What life is all about
Let us take it, then, as established as solidly as it can be that life goes on after death, more or less along the lines described. And as I say, this is corroborated to some extent by near-death experiences.
What of ghost sightings? If we suppose that a person, when being killed, conceived of the goal of letting the world know that he was killed; and if we suppose that this goal could not be fulfilled by anything but something like a ghost, then the theory would predict that the haunting would occur. Presumably, such goals would be met in other, more normal ways whenever this is possible; because it would be the goal itself rather than the form the goal would take that would be fulfilled. Conceivably, one of the reasons fewer ghosts are sighted now than formerly is that few people believe that ghosts are anything but frauds or delusions, and so very few now in dying conceive of goals that would involve their wraithlike reappearance after death.
I hasten to say that I am not claiming that there ever has been an authentic sighting of a ghost; and I don't know what you would do to verify one (some have claimed to capture them on film). All I am saying here is that if my theory is true, there is nothing impossible in there being such things.
But there is, I think, a rather surer way of verifying the theory than wandering through castle halls at midnight with an infrared camera. The theory says that all legitimate goals of people will be fulfilled after death. This means that those who had ambitions for others rather than themselves would have to have those ambitions fulfilled, insofar as it is consistent with the others' freedom.
This qualification needs a little discussion. If the fulfillment of my goal involves the fact that you can't fulfill your goal, then obviously my goal involves a contradiction, because it supposes that only I am to be the one who is fulfilled, while you are frustrated. This, of course, is what envy is: the desire that another be frustrated. And insofar as envy is a part of my goal, then the goal contradicts itself, and the choice is immoral, and so is doomed to frustration. Hence, I can't be the world's greatest philosopher if this means that Kant and Hegel and Aristotle and St. Thomas are deposed from consideration as great philosophers, and are somehow "beneath" me as philosophers. What "the world's greatest philosopher" has to mean is that I reach the pinnacle of what "being a philosopher" is (which would mean knowing what the facts actually are on all the subjects which interest me--even to finding out that what I have so far discovered is radically erroneous); and if others share that knowledge with me, where is my gripe?
So you have to ask yourself what the actual goal is (i.e. what is the act you intend to perform: the property that belongs to you as your "real self") before you can assess whether it involves a self-contradiction or is fulfillable in the concrete expression you clothe it in.
I presume, for instance, that Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts, who was defeated for the Presidency a while back by George Bush the Elder, had as his goal being President of the United States. Clearly, he is not, and any politician will tell you that he never will be, President of the United States. Then how can his goal be fulfilled, let alone eternally? Note that it cannot be fulfilled by experiencing himself as President eternally after he dies, without actually having ever been President; because this would mean that you could fulfill your goals by simply dreaming that you had done so, when actually you hadn't done it at all; and the only difference would be that you didn't wake up. But this would be living a lie. Governor Dukakis actually intended to be President, and is frustrated by not being President; he did not simply intend to imagine himself as President.
But of course, he can't fulfill that goal without putting someone else (who also has the goal) out of office, and just shifting the dilemma somewhere else. Since there are dozens of candidates for President every term, who go through the torture of the primaries until the hopes are dashed one by one, there is no way all of them can actually hold office.
So it seems the theory has come a cropper. But it hasn't, as I indicated above when discussing my own ambitions. What personal development comes from holding the office can, of course, be achieved without actually holding it. Further, any ambitions for the country will be achieved, though not necessarily in the form under which they were conceived (just as I will know the truth about, say, the afterlife, and can't expect the vindication of what I am now writing--or perhaps better, just as my views will somehow lead to the truth, even if they prompt someone smarter than I to see it by directly contradicting what I am now writing). Hence, if Mr. Dukakis chose to help the country by, let us say, instituting a national health insurance, and if (let us suppose) such a program would be more detrimental than doctors' getting together and lessening their fees to a reasonable amount and pressuring institutions and the government to reduce waste and redundancy, then this latter program would go in, and the country would be better off--which is what he really wanted. If what he wanted was praise by others, then I suspect he is rather doomed to frustration on this also, given that this means that he wants others to adopt his ideals and not formulate their own.
At any rate, it would be possible for Mr. Dukakis to fulfill the legitimate goals implied in being President without actually being President. People who have failed at being President have gone on to perform great service for the country even in this life, and been recognized as its benefactors: Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan to give a few names that come to mind as readily as the names of many Presidents.
