B.COROLLARY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS,
(quoted from “What Is Your Life” by H. Schwab, 1968/79)
As indicated below in the “Personal Footnote: The History of This Essay”, this writing presents a new version of my earlier essay, written in 1968 and edited in 1979, titled “What Is Your Life?”.There are a number of thoughts in “What Is Your Life?” that I could not use in this new essay.I do not want to lose some of these earlier thoughts.Therefore, I add them – out of context – to this essay in the form of these “Corollary thoughts and comments”:
The possibility of ongoing divine participation in evolution in the form of an ongoing creativity through various phases of existence was discussed in Chapter 5.2., “Is There a Transcendental Essence of Creation”, in subchapter B., “Does a Spiritual Essence Rule Evolution, History, and Personal Destiny?”. It was shown that this concept of ongoing creativity through a sequence of distinct phases of existence cannot be supported by observation and science. However, the following thoughts and comments regarding this investigation shall be retained:
That appearance of life, as we know it, hinged on several anomalies and coincidences in nature:
*The unusual capability of the element carbon to be the base of an unlimited variety of materials.Only silicon is similar, but it is quite a bit more limited in the variety of its derived materials.(Consequently, there is the possibility of simpler, silicon-based life somewhere else in the universe.)
*The unusual qualities of water, including its high thermal capacity, irregular thermal expansion coefficient that makes ice float, and chemical combinability with carbon.Thus, it was possible to provide the thermal stability of this planet, the ample formation of building materials, and a means of transportation for life, food, and waste.
*Life, as we know it, especially in its higher forms, uses a large number of higher-order chemical elements that did not originate directly from the “Big Bang” or within the solar system.It took the explosive collapse of other stars somewhere else in the universe to create these heavier elements and then their accumulation on Earth.
*All these conditions had to come together at the right temperature.This required a planet of the right size, at the right distance from its solar center, with the right rate of rotation, and with the right amount or composition of its crust.
*This concept also required the early formation of a moon from part of Earth’s crust resulting in higher plate tectonic movements of the remaining pieces of crust, more out-gassing from the crust to form and sustain the Earth’s atmosphere, and stabilization of Earth’s axis of rotation for higher climatic stability facilitating life’s evolution.
Can subsequent “creative” moments be perceived in this new phase of evolving life on Earth?Important creative moments can be found in the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian periods (800 to 500 million years ago), when the most unusual, yet limited, creation of the complex life forms occurred.One can see them in the appearance of the new oxygen-burning life cycle (the prior life cycles had been either caldera- or solar energy and photosynthesis-based), with the consequential development of mobility and life feeding on life.One can see them in the appearance of the basic nerval system and the resulting high degree of reflective automation and of higher life forms, including all those that follow the Darwinian rules of evolution.One can see creative moments in so many rapid multi-step evolutions of the most complex and wondrous kind.One can see them in the eradication of the dominating dinosaurs 60 million years ago and the appearance of mammals.One can see them in the appearance of proto-ethical behavior of un-selfishness for the benefit of other individuals and, thereby, facilitation of social coherence.One can also see new creative moments in the appearance of aesthetic color patterns, music, and pleasant fragrances in the cultures of humans.
Did this phase of Darwinian life have any purpose? Two contradictory answers are possible.One is that the ever-ongoing evolution to higher forms of life can be seen as the purpose of this phase of Creation.The other answer is that only a very small percentage of all living beings actually continued developing to higher forms of life.All bacterial life, all plant life, all insect life, and most animals actually stagnated at their lowly positions.Furthermore, lower life forms often feed on higher ones – virus and bacterial diseases destroy all kinds of plants, animals, and humans, irrespective of their significance in evolution or history (the great Perikles of Athens died of the plague, Mozart of tuberculosis).Therefore, one cannot see a pre-established intent in this phase to emphasize the higher life forms in creation.One can only see the almost artistic and intellectual character of evolution.
Then, most recently on Earth (but possibly not in the universe), one can distinguish a totally new evolutionary step – the appearance of highly developed capabilities for thought, emotions, justice, art, humor, and all the values as given to humans.This phase of “human values” is too much in contrast to the prior Darwinian phase of life to be considered merely an extension of that phase.With the creation of the human species, something occurred in Creation on Earth that is beyond the development of the last billion years of life.For us as human beings, it is exciting to participate in this still evolving phase of Creation, when not all options are explored yet, and when there is more to accomplish yet.
It was necessary for humans to have spare time, spare resources, curiosity, creativity, and both ethical and aesthetic values to bring forth any advancement beyond what Darwinian nature already offered.Darwinian nature was not laid out for that.Several effects prevented it – the next predator in the food chain, constant over-procreation combined with the limited availability of food, and the onset of energy-saving phlegmatic behavior as soon