Values: The Art of Authenticity and Will Power

“There can be no knowledge without emotion. We may be aware of a truth, yet until we have felt its force, it is not ours. To the cognition of the brain must be added the experience of the soul.”
— Arnold Bennett

The answer to all of life’s questions requires an understanding of values. If you understand what values are and how they work, you will understand the world, yourself, and others with clairvoyant sagacity. Values. What are values? Values are more than beliefs, they are more than pleasures. They orient us to our world. They provide a context, a priority of significance. They move us to action, but more importantly, they move us to thought. You could probably say that values occupy some corner of our subconscious, like the super ego or Id or something.

Values create a worldview. They are institutionalized into us through tradition, through enculturation, through habitus. We can appeal to universal values as a result of socialization. If you know what a person values, you can predict their thoughts and behaviors, however unassuming they may appear.

Values are the source of all intention. If you understand values, you understand all “will”, all motivation, all incentives, all behavioral manifestations. You understand thought, culture, action, desire, mood, emotion…

When you understand values, you understand morality, which is nothing more than socialized values, conventionalized values. “Truth” is a value that we are so familiar with, it becomes ultimate commonsense, common knowledge to all.

How do values appear? What do they look like? There are relative values, which are dictated by society and culture, by societal conventions— which are always up for interpretation—, according to what other people value, conspicuous or not: our clothes, our virtues, our accessories, our goals, our interests, our job, our degree, and the like.  And then there are absolute values, which are dictated by physiological necessity, and not so open to interpretation, such as the most basic survival needs, like food, water, shelter, and sex.

I believe that when absolute values are unsatisfied, relative values cannot flourish, and therefore culture can not develop. Culture is purely conventional social values oriented around absolute values, around life sustaining amenities and activities that grow in complexity as technology allows for more efficient and effective acquisition, and therefore more free time to socialize.  As freedom increases, the attainment of absolute values becomes less of a priority and socialization around these absolute values grows more distant, and the more culture can flourish, deepen and grow. When a society is focused on survival, there is less free socialization, and therefore less time to devote to occupying our thoughts with relative values that provide cultural meaning.

Nietzsche’s will to power is simply a will to actualize values which are relative to the “self-willing”. A person who manifests original values for, and according to, their “self” is in a unique,  and perhaps “authentic”, position to imbue their values in others. Self-knowledge, being “self-willed”, or possessing “autonomy”, produces authenticity which creates an almost divine “authority”, and authority begets power, because authority dictates value. The ability to leverage value is power, because values move people, and power is the ability to move people, and therefore resource, to facilitate change. But this all begins in the “self”. The origin of “authentic” and “authority” is autos which means “self”. “Autonomy” means “self-law”.

Values dictate context: they provide a priority of perception, of thought and action. Values are purely instinctual, purely primal, purely emotional. Thoughts encapsulate feelings with words. We are conditioned by association. Thoughts and feelings— derived from our perception of reality or the outer world— are simply feelings indexed by symbolic words. When we undergo debate, discourse, casual conversation, or cognitive therapy, we assign words to feelings, and learn to leverage and manipulate them as a means of exerting our will to our benefit.

Values are the lens in which we view the world. There are always ultimate values: a hierarchy always exists. Values create an etiology— which contributes to a “worldview”. As an example: For the religious, God and the scriptures and the church are the ultimate value, and all other values and the activities accompanying them revolve around these ultimate values; whereas for the materialists, wealth and conspicuous commodities— anything quantifiable— are the ultimate value, and all other values and activities accompanying them revolve around these ultimate values.

Creativity is nothing more than a reorganization of values— a creation of new feelings that index perceived objects to new words, which creates new relationships with new ideas, and constructs a new gestalt, a new conceptual schema, a new perceptual structure.

Values dictate what we see— they provide a priority of perception. We see what we “want” or “desire” to see. We have an affinity, an emotional yearning, to actualize values.

If wealth is your highest value, you will be a slave to it and possess none of the intangible fruits it offers. If power is your highest value, your top priority, you will possess the tangibles of wealth and authority, but lack a full appreciable grasp of intangible values. If wisdom is your highest value, you possess the greatest value of all— the ability to understand and create human values— and the world becomes yours. It is often said that wisdom can be defined as the proper application of knowledge. But all action, all application, is a manifestation of a value system possessed by an individual “self”. Action responds to values.

You may believe that values are simply the desire for pleasure, and you may be partially right, but most important for individuals is the desire for stability, for security, for equilibirum and coherent experience. An individual desires balance between their perceptions and thought, and their feelings and mood. All pleasure is the result of attaining expectations, achieving a congruent innerworld and outerworld. We set goals to create incongruity, and we work to achive an outerworld that resembles our inner world, our inner expectations. It is not the attainment of a reward the produces pleasure, but the expectation of reward.