But it would follow from the theory that if a person had something he wanted to offer others, then they would have this gift after he died, even if it was not available during his life on earth.
This is, of course, why I am writing this book, which otherwise is a masochistic exercise in futility. I think that what I have to offer is a view of life that makes sense--and not only makes sense, but makes life exciting and wonderful--and I am writing it down so that it will be available to be read after I die (which I rather hope happens soon; I would like to get started giving people a chance to change their lives).(1) If I have been dead a couple hundred years as you read this, then these words themselves are at least corroboratory evidence that what I am saying is basically true, and that therefore you too will be able to achieve the fantastic ambitions you have conceived for yourself, as long as there is no immorality in them.
And if you look at the people who have made the greatest difference in the world, you find that an enormous number of them did their work only after their death, and in life were not considered much of anything. To take the most obvious example first, Jesus was not recognized as the Prince by his own subjects, in spite of the proofs he offered; and no one, not even (least of all, perhaps) his own followers, had Clue One to what he was trying so hard to teach them--until he died and came back to life (they weren't even expecting that literally to happen) and the Spirit came down fifty days later. Socrates never wrote a word, but was put to death because his ambition was to make people think rationally about their lives; and he is still bothering people by his questions, through the writings of Plato--who had his own ambitions, which are also being fulfilled. Mozart died a pauper, and no one, I believe, is sure even where he was buried; his music, as Amadeus has one of the characters say, had "too many notes." But now his music is all over the place, including in Muzak--which would fit his rather odd sense of humor, I think. Bach was just the organist in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, who wrote those enormously long things for the church choir and congregation to sing--undoubtedly badly. He was forgotten, they tell me, until Mendelssohn discovered his work and realized what it was--and now choruses of hundreds perform things like his St. Matthew Passion flawlessly to the enrapturement of audiences in the tens of thousands. And as one classical artist at the Grammy awards said recently, "Our recordings don't sell as well as Rock, but the hits last longer."
And this is true in all walks of life. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was just a nun shut away in Carmel, who wanted to "shower roses on the earth," and seems to be doing it, judging by the wonderful things people report having happen to them after praying for her help. (I want to do this too; so if you want something and I'm dead now, then ask. I can't do it unless you ask, because you're free. But if you want, I'll do what I can, and I am now extremely powerful, because at least ass I write and revise this I have colossal ambitions.) John Kennedy had as one of his many goals when he was shot "to put a man on the moon--in this decade." I worked for Sky and Telescope during that decade, and the prospects, with rockets being aborted left and right just after liftoff, were ludicrously slim. But it happened. Lyndon Johnson said afterwards that he--the wheeler-dealer extraordinaire--spent his whole first term in office carrying out the program John Kennedy couldn't get through Congress on his own.
And Martin Luther King had a dream for this country, and saw the mountain before he was shot. I haven't lived to see the dream fulfilled, by any means, and probably won't; but I've seen progress toward it--and progress by peaceful means, which was also his ambition, and was about to be thwarted by the Black Panthers and so on. But his assassination can justly be said to have put a stop to that movement. So I have every confidence that in the proper time and the proper way, "little Negro children will sit down and play with little white children" and no one will make anything of it; whites will marry blacks with no one raising any more of an eyebrow than happens now when Italians marry Irish. If it is of any significance, I add myself to those who have this goal; but I am sure that Dr. King does not need me to help him--though I will be happy to meet him when I cross over to the other side.
Go through history and find where the great advances were made; and you will find very many of them actually made by the ambitions of those who died without before achieving them; and whose death was often thought of as a quashing of them.
How explain this? At least one explanation does not rely on coincidence or the perversity of mankind to adopt a cause whose author it has rejected. There is one explanation that says that having the ambition guarantees its fulfillment, provided it is not self-contradictory.
And this means that you and your world are in your hands. It all depends on what you want to make of it.
Conclusion 8: You and your world will be exactly what you choose it to be--no more and no less--with the single exception that self-contradictory goals will not be fulfilled.
What does this conclusion say, then, about what life is really all about?
First of all, what it says is that the life you live now is primarily speaking the life in which you create your eternal self.
And this is where the existentialist philosophers, including Kierkegaard, seem to have discovered something true about humanity that was not understood until then. As far as your "development" is concerned, you can't find yourself, nor find "the plan of God" for you, because your self isn't there to be found; you have to make it--and make it, as they realized, by your choices.
