This article continues the discussion of the practical application of the ten moral principles described in the article, Principles to every day life and the advantages of living by those principles.
Moral Principles Are Practical
Moral principles are reality based. They are determined by the reality of physical existence and our own natures as human beings. The purpose of those principles is to guide our choices and actions to achieve success as human beings and to be all we can be. The ultimate purpose of moral principle is the enjoyment of our lives.
In the principles article I wrote, "Every individual has the ability to learn all they need to learn to be all they can possibly be as a human being, and they must learn all they possibly can about as many things as they possibly can and they must do this as long as they live."
That sounds like some kind of commandment, but it is not a commandment. The, "they must learn," assumes an objective or purpose, the purpose of living a completely successful and satisfying life. It means, if one chooses to live successfully and happily, "they must learn." Of course, if one's own personal success and happiness are not their primary objective they do not need to learn all they possibly can. They can learn just enough to get by, to survive and possibly enjoy some small pleasures along the way to their eventual despair and disappointment with life.
For those who can never be satisfied with less than the best in what they are, what they achieve, and what they enjoy, knowledge is the only road to success. Learning is the way to being all one can be and experiencing all that life makes possible. Of course knowledge alone achieves nothing. Without work, without actually applying knowledge in one's endeavors to achieve and produce, one simply becomes a repository for knowledge which is useless. Knowledge and work are the whole means to success, but without knowledge, no work is able to produce much of value.
Human life is impossible without knowledge. There is not one thing a human being must do, even to survive, that is possible without knowledge. But knowledge is necessary for much more than simply surviving.
In the article, "The Only Path To Success And Happiness: Knowledge And Work," I explained that without knowledge you cannot do anything, that your life can be no greater than your knowledge (small knowledge means a small life), and the limits of your knowledge are the limits of all that you can hope to achieve or enjoy. Read that article to understand why knowledge is the most important thing to achieve in life. The remainder of this article is about why knowledge is necessary to the enjoyment of life.
You Cannot Enjoy What You Do Not Know
Not only does limited knowledge limit what we can do in life, it limits what can be enjoyed in life. Most pleasures cannot be enjoyed without knowledge; more importantly, the entire scope of what pleasures and what kinds of pleasures are possible is determined by how much we know.
Enjoyment Of Doing: Despite its undeserved bad reputation, work is the most rewarding and enjoyable aspects of life.
I often say, "life consists of what you do, not what happens to you." Living is doing, not only for human beings, but all living things. Life is the continuous process of accomplishment and achievement. Work, intelligently guided productive effort, is our human nature's means of accomplishment and achievement, that is, of living and enjoying our lives.
What one achieves and accomplishes is what truly satisfies our need and desire for fulfillment as human beings. Work is not only rewarding in material terms, providing us with everything of material value we want, it is most rewarding psychologically. Our consciousness of our own accomplishments, of what we have produced and achieved by our own effort provides the rewards of self-confidence, self-worth, and the sense of worthiness to have and enjoy what is ours, because we earned all that we have and enjoy. It is what the word so terribly misused by psychologists, "self-esteem," really is and means. It means a true estimate of our own value and worth as human beings.
Enjoyment Of The World:
By, "the world," I mean all of existence of which we are conscious, the entire earth, first, as well as the entire visible universe.
The world is where we live, where every experience we'll ever have takes place and where we'll do everything we ever do. It is the world that provides every opportunity to do whatever we do and will provide the resources for all we do. It is that world that will supply every pleasure and joy we will ever have have. It is a world of infinite possibility where nothing that is not physically impossible or beyond our own capabilities is forbidden, and that world is ours to use and enjoy in any way we choose. There is only one condition—you can only use and enjoy the world to the extent you know and understand it.
[NOTE: You can use the world without knowing it, but using it ignorantly will not provide joy and happiness but the very opposite, pain and anguish.]