Attaining expectations is when the thoughts containing an encapsulated emotional memory, are reinforced in the present, through passive circumstance, such as aesthetic experiences that reflect our internal ideals, or active realization, such as worthwhile work that reflects our internal ideals.

All thoughts are reaffirming, are self-enforcing. All minds want to organize according to a preexisting structure of values, of meaning, belief, perception… according to a history, a narrative, a story, a tradition, an inherited legacy. We strive for stability and so aim to create and ensure that our outer world matches our inner world of values. When incongruity arises, many people would rather persist in a delusional state that reaffirms their inner world of values to maintain equilibrium. The consequence of such delusions is a host of emotional alarms which indicate mental and emotional duress, such as anxiety or stress, due to conflict and discord, as an indication of contradiction and incongruity. When these emotional alarms are not dealt with an individual may internalize them, but they manifest through physical outlets, such as ulcers and the like, or behavioral outlets, such as deviant substance abuse to inhibit or numb the emotional duress.

Extrinsic values are the same as extrinsic motivations: they are meaning imposed on “life” by society, by culture and convention. Intrinsic values and motivations are creative, are self-generated in the absence of external guidance, cultural dictations, or normative signaling from society.

Authenticity is nothing more than a purely self-generated system of values. Authenticity transcends circumstance, transcends reason, transcends convention and truth and normalcy.

Art is emotional expression. Must you embrace yourself as an artist before you gain acceptance and legitimacy? Must you embrace an identity before you become an agent in the world? What is an artist? What is identity? If an artist utilizes a medium for emotional self-expression, as a therapeutic activity rather than an identity reinforcing act, must they embrace a collectively agreed identity to become legitimate?

Struggle destroys and creates values, by stripping the essence that moves you to bear. Challenge requires a redefinition of values— a re-contextualization of perspective— which compels personal growth and character development by impelling an adaptation of a new set of values, a new value system, in order to orient and navigate your perceived world.

Creativity, being rooted in the believing heart as a purely emotional enterprise, is the product of struggle. Creativity arises when struggle causes the redefinition of values, which in turn leads to the alteration of perception,  consequently changing the organizational structure, the context, of thought and mind and feeling and heart.

When struggle occurs, the value system containing the emotional associations— your values— that move you to compulsive action, to convicted thought, must be dissolved and reformulated with new, stronger, and more resilient emotions. When the realization of what you expected to happen falls abysmally short of what is actually happening in life, your original value system becomes useless and life becomes increasingly disorienting as the incongruity grows. You might associate these situations as the most difficult and trying times in life, perhaps times when you consider yourself being tested by god or circumstance, or some might say it’s the time of “hitting bottom”. These are the times that define our character, that shape our will. Whatever the case, religion has us putting our faith in “God” and new agers have us meditate in the “Dao” or “Chi” or whatever that life flow is.

The point, the function, the value of these coping strategies produces the same value of placing all your faith in yourself. Accepting yourself confidently despite uncertainty, accepting your strengths despite your weakness. Accepting yourself is nothing more than accepting the emotions that embody you as a reflection of your essence, your will to persist despite natural circumstance. Because the will or will power is nothing more than applied feeling, emotions are our greatest strength. Call it will power, or the will to power, but emotions are the impetus of all thought and action. The will to power is simply the propensity to produce a world that caters to and reflects our emotional disposition, the equilibrium we strive to achieve between our inner thoughts and ideals and the outer physical and social world. Some people acquiesce under circumstance and exist like water, reflecting, absorbing, flowing in accordance to the will of others.  Other people dominate over circumstance by exerting their emotional disposition into the world, by bending the will of others, by manipulating nature through technology. They are masters unto themselves.

See these earlier posts on the utility of Oppression and Suffering.

Authentic comes from Gk. authentikos”original, genuine, principal,” from authentes “one acting on one’s own authority,” from autos “self” + hentes “doer, being,” from PIE *sene- “to accomplish, achieve.” 1) Meaning Of the same origin as claimed; genuine; 2) Conforming to reality and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. 3) (obsolete) Having authority.

Autonomy comes from Gk. autonomia “independence,” noun of quality from autonomos “independent, living by one’s own laws,” from auto- “self” +nomos “custom, law”.

Authority, from early 13c., autorite “book or quotation that settles an argument,” from O.Fr. auctorité “authority, prestige, right, permission, dignity, gravity; the Scriptures” (12c.; Mod.Fr. autorité), from L. auctoritatem (nom. auctoritas) “invention, advice, opinion, influence, command,” from auctor “master, leader, author”. The power to enforce rules or give orders. Used in singular or plural form: Persons in command; specifically, government.

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