One of the flaws in existentialism was that this discovery, which came about by way of a reaction to the super-systematization of Hegel, repudiated "science" and "reason" and everything to do with it, and made choosing your self a kind of "leap of faith" or exercise in absurdity (with "authenticity" being "living for death"), as if it were anti-rational, rather than trans-rational but comfortable with and using reason. And in some, like Sartre, the choice was everything, and the implication was that you could be anything you chose to be; and anything connected with morality or "human nature" was anathema.
But of course this self-creativity is possible, because we are finite, only within limits. And the limits are rather interesting.
What is given in the beginning is the basic range of possibilities you have, plus a body which finds certain acts easier and more enjoyable and others harder and emotionally less satisfying; but nothing except things like height is fixed from conception, as I said.
Let us look at these "natural talents." They are the inclinations you have toward certain acts and away from others because of the peculiarities of your body and your brain, with its greater or lesser capacity to activate many nerves at once, and the peculiarities of its basic "program," giving you spontaneous attractions and repulsions.
Let me immediately say that these talents carry no imperative or obligation along with them. There is a misreading of Jesus's Parable of the Talents that seems to imply that, if you don't develop one of your talents, you are facing eternal suffering. For those who don't know the story, it is that a king, on leaving his country, gave enormous sums of money (numbers of "talents," a heavy weight of gold, amounting to millions of dollars) to his aides to invest. When he returned, he demanded an accounting. The aide with the largest sum (ten talents) reported that he had invested it and doubled it (and was rewarded for his pains), as did all the others (and so were they), until the one who had been given one talent reported that he was afraid he might lose it, so he buried it. The king was enraged and had it taken away from him and given to the one who now had twenty--and he himself was tortured. Our word "talent" meaning an innate "gift" over and above our basic human genetic potential, comes from this story.
But this misrepresents the story. Jesus was talking about the gift, specifically, of the Good News about the Kingdom, about the message he was delivering to mankind. Anyone who received this and did not pass it on but kept it for himself was doomed to lose the benefits of the message itself, because it had to do with the blessing on those who were generous and not self-centered. But he didn't intend, I am sure, to say that he was going to lower the boom on you because you had facility in playing the piano but chose not to develop this and became a nuclear physicist instead.(2)
If you take this story in this broad sense, where all your talents fall under it, then human freedom is destroyed; because what it would then amount to is that you would have to examine yourself and find out what you were best suited for, and choose that, or you would be choosing eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth. But it would be gratuitous cruelty for God to give us freedom and then absolutely no room to exercise it except as a rebel.
This view, however, has permeated Christianity, I might add, right up to the present day. I myself was a victim of it while I was in the seminary and had to think my way out of it, once I found that the "lesser state of life" of being a layman was where I was being called to. We were always told, "Choosing the lesser good isn't a sin, of course; but you're rejecting grace (God's free gift offered to you); and if you reject grace, don't expect him to do anything more for you; you've taken the first step on the slippery slope." Fortunately, God is not so petty as to be peeved if we reject grace, and then not offer more to us when we want or need it; that "argument" is making God think our thoughts.
It made sense in the usual philosophical interpretation of Christianity, where "the good" was thought of as something objective, and where "true freedom" was to be a slave of God and his "plan" which was "the best life for us"; but I think that that view, with its notion of a kind of natural Beatific Vision as our "true end" has all sorts of flaws in it, many of which I have pointed out in other places (notably in Chapter 4 of Section 3 of the second part 2.3.4).
I think it is much more consistent with a Being who has caused free finite beings to exist that he give them leeway to exercise their freedom, and that the finiteness should consist in limits within which there is no punishment for choosing one life style over another. In other words, the basic human limits, where the goal actually contradicts itself in one way or another, are the limits for our freedom that make it imperative under pain of eternal frustration to restrict ourselves; and our talents do not carry this penalty if we choose not to develop them. Why else would a person have faculties if he could not either exercise them or not as he saw fit? That's what a faculty means. And talents, in the last analysis, are physical or mental faculties.
But then what is their function? These talents don't define our goal or our happiness; but they do define what our enjoyment is, to some extent. That is, if you choose as a goal an act your talents incline you towards, then your happiness and your enjoyment coincide. You will find yourself doing what you are spontaneously attracted to and what you can spontaneously do well; and if you make this your goal and work at developing the talent, then you will probably even in this life be able to do the act very well.