There are two aspects of the world we can enjoy only to the degree we know and understand them:
The world of nature which is all the world that is independent of humanity. The world of mountains, forests, plains, deserts, rivers, lakes, and oceans, all teaming with endless varieties of life, and what are called, "natural wonders." Anyone can see that world and perhaps enjoy the obvious aspects of it, but to enjoy the true beauty and wonder of it we have to know what a mountain is, what makes them all different, why there are mountains and valleys in contrast to land that is flat, what kind of life each supports, and how the different creatures live and interact. A forest is just a lot of tree, if we know what trees are, but knowing the difference in trees and the difference between a hard-wood forest and a tropical rain forest allows an appreciation for those things which is otherwise impossible.
The world's wildlife is one of the most interesting and enjoying aspects of the world which one cannot begin to enjoy without some knowledge of taxonomy (a word most people do not even know the meaning of) and the interrelationships between the species, any one of which provides to some a lifetime of study and pleasure.
All the three major sciences, physics, chemistry, and biology, are the study of nature and its attributes. Nothing is of interest to everyone, but for those who pursue the sciences there is great pleasure in the pursuit.
Where could we end the variety of natural phenomena to be explored, studied, and enjoyed? We have not even mentioned the world of minerals, of weather, of oceans, and wonders of the visible universe that provide intense scientific interest and endless inspiration to the arts? There is no end of these sources of joy which can only be enjoyed to the degree we know them.
The world of humanity and all that human beings do and create is impossible to appreciate and enjoy without knowing what human beings are, what they have done (history), what they have produced (science, technology, arts), and how they relate to one another (culture and human relations). The remainder of this article is concerned with the world of humanity.
The natural world and the world of humanity cannot be separated. I have separated the natural world from the world of humanity conceptually, but of course human beings are as much a part of the natural world as any other aspect of reality. The difference is that most of what exists in the world and what happens in the world of real importance to human beings exists and happens by the volitional choice and action of human beings. The existence of science, technology, history, societies, commerce, medicine, the arts, and knowledge itself exist only as the product of human effort.
The world of the, "man-made," includes both the good (machines, medicine, arts, and civilized culture) and the bad (crime, wars, slavery, and decadence). The good aspects of human achievement can be enjoyed directly as wealth, health, and possibility. The bad aspects of human achievement can only be a cause of human misery and dissatisfaction directly, but even the bad can be interesting to study and understand.
Enjoyment Of World Cultures:
As interesting and enjoyable as the world of nature is, it is those aspects of the world for which humanity itself is responsible that is the most interesting, and the most enjoyable.
In the world of nature, as interesting as its life is and enjoyable, even when we make pets of some of that life, we can only truly relate, as human beings, to other human beings. Only other human beings have minds, just like our own, and therefore are the only other creatures who must choose how they live and are free to live as they choose. Every other animal will live as its nature requires. With minor variations, every dog does what all dogs do, eats what all dogs eat, and sleeps the way all dogs sleep. What any human being does might be what some other human beings do, but will certainly not be what all human beings do and some things they do will be things no other human being does. Some will eat what others eat but almost no two human beings have the same diet.
What makes the world of human beings so incredibly interesting and enjoyable is the almost unlimited variation in how human beings live, enjoy themselves, and manage their affairs.
The existence of the incredibly different cultures in the present world and the societies of history is entirely due to the fact nothing determines human behavior other than the human ability to choose, which is also why it is impossible to predict what any culture might be without studying that culture itself and why it is always impossible to predict what any culture or society will do.
Every society is a mixture of good and bad, but almost all cultures have things that are charming and enjoyable to learn about or experience, if possible. There are some cultures that are incredibly evil, dominated by cruelty, superstition, ignorance, and moral backwardness, and though not enjoyable at all, are still interesting to learn about.
The interesting and enjoyable aspects of other cultures are the differences in language, cuisine, dress, social customs, history, economy, products, arts, and their relationships to other cultures. While all these differences are interesting, only some will be directly enjoyable, but none of them can be enjoyed until something is learned about them. It is also enjoyable to discover how differences and similarities in different cultures make understanding all cultures easier to understand. Learning other languages, cultural practices, etc. always increases one's enjoyment of cultural differences possible.
Enjoyment Of Society
By society I do not mean society in the political sense or social science sense, I mean society only in the sense of living with, enjoying, and interacting with other individuals.
