, provided by someone else of course, and enjoy his family and his sports, is typical of a human being who aspires to little. He may even be a "leader" in his church or favorite club, but it is second-hand glory coming from the favor of others, not from his own personal achievement of his own aspirations and goals.

"It is the multitude of such nice but less-than-fully human guys which are the soil in which governments grow. It is the nice guys who slavishly follow and trust their governments, supporting their wars and endless oppressive laws which they believe, without question, are just and good. The gullible masses, which governments and religions depend on for their existence, are made up of such nice guys. They not only aren't so nice, they're not innocent either.

Sally thought that over, then made this amazing statement; at least it amazed me.

"So essentially, what you're saying, Peter, is that what is wrong with this world is it's less-than-human population, a population which is stupid, and stupid by choice because they've discovered it is easier to be stupid than to make the effort to be anything else and they can get away with it. If that is the explanation, it is also a condemnation. What is wrong with this world is that the people on it are simply evil, because to be less than one is capable of being is evil, because it is cheating, it is evading one's personal responsibility, it is attempting to enjoy what being human makes possible without being fully human."

Peter listened wide-eyed, apparently startled by Sally's perceptive summary.

"That's exactly right, Sally," he said enthusiastically. In fact it is almost exactly what Roger said, though in very different words. He said the root of all evil is the desire for the unearned or undeserved. Of course attempting to enjoy what being human makes possible without being fully human is the same thing. I think you are a first rate philosopher, Sal."

Sally smiled, appreciating the sincere compliment; and I admit, I felt very proud of my Sally, even though I was quite familiar with her brilliance.

It was a lovely note on which to start the rest of a very pleasant evening with real friends who shared all our values and with whom we shared our genuine love. We brought Jo and Peter up-to-date about Frank's last visit and what we so-far knew about the NatAlSec Sweep. We hadn't yet heard anything about Franks meeting with Ned in California so said nothing about that.

"Isn't it wonderful?" Sally beamed when Jo and Peter had left?

"Isn't what wonderful, Darling?" I stupidly asked.

"Why Jo and Peter. What else?" she asked as though I were a dunce.

"I guess," I replied snappily.

"Oh, men. Mark, don't you see they are in love."

"Oh that! Well yes, of course, if you really think so, Sal."

"You're incorrigible and dense, but you can't help it. Your a man. But I love you more than words can say, even though you're hopeless when it comes to romance."

I cleared my throat.

"Well, other people's romance," she said as I took her in my arms.

'I really don't care about other people's romance,' I thought—but didn't say.

—Mark Halpern