On the other hand, if you choose as your goal an act that is not something you have a spontaneous inclination toward and to which your body is not well suited by its genetic makeup, you will be able to do it, perhaps, but not as well as someone who is more talented than you; and you probably won't enjoy doing it as much as he.
But this is not a reason why you should not adopt such a goal. If it interests you, why should you be prevented from doing it, and doing it forever, even though your interest comes from a reasoning process rather than an emotional inclination toward the act, and even though you'll never be able in this life to develop the degree of skill at it that others gifted in that direction might have? I think of Muggsy Bogues, a basketball player who is, I think, five feet four inches tall, and who can run between the legs of giants like Magic Johnson. Obviously, what he does to make himself a professional basketball player requires much more concentration and hard work than someone like Kareem Jabaar has to devote to playing excellently; and he will never attain the heights that people like Jabaar have reached--in this life. But if he wants to be a basketball player, why shouldn't he try? More power to him.
If you choose such a goal, you will be happy, and eternally happy, but your happiness will not contain as much enjoyment as it would have if you had followed a goal that your talents suited you to better. But even here, there are two qualifications that need to be taken into account: First, there is what I suspect is a satisfaction Muggsy Bogues has that the tall players can't imagine: the emotional uplift that comes from overcoming apparently insuperable odds. The very fact that the deck is stacked against you can make playing the game that much more emotionally satisfying, if you're the kind of person whose talents incline him to meeting challenges.
Secondly, there is such a thing as cultivating a taste. Our drives are built-in, but they are flexible; and as you can see from eating, the primary meaning of "taste," what spontaneously tastes bad can be brought to taste pleasant if you keep eating the olives or the caviar; and afterwards these things are thought of as far superior in taste to burgers and fries.
Similarly, even a taste for philosophy or literature or music can be cultivated (believe it or not); and the person who has read enough Dickens, for instance, goes back to Agatha Christie and can't stand her novels; or a person who has seen enough Shakespeare, MoliĞre, Aeschylus, and Eugene O'Neill is positively repelled by The Simpsons on television.
So obviously the inclinations and physical abilities we were born with are not commands telling us what we must do with our lives. Then what are they?
Like all our emotions, they provide information, which we should take into account, but don't go beyond this. They are a call toward a life style which will be spontaneously enjoyable, and which we can probably do well with some ease while we live on this changing planet. But they neither determine us, nor are intended to coerce us, as if they were a "law of our nature." The information they give is to be weighed with the other information we have about what we want to be; it is just that, if we can't make up our minds, then our talents can help us pick a direction in life.
In this sense, our Creator did not leave us in a position where we would be totally bewildered by the alternatives offered us, with no way to choose among them, since in themselves all are equally neutral with respect to "good" and "bad." We aren't then, like the proverbial donkey between equally attractive bales of hay, who starved. Some of the bales are more attractive than others, not because of their intrinsic goodness, but because of our makeup.
A vocation is an inclination toward something that does not carry an imperative along with it.
So it is quite possible to ignore a vocation, and do something else; it is just something given to you to help you decide what you want to be in case you need its help. And it is true that if you choose as your goal something you spontaneously enjoy doing, then you will be eternally happy and eternally enjoy yourself as much as you are capable of.
Following your vocation, by the way, might mean choosing a less lofty form of human life. Suppose a person is capable of doing nuclear physics if he works at it, but he would be the Muggsy Bogues of nuclear physics; whereas he likes working with his hands and tinkering with automobiles; and he just has a feel for them. He would enjoy life more as an auto mechanic than as a nuclear physicist, in spite of the fact that he would be living a higher type (because more intellectual) of human life as a nuclear physicist.
So which should he do? The point is that neither one is what he should do. If he chooses to live a higher kind of life, then he is perfectly free to make this his goal, and he will be eternally happy as a nuclear physicist; if he chooses to be the mechanic, he will not have developed his mind to its full capacity, but he will have fun here and fun eternally hereafter in his eternal lower form of existence.
Note that if he picks the life of the auto mechanic and rejects the other one, then the fulfillment implied in the rejected life is forever not available to him; that life is an ideal, not a goal, and will not be fulfilled, because he rejected it as his "true self." And, of course, if he picks the life of the nuclear physicist, he will not gain the fulfillment he could have had as an auto mechanic, for the same reason.