Every individual human being is unique in every aspect that makes them individuals. It is not necessary to agree with anyone else's beliefs, how they live their life, or what their likes and dislikes, are, to enjoy them. It is very much their differences that make them interesting. There is nothing wrong with making objective judgment about others views and practices, but there is everything wrong about forcing those judgment on others. So long as other individuals do not interfere in your life, there is no reason you cannot enjoy them. This does not mean you have to tolerate bores and pests, or those who are belligerent or unreasonable, it means so long as others are reasonably sociable and observe normal courtesies, you can and will probably find them interesting. What's even more important, you can learn something from almost everyone.
The more you know, the more you can enjoy others, because the variation in others' interests and activities is so broad, if your knowledge of the world is confined to your own daily experiences you will not be able to understand or appreciate those whose own life and experience is very different from your own. It is one reason knowing other languages is always good. It not only makes it possible to communicate with more people, it makes it possible for you to enjoy them, and they you.
When I was young I would occasionally hear some young person expressing concern about a pending date, "I don't know what to say." The problem was always the first three words, "I don't know ...." Knowledge is important to all human relations, not only to be able to appreciate others, but to be interesting to others, to have something to say, especially something that relates to others personally.
Though there are many people who talk without knowing what they are talking about, and everyone they talk to knows it, to have something to say we first have to know something. Think of all the different people you meet every day, the different kinds of work they do, the different things they're interested in. The more you know, the more likely you will understand them, be able to appreciate them, and able to talk to them about what they are interested in.
I seldom use personal examples, but these come to mind because of their difference. Where my wife was receiving therapy after a recent shoulder operation, we met a charming young girl named Tasha (actually Natasha) who is originally from the Ukraine. Because we know something about the Ukraine, and have other Ukrainian friends, we could honestly show an interest in her unusual background. That interest was obvious to her and we have enjoyed some wonderful conversations with her.
On a recent visit to our ophthalmologist we met a new technician who happens to be from the UK. Her accent is quite prominent and charming and I mentioned I liked it." She said most people mistake her accent for Australian. "That's because you're from Northern England, near Wales, I said. "That's right," she said obviously pleased, and by the time we left we were fast friends.
Enjoyment Of Science And Technology
For those who have studied the sciences, the technical aspects themselves are not only interesting, but fascinating. The more one understands the nature of the physical world, what it is (chemistry for example) how it works (physics for example) the more the beauty and wonder of this marvelous world and universe can be enjoyed.
Every one in the modern world enjoys the almost magical benefits the sciences and technology have conferred on the world. Everything we eat, the clothes we wear, the homes we live in with every possible convenience and form of entertainment, our means of transportation from motorcycles to jet planes, the work we do in clean and comfortable offices, and modern medicine that keeps us well and has eliminated so many diseases from the world. We take it all for granted, though none of it existed two hundred years ago and would never have existed if it were not for science and technology.
Most adults enjoy the benefits of science and technology the way children enjoy the benefits of being brought up in a well-provided-for home with loving parents and those who provide all their needs and desires. Most children just take all they enjoy for granted without having any idea how they are provided or even how most of the things they enjoy actually work.
Except for the direct pleasure they get from using the products and devices that make their lives comfortable and pleasurable, they know nothing of real sense of confidence and pleasure that comes from knowing how the things one uses actually work, how they are made and where they come from, so say nothing of knowing what to do when those things we take for granted suddenly doesn't work or becomes unavailable.
Enjoyment Of Literature
I considered calling this section enjoyment of the arts, because the more one knows about anything like the arts the more it can be truly appreciated and enjoyed. Music is a good example. Except for a small number of people who cannot hear or are, "tone deaf," or have no sense of rhythm, music is enjoyed by almost everyone. But the music most people enjoy is very simple, repetitious, and uncomplicated, because an appreciation of more complex and sophisticated forms of music is demanding and requires a fuller understanding of the nature of music, its history, forms, and development to fully enjoy. Even many who enjoy classical music and opera, for example, cannot identify the instruments that produce the sounds they hear, name the various parts of a musical score, identify most composers or know the difference between a musical score and a libretto.
