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.

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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.

bin Laden

(Overhearing someone say that Osama’s death will save the lives of innocent people): Last time I checked his death and these wars had nothing to do with preventing innocent deaths, otherwise we’d be doing things a little differently.

What it does have to with is preserving American ideals, such as freedom. And as far as America is concerned, innocent or not, there is no limit to the lives we’ll sacrifice for those ideals.

We should reflect on whether the American ideals we’re preserving are universal enough to extend to other people of the world; if they are, what would we be doing differently? if they aren’t, well, I think we’re doing everything accordingly.

But I have to ask myself if the inequality bred by this double standard jeopardizes the legitimacy of the very ideals we’re trying to preserve?

Additionally, Osama’s death is more symbolic than practical. His death has no affect on the insidious tentacles of Al Queda’s vast network; cutting a head off a hydra is no immediate cause for celebration. If anything, we just made him a martyr, and fueled their enthusiasm and hate. hm..

Fundamental America

This is what a paper written in 1 hour and 20 minutes looks like.

Fundamental America: Free for a Price

Examining the paradoxes of social inequalities within the scope of democratic sentiments

Inherent Paradoxes

            Two hundred and thirty years ago the American people declared their independence from tyrannical autocratic rule. The founders synthesized the enduring democratic rights and truths of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. Despite this, democracy was reserved for a margin of people and out of reach from the vast majority. Since our countries conception, great advances have been made to refine what democracy is and establish who has the right to contribute their voice. Major movements in women’s suffrage and later slavery and African American rights were milestones that helped shape the seemingly exclusive ideal of democracy. Currently America faces several fronts that challenge the legitimacy of our current democracy.

Social Inequalities

            In our readings in Signs of Life in the USA, authors Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon address a variety of paradoxes that exist within our American culture in chapter six, American Paradox. No paradox is more controversial and relevant than America’s simultaneous declaration of universal human freedom and equality and its long history of racism. This paradox addresses the tip of the iceberg of much larger paradox illustrating an advertised freedom that was not intended to be free.

Historical inequalities

            Examining our American roots we can see that our puritanical Christian forefathers desired a society of their own, free from autocratic dictation. They envisioned this society for the United States. As time went on, these puritanical sentiments persisted and found their way into our legislation. Because their ideals subjugated the rights of women and African Americans, they were prevented from voicing themselves for the first half of American history. Only after massive opposition and generations of change have these become matters of the past.

Xenophobia of Middle Easterners

            In our current culture racism seems to be localized to extreme fringe groups. Popular culture has seen women take center stage on political issues, and African Americans dominate multiple industries from entertainment to sports. However, social inequalities are still alive and well, and although racism may be withering, xenophobia continues to blossom with every generation. Most recently our country has been in multiple wars and with every war is an accompanying fear. Middle easterners have been the target of these fears as our government denounced radical Muslims and extremists from the middle east of reeking havoc world wide. While the atrocious crimes were committed by radical sects, the language used to single them out has effectively caused a mass hysteria directed towards the Middle East as a whole. Ignorant Americans forget that the numbers of such extremists are next to nothing.

Xenophobia of Illegal Immigrants

            Another xenophobia gripping our nation is that of illegal immigration. The news of illegal immigrants storming our borders, scaling walls, digging tunnels, enduring deserts and dangers has America in a panic. While Americans national security has been called into question, another issue of economic security has been the focus of most news. Illegal immigrants are publicized as taking hard working tax paying American’s jobs. In light of our economic decline, this has been the spotlight of most Americans concern. To compound the issue further, America’s war on drugs is now directly battling the major trafficking of illegal drugs through our southern Mexican border.

Social Inequality of Homosexuality

            The last social inequality that challenges the fabric of our constitution and agitates the ethical and moral minds of America is the issue of homosexuality. It seems it would be an inevitable topic given our ‘free’ country was founded by puritanical Christians. While the issue of homosexuality has made much headway in popular culture and open acceptance the past two decades, it has only recently been challenging the roots of America. Proposition 8 and the issue of same sex marriage has been the most widely publicized debate on the issue.