But it isn't really as black-and-white as all that. You can pick a life style as your main goal, but keep other goals as hobbies and avocations, which you also pursue at odd moments. There would be nothing wrong with studying nuclear physics and fixing cars in your free hours; and even after you became the nuclear physicist, you could still keep up your interest in fixing cars--and in fishing and playing basketball and reading novels and poetry, and singing, and all sorts of other things. Your goal can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it; the only requirement is that you choose to pursue it--that you do something in the direction of the goal, and don't just leave it there as an ideal to sigh about and say, "If only things were different; how I'd like to fly an airplane!"
The person who has many goals will fulfill them all as one complex goal in his eternal life; if he keeps them as mere ideals, they are lost once he dies.
Let me illustrate this with a Blairian parable. There was a minor official in an office, second to the person who had charge over the ten people in his little area. As it happened, this man had a desk which looked through the door of the president's office, and he could see the huge polished desk, the recliner chair behind it, and the closet containing the golf clubs. And the official used to say to himself, "What I wouldn't give to be president, and be able to take the afternoon off playing golf and clinching a deal while I was at it!"
It came to pass one day that the head of his group was moved upstairs, and the vice president in charge of personnel offered him the job. He suddenly grew afraid, and said, "Could I have the weekend to think it over?" and the time was granted.
During that time, he said to himself, "How many times have I saved Jones from messing things up by pointing out things he didn't know that would have made him make the wrong decision? But who is going to do this for me? And if I make the wrong decision, then I might lose my job. Where I am, nobody notices me, and I'm safe."
So he told the vice president, "Really, I think that Smith would do a better job for the company than I would; all the people like him, and I'd be here to help him along if he needed it." And the vice president told him, "If you don't want the job, then we certainly wouldn't want you in it. We'll put Smith there, and you can stay where you are."
And from then on, the man kept his job, every day looking into the president's office and saying, "What I wouldn't give to be president!"
And it came to pass that he died, and happily stayed a minor clerk for ever and ever and ever.
The moral of the story is, of course, that you get what you choose, not what you would like. And since he rejected a job that had only minuscule responsibility connected with it, he would kick and scream and give anything not to have the president's job, which is nothing but responsibility, and where every moment he has to make a decision that affects not only his job but the whole company's solvency.
And there is the beauty and the horror of life. You get what you choose to have; no more, and no less. Think of the implications of it. It is in this life you have to choose; and those choices--all of them--have eternal consequences. You can be whatever you choose to be; but you have to choose to be it; and you will be nothing but what you choose to be, even if, like the clerk, what you choose is to be little more than an eternal statistic.
Don't expect your Master to shower blessings on you because you have been moral your whole life long. All being moral means is that you haven't tried positively to contradict yourself; it doesn't mean that you have made anything of yourself; you have raised yourself up to zero in humanity if all you have done is obeyed the law. "And so," says Jesus, "when you have obeyed the whole law, call yourselves useless slaves."
And what you are to make of yourself beyond this is totally up to you. You can't blame others' influence, because you can choose to listen to them or you can choose to go off on your own; your responsibility for your eternal self is total; you have no one to praise or blame for your eternal self but this temporal self you are here and now. No one can make your choices for you but you; and you do it with complete control, not only of the choice, but of the reasons for which you make the choice.
Notice that if you make an immoral choice and afterwards recognize your folly and repent, this makes no difference to your eternal life, except to add a frustration on top of the frustration you gave yourself. Under Conclusion 7 of the preceding section, I showed that "correcting" a concept did not mean losing the old one, but simply adding a new one and attaching the old word to it; spiritual acts cannot be erased once made, by anything the person himself can do. Hence, if you choose to steal, and after having stolen, you repent and choose not to have chosen, you no more erase the previous choice by that repentance than you remove the act by choosing not to have done it. In your eternal life after death, then, there is the goal of having as your own what does not belong to you and the goal of not having this as a goal in your life, knowing that it is a goal in your life.
Of course, it is possible for the person who repents to perform acts that minimize the damaging effects of what he has done, or even turn the damage into benefit for the people harmed by it. But there is no way to undo the eternal damage he has done to himself; once he has made an immoral choice, he is damned: eternally frustrated.