I chose literature because it is the one art form that can be enjoyed by anyone capable of reading and using a language, and because literature includes much more than creative writing (fiction, novels, plays, and poetry), such as history, sciences, and philosophy, all of which can be sources of great pleasure and satisfaction befitting beings whose defining characteristic is their minds.
Most good fiction, whether novels, short stories, or plays, can be read and enjoyed if well written, even if one knows little about the setting of the stories or much about the culture of the characters. Nevertheless knowing something about the history of the time the story is about, the kind of occupations the characters might have had, the moral views of the day, and what they might wear, sing, and eat make the experience of what is being read much richer and complete. One might be able to enjoy Dostoevsky, but knowing something about the history, times, and culture of 19th-century Russia will make those stories come alive. You might read Graham Green's, The Ugly American, but if you know nothing about Southeast Asia or the Vietnam War, the story will make little sense.
One advantage of literature is the more you read the more you learn, no matter what genre of literature you read, but there is nothing you read that will not be made more enjoyable by the knowledge you already have as a basis for fully appreciating it.
Enjoyment Of Learning
The more knowledge one has, the more knowledge one can gain.
I do not like the word synergy because it is used for so many things that are not synergistic at all, but knowledge is one of those things that truly is. Every kind of knowledge enhances and broadens all other knowledge. Every new word one learns the meaning of makes it possible to learn everything else that is dependent on that concept. Because all knowledge is interrelated, each piece of knowledge is like a building block, and the sum of one's knowledge is like a building in which every block supports and makes possible all knowledge above it and dependent on it.
There is a hierarchy of knowledge that requires knowledge to acquire more knowledge. One must have a knowledge of language before anything else can be learned and almost everything else that is learned requires one to know how to read. One cannot begin to learn higher math, like trigonometry or calculus until fundamental math is mastered, in order, counting, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, fractions, decimals, powers, then algebra and geometry. All knowledge is the same. One can learn very little until they have learned about how things are measured whether it is cooking or building house.
The more important any knowledge is, the more difficult it is to learn, but the process is always the same: learning the basics so well they become almost automatic, then moving on to apply the basics to more advanced and difficult aspect of whatever is being studied. Whether it is learning a language, a branch of science (like chemistry), or a new technology (like electronics). One begins with the alphabet (or symbols) and their sound and progresses to a basic vocabulary, then to the declensions of nouns and conjugations of verbs, then to grammar and syntax, for example if it is a language; or one begins with learning the names of all the elements, their characteristics such a valence and their states, the difference between elements, mixtures, compounds, the difference between acids and bases, what the most common compounds are and how they are formed if it is chemistry that is being learned; or one learns what electricity is, what static electricity is, what magnetism is, what a current, voltage, and resistance are, what a is circuit is, how measurements of current, voltage, and resistance are made in a circuit, what alternating current is, what induction is, what capacitance is, what reactance is, what a tuned circuit is, what a diode is if it is electronics that is being learned.
At the beginning, especially when the subject is a completely new one, the learning process can seem more like torture than pleasure. But as the fundamentals are are mastered, further progress becomes both more interesting, and when one has made real progress and everything has come together and one is able to use their knowledge to actually do and produce things, using what is known and the acquisition of additional knowledge in the same field become very fulfilling and a source of joy unachievable in any other way.
Anyone who has mastered a musical instrument knows the scales and exercises required to become truly proficient are gruelling. There is not much like music in that aspect of learning an instrument, but as one becomes proficient, the ability to perform or play music that would have been impossible before, even though it is ten times "harder" technically than the scales and exercises one loathed, is suddenly not only easy but an exhilarating pleasure to perform.
Everything in life is like that. The more valuable a thing is, the more expensive it is, the more difficult it is to achieve and harder it is to acquire. The wonderful thing about knowledge is that while it is the most important and valuable thing one can ever achieve and acquire, the more knowledge one has, the easier learning becomes, and when one has learned enough it becomes one of the greatest of human pleasures and the most rewarding of all human endeavors.