Examining the Paradoxes

            Why are these paradoxical? While some might look at these issues and produce valid concerns for their legitimacy, they overlook the very foundations of America. This land, whatever the founder’s initial intent, was established as a haven for the persecuted, a home for those underfoot, those whose rights were molested or stripped. Social inequalities serve to destabilize the creed of freedom. To remove one man his rights would be to undermine the rights of all men. This, however, is what America has done throughout its history as it has attempted to reserve democracy to a select few.

Reserved Freedoms

            These examples illustrate a major flaw in America’s declaration of freedom and equality: where the line of freedom is drawn. While we hold our relativistic and tolerant values supreme, we are terribly protective and afraid of anybody watering this down and wavering from these values.  In the case of illegal immigration, most would think that America, of all places, would be the most receptive and lax about this process. Considering that there are no true natives other than the Indians, we should embrace the people who venture here to exercise their rights. The truth is that earning your citizenship and freedom in America is an arduous test of patience that many people simply do not have the time to pass.

Paradoxes: Generational Entrapment

            Democracy is defined as a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people. These people make up the common people and dictate the governing rule through the legislative and judiciary process. However, problems arise when one generation’s laws improperly reflect the current generation. As the generation of one common people phases out, another phases in, often met in opposition to outdated traditions and beliefs that made their way in legislation. These tendencies create obstacles for progress, as is seen throughout American history with landowners only being able to vote, women’s rights, and African American rights.

Defining a Free Democracy

             Another paradox that exists within these paradoxes is that of a free democracy itself. Any form of government is a form of control. Whether that control is derived from single or multiple sources detracts from that fact that there is a degree of freedom is forfeited. In a democracy this power is derived from the common people, the populous. This causes difficulties among those who compose a margin of the population or any minority with fringe beliefs and philosophies.

Conclusion

            Overcoming these paradoxes will be the result of overcoming an inherent part of the human nature: fear, specifically the unknown. That includes all unfamiliarity extending to foreigners, homosexuality, or just change in general. While I would love to say these inequalities have all but disappeared with the advent of the mass media, internet, and other mediums of communication that break down the one sided walls of ignorance, the truth is they remain an enduring part of our culture.  Though America once related with the tired huddled masses in Emma Lazarus’s words on the statue of liberty, we have grown alien to these feelings and are less empathetic to those who need it most.

What is true happiness?

Hellen Keller once said, “Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

I believe what Hellen Keller speaks of is Joy. While happiness is something that happens to us, joy comes from within. When one is committed to a worthy ideal, a worthy purpose, one is no longer waiting to arrive. Instead we recognize that the journey is the highest and most precious prize. No longer do we find ourselves waiting for better times, or seeking the ephemeral gratifications that life has to offer.
Earl Nightingale said, Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. I cannot think of a better definition. Lasting success yields lasting joys because our treasures are stored up, not in things, but worthy ideals.
One of the turning points in my life was when I realized this sentiment. I use to yearn for someone or something to quench my thirst for contentment and color the pallid landscapes of my life. Every one of these fruitless endeavors I sought provided what I was yearning for. It was only when I realized that what I longed for was nothing this world could offer. It was what I could offer this world. This penchant ignited a flame within me as I began searching for ways to offer myself to people in need. I soon saw a world in need of real truth. What they yearned for was living water that can quench their thirst for a life more abundantly.
The fidelity that Hellen Keller speaks of is helping people discover this Truth. It requires that we die to ourselves, our gratifications and our selfish desires, and offer ourselves up as messengers of this truth. We must accept life as a journey where we give ourselves to others. This is by no means an easy task, but it is the only way to attain lasting joy, or the true happiness that Hellen Keller speaks of.