Philosophically, this is as far as we can go. Though God could, by an act beyond our powers, erase this choice we are now sorry for as an operative choice involving a goal in our eternal life, there is no reason why he would do such a thing. We did not "make a mistake" when we made the immoral choice, because we knew what we were doing and deliberately chose it; the "mistake" is only from hindsight. He made us free to create ourselves eternally by our choices; why should he contradict what we are just because we are sorry that we tried to contradict what we are?(3) So it looks as if we are stuck with the eternal consequences of our choices; and the only thing we can do if we have ever been immoral is not make our eternity worse by adding more self-contradictory aspects to this complex goal of ours.
But there is a hint that things might not be this bleak, but before I get into it and the "fallenness" our our nature, let me by way of a kind of appendix say something about limitations on our humanity which are important, but which do not necessarily restrict our choices to any significant extent. I am speaking of sexual and racial differences.
In the traditional Scholastic system, such differences would have to be attributed to "matter" (which corresponds to the quantity of the unifying energy), because, after Aristotle, all differences within a "species" are due to "matter" and individuality.(4)
But this would mean that any differences of any sub-class of human beings would necessarily be quantitative, such that one class was as a whole "greater" than the other, and so ontologically superior to it.(5)
But I think, as I mentioned under Conclusion 1 of Section 1 of the second part, that this distinction of "form" and immediately "quantity" is too rigid, and that there are formal differences below the level of the species; and here is where sexual and racial differences come in. Hence, it seems to me that these differences, while limitations on our humanity, are qualitative rather than quantitative, and questions of which sex or race is "superior" are otiose. We are different, that is all.
In fact, if you don't recognize a qualitative difference between sexes, say, and try to say that one sex is "the same sort of thing as" the other, then you are for practical purposes forced into recognizing quantitative differences; and this is the dilemma that the feminists have got themselves into: if women are the same as men, they are inferior to men.
This admission of inferiority is evidenced by the demand for different standards for men and women in certain occupations, because if women are expected to qualify on the standards previously set for men, they can't make it. Thus, for instance, the standard for firefighters that one be able to take a 150 pound weight on one's shoulders and run up two flights of stairs is not something that women, by and large, can do; hence, the standard has been lowered so that women can qualify for the job. This is, of course, a recognition that women's bodies are on average weaker than men's; but the attempt is being made to create standards that are applicable to both men and women, so that these differences in degree of strength can be masked.
The point is that if women are to compete with men on men's terms, that is, as if they were men, they will have difficulty in measuring up; just as if men were to compete with women as if they were women, they would have difficulty measuring up. It does no good trying to pretend that sexual difference are not there, or that if they are, they affect only reproduction and nothing else.
The same goes for racial differences, though to a lesser extent. If white people were to compete with Blacks in enduring the sun, then they would collapse, whereas if Blacks had to compete with whites in getting Vitamin D only from sunlight, they would be found deficient in the vitamin.
"Well, so what?" you say. "What real difference do these petty things make in social roles? Why should women or Blacks be assigned only certain tasks, and men and Whites have their pick of all the rest?" Generally speaking, sexual and racial differences don't matter in qualification for an occupation, and therefore should not be taken into account in admitting people to it.
But that is not the point. The fact that differences are not relevant for certain things should not lead anyone who recognizes this to say that there are no differences. This is to fly in the teeth of the facts, and to pretend that things are not the way they are.
So let us look at the facts. First of all, sexual and racial differences do restrict our activity to being only some subset of human activities. A woman cannot impregnate anyone (which is a human activity), and a man cannot conceive a child (which is also a human activity). A White person cannot stand as much sun as a Black, and a Black cannot get as much Vitamin D from the sun as a White. Whether these activites are important or not is not the issue; the issue is that the restrictions exist and have nothing to do with "social conditioning."
But since these differences apply to groups of people as a whole, then they are fundamentally qualitative rather than quantitative. When there are differences in degree between sexes or races (such as the average greater weakness of women than men), there is such enormous variation in this characteristic from individual to individual that it is the individual degree that matters, not the "average" of the subclass. There are women in the gym where I work out that I would not like to compete with in a contest of strength.
Hence, there is reason for saying that women are a different kind of human being from men, and that Blacks or Orientals are different kinds of human beings from Whites. And this allows us to approach the subject rationally. No one of the groups is "superior" or "inferior" to the other; they are different, as red is different from blue or sound is different from weight. That is the first point to keep in mind.
