To have or to be
How much do I want to read more? 7/10
It's kind of philosophic, and very nice to read. Having vs Being is a fundamental paradigm in living one's life.
Introduction: The Great Promise
The End of an Illusion
The Great Promise of Unlimited Progress—the promise of domination of nature, of material abundance, of the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and of unimpeded personal freedom—has sustained the hopes and faith of the generations since the beginning of the industrial age.
We were on our way to becoming gods, supreme beings who could create a second world, using the natural world only as building blocks for our new creation.
The achievement of wealth and comfort for all was supposed to result in unrestricted happiness for all. The trinity of unlimited production, absolute freedom, and unrestricted happiness formed the nucleus of a new religion, Progress.
- Unrestricted satisfaction of all desires is not conducive to well-being, nor is it the way to happiness or even to maximum pleasure.
- The dream of being independent masters of our lives ended when we began awakening to the fact that we have all become cogs in the bureaucratic machine, with our thoughts, feelings, and tastes manipulated by government and industry and the mass communications that they control.
- Economic progress has remained restricted to the rich nations, and the gap between rich and poor nations has ever widened.
- Technical progress itself has created ecological dangers and the dangers of nuclear war, either or both of which may put an end to all civilization and possibly to all life.
to accept the Nobel Prize for Peace (1952), Albert Schweitzer challenged the world "to dare to face the situation. . . . Man has become a superman. . . . But the superman with the superhuman power has not risen to the level of superhuman reason. To the degree to which his power grows he becomes more and more a poor man. … It must shake up our conscience that we become all the more inhuman the more we grow into supermen."
Why Did the Great Promise Fail?
two main psychological premises:
- that the aim of life is happiness, that is, maximum pleasure, defined as the satisfaction of any desire or subjective need a person may feel (radical hedonism);
- that egotism, selfishness, and greed, as the system needs to generate them in order to function, lead to harmony and peace.
the elite of Rome, of Italian cities of the Renaissance, and of England and France in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tried to find a meaning to life in unlimited pleasure.
it was never the theory of well-being expressed by the great Masters of Living in China, India, the Near East, and Europe.
According to Epicurus, pleasure as satisfaction of a desire cannot be the aim of life, because such pleasure is necessarily followed by unpleasure and thus keeps humanity away from its real goal of absence of pain.
other great Masters:
distinction between those needs (desires) whose satisfaction leads to momentary pleasure,
and needs that are rooted in human nature, conducive to human growth and produces eudaimonia, i.e., "well-being.".
twentieth-century capitalism is based on maximal consumption of the goods and services produced as well as on routinized teamwork.
For the first time in history the satisfaction of the pleasure drive is not only the privilege of a minority but is possible for more than half the population. The experiment has already answered the question in the negative.
To be an egoist refers not only to my behavior but to my character. It means: that I want everything for myself; that possessing, not sharing, gives me pleasure; that I must become greedy because if my aim is having, I am more the more I have; that I must feel antagonistic toward all others: my customers whom I want to deceive, my competitors whom I want to destroy, my workers whom I want to exploit. I can never be satisfied, because there is no end to my wishes; I must be envious of those who have more and afraid of those who have less. But I have to repress all these feelings in order to represent myself (to others as well as to myself) as the smiling, rational, sincere, kind human being everybody pretends to be.
As long as everybody wants to have more, there must be formations of classes, there must be class war, and in global terms, there must be international war. Greed and peace preclude each other.
PART ONE - UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAVING AND BEING
I. A First Glance
The Importance of the Difference Between Having and Being
in order to live we must have things. Moreover, we must have things in order to enjoy them.
one can speak of someone as "being worth a million dollars,"
how can there be an alternative between having and being? On the contrary, it would seem that the very essence of being is having; that if one has nothing, one is nothing.
The Buddha teaches that in order to arrive at the highest stage of human development, we must not crave possessions.
Master Eckhart taught that to have nothing and make oneself open and "empty," not to let one's ego stand in one’s way, is the condition for achieving spiritual wealth and strength.
Examples in Various Poetic Expressions
Flower in a crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies,
I hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
Little flower — but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is.
When I look carefully
I see the nazuna blooming
By the hedge!
The difference is striking. Tennyson reacts to the flower by wanting to have it. He “plucks” it “root and all." the flower itself is killed as a result of his interest in it.
Tennyson, as we see him in his poem, may be compared to the Western scientist who seeks the truth by means of dismembering life.
Basho's reaction to the flower is entirely different. He does want to pluck it; he does not even touch it. All he does is “look carefully” to “see” it.
Tennyson, it appears, needs to possess the flower in order to understand people and nature, and by his having it, the flower is destroyed. What Basho wants is to see, and not only to look at the flower, but to be at one, to "one" himself with it— and lo let it live. The difference between Tennyson and Basho is fully explained in this poem by Goethe:
I walked in the woods
All by myself,
To seek nothing,
That was on my mind.
I saw in the shade
A little flower stand,
Bright like the stars
Like beautiful eyes.
I wanted to pluck it,
But it said sweetly:
Is it to wilt
That I must be broken?
I took it out
With all its roots,
Carried it to the garden
At the pretty house.
And planted it again
In a quiet place;
Now it ever spreads
And blossoms forth.
Goethe, walking with no purpose in mind, is attracted by the brilliant little flower. He reports having the same impulse as Tennyson: to pluck it. But unlike Tennyson, Goethe is aware that this means killing the flower. For Goethe the flower is so much alive that it speaks and warns him; and he solves the problem differently from either Tennyson or Basho. He takes the flower "with all its roots" and plants it again so that its life is not destroyed. Goethe stands, as it were, between Tennyson and Basho: for him, at the crucial moment, the force of life is stronger than the force of mere intellectual curiosity
Tennyson's relationship to the flower is in the mode of having, or possession—not material possession but the possession of knowledge. Basho's and Goethe's relationship to the flower each sees is in the mode of being. By being I refer to the mode of existence in which one neither has anything nor craves to have something, but is joyous, employs one's faculties productively, is oned to the world.
I know that nothing belongs to me
But the thought which unimpeded
From my soul will flow.
And every favorable moment
Which loving Fate
From the depth lets me enjoy.
The having orientation is characteristic of Western industrial society, in which greed for money, fame, and power has become the dominant theme of life. Less alienated societies—such as medieval society, the Zuni Indians, the African societies that were not affected by the ideas of modern “progress"—have their own Bashos.
I can say that I have things: for instance that I have a table, a house, a book, a car. The proper denotation for an activity, a process, is a verb: for instance I am, I love, I desire, I hate, etc. Yet ever more frequently an activity is expressed in terms of having; that is, a noun is used instead of a verb. But to express an activity by to have in connection with a noun is an erroneous use of language, because processes and activities cannot be possessed; they can only be experienced.
Older Observations: Du Marais—Marx
"Love is a cruel goddess, who like all deities, wants to possess the whole man and who is not content until he has sacrificed to her not only his soul but also his physical self. Her cult is suffering; the peak of this cult is self-sacrifice, is suicide" (my ranslation).