The second point is that these differences permeate the whole person, both physical and mental. A woman is first and foremost a unit, and so everything about her is shot through with her femininity; she has a different skeletal structure, different musculature, different metabolism, a differently operating neural system, and consequently different ways of spontaneously organizing the data in her brain: a differently functioning instinct. Her ability to understand and choose is in itself the same as a man's, of course, because it belongs to the spirit as such, and has no restrictions on it; but the data she sees relations among will be different from those of men, insofar as her instinct connects things in a different way. A woman is not very different from a man, but she is wholly different. The same goes for racial differences. A Black person is not just a white person with a deep tan; the hair is different, the musculature is different, and everything about a Black person is infused with his blackness.
But if we recognize that these differences do not imply superiority or inferiority, then there is no reason why we can't recognize them. The fact, for instance, that women think differently from men (for instance, apparently women are more practical and less prone to build vast theoretical structures like this book) has no invidious connotations; it is just that the two approaches to problem solving, say, would be different. That they are different is an asset, not a liability; perhaps certain types of problems can better be solved with a feminine approach than a masculine, and men are floundering now over them because they think that the feminine approach is folly, and their way is "better," even though they can't make head or tail of what they are doing.
Hence, instead of trying to mask sexual or racial differences, people should be trying to recognize what they are and use them as a kind of vocation. A woman accountant, approaching things the way men do, probably is at a disadvantage, because in accounting if anywhere, the system is one of these great theoretical castles in the air, with all kinds of accounts that exist for no other reason than to have a place to put the balancing number. But the purpose of accounting is to know accurately and easily what happened to the money, whom one owes and who owes one, and the inventory. It might be that a woman approaching this problem from a feminine perspective could devise a system which would be clearer and more honest, and one which women would be comfortable with.
I am not sure, but I am willing to bet, that the style of basketball playing has changed since Blacks began to dominate the courts; I do know that when I was a child, the slam dunk was unheard of. Blacks in all probability have certain ways of moving that are more comfortable to them than Whites, and as the Black players of talent became numerous enough, coaches would have had sense enough not to try to wrench their natural style into an artificial "right" form, however comfortable that may have been to others. And it is reasonable to say that, since the Black style seems to suit the game better, Whites are no longer as able to compete.
If there is any truth in this (and I have no idea how much there is), then it is conceivable that in other areas where Blacks have not done well, some of this might be due, not to inferiority, but to "style"; the few Blacks in the field might have to do things in a White person's way, where they are at a disadvantage, while if there were enough of them in the field, then the outstanding ones would begin to show that an approach that they as Blacks find more congenial would allow them to do as well as or better than their White counterparts.
Let me pull this together as a formal conclusion:
Conclusion 9: Sexual and racial differences do restrict possibilities for activity, but in not many significant ways; but since the subform permeates the whole person, it creates a vocation toward a certain style of action or approach to action.
What I am saying is that the solution to the sexual and racial problems is not to pretend that there are no differences, but to think of the differences in terms of "style" and approach, rather than in terms of greater or less ability or of roles. Each individual then would be able to recognize his sex and race and rejoice in its assets, rather than compare himself with others outside his group and wonder whether that meant he was better or worse. Women would no longer have to prove that they were "just as good as men" and masculinize themselves in the attempt; Blacks would be able to think reasonably that "Black is beautiful," and not use it as a slogan everyone says because no one believes it.
And then each individual would be able to look at his own individual vocation and talents and see where they lead him, and pursue this as his goal, rather than blaming racism or sexism for forcing roles upon him. And note that if my theory is true, that having the goal is what is important, this would apply to people even in my own age, where it is still difficult for women and Blacks to have any realistic prospect of attaining certain goals in this life.
If my theory is true, the tragedy of being born in the ghetto environment of poverty is not so much that opportunity is not there; it is that the fact that opportunity is not there induces people not to choose what they see no realistic prospect of attaining. The young Black man who would like to be a doctor, and who realizes that his education has been dismal and that there is no way he can get into medical school, will in all probability not choose to be a doctor and not fight the odds. When he sees the pimp come by in his BMW, and his drug-pushing companions wearing chains of real gold and hundred-dollar high tops, his choice is apt to be in those directions, because success looks possible.
It is in this sense that ghetto children need "role models." They have to have the idea that life styles are in principle open to them, or they won't in practice be able to choose those life styles; and if they don't choose them, however attractive they might seem in the abstract, then they give them up forever.
And if my theory is true, if they do choose them, then even if they fail in this life because of disadvantages they had no control over, they will attain them forever, and every tear will be wiped away.Next
1. As I revise this, I've been waiting considerably longer than I expected, and a great deal longer than I hoped at the time. How much longer do I have to wait? God knows.
2. Something like this has to be true, I think, for Jesus to be consistent. One of his "counsels of perfection" is that it is a blessing to make yourself a eunuch (i.e. to be celibate) for the sake of the Kingdom. But that, clearly, means not fulfilling oneself sexually. How could he then both condemn those who don'r fulfill all aspects of themselves and in the next breath tell them that they will be better off if in this (natural) respect they don't? For those who cavil at this, let me say that there is nothing wrong or inconsistent in not acting on one's sexual impulses, since the sexual faculty is a faculty, which means that it is a means by which we can act or not act. One might argue that never exercising the faculty would be tantamount to in practice denying that you had it; but that applies to the whole series of acts, not an individual one, and that is an effect of never in any individual case exercising it. But, using the Principle of the Double Effect, one can choose the series, not for this evil effect, but for the benefit that self-control and celibacy bring as other side-effects (or to show that one loves the Lord enough to sacrifice this aspect of oneself for Him).
3. How does Christianity, the Redemption, and the Beatific Vision fit into all of this? First of all, what the Redemption does is make the following possible: If you choose to subordinate yourself to God and are willing to become a different person (the one without the sin's goal)--if you "deny yourself"--then God will miraculously erase this act as a goal in your eternal life. This is Christian repentance, or "change of attitude"; and it is initiated, really, by God's gift allowing you to believe that it will "work" and giving you the strength to repudiate your very being. As St. Paul points out in Galatians, First Corinthians, and Romans, obeying the Law is fine if you have never sinned; but once you have sinned, nothing you can do can undo your choice or make you virtuous again; it has to be done for you (this is what is behind the "faith not works" controversy).
So it is possible for the goal to be erased as a goal in your eternal life, even though the effects it has had on you here (and in your eternal reality as modified by what you did to yourself through it) will be with you forever. For instance, if you choose to cut your arm off, you will presumably be one-armed; but you will not forever be trying to be a person who can pick things up who can't pick things up. Maybe some of the consequences of the choice will be erased; I don't know; but at least, the Redemption erases the eternal frustration in the choice.
What the Beatific Vision does is add to our finite consciousness an expansion of our consciousness beyond itself to infinite consciousness. Any act of finite consciousness "finitizes itself" to this individual act, implying that in itself it is beyond this act, and could be greater. God lifts this abstraction into actuality, and you actually become God, knowing Being in all of its fullness, and becoming identical with the Infinite Being.
But of course, this act of infinite consciousness is only one "dimension" of your eternal consciousness, the rest of which is the set of finite acts of consciousness which constitutes your conscious life, and which I have been discussing. Hence, you are not absorbed into God in such a way that you lose your individuality; God becomes a "dimension" of your individual consciousness (the Infinite is "part" of your finite consciousness), and you become a "dimension" in a special way of God's consciousness. This is, of course, totally beyond our power as finite; it is just that the spirituality of our finiteness is such that to be given this as a gift is not a contradiction.
So the Beatific Vision takes nothing away from what I have been saying above; as far as the finite "dimensions" of your consciousness are concerned, you will be just what you have chosen to be, no more and no less.
Of course, if a person chooses not to take advantage of these gifts, this does not disappoint God, any more than he is disappointed by the person's preferring eternal frustration to accepting his limits and being happy (because that is really what the alternatives are).
4. Plato's philosophy would not demand this, since Plato held that Aspects can "share" in other Aspects, and so the one that shares the other has "less" of it than the other in its "pure" state. For instance, "humanity-itself" is "good," but it is not identical with "goodness-itself," and so has "less" of it in some sense (but not really a quantitative one).
5. Plato clearly thinks that men are "greater than" women, by the way, in spite of the fact that his philosophy wouldn't logically demand this. In his reincarnationist view, morally inferior souls get reembodied into physically inferior bodies, and the first reincarnation of a bad man's soul is into a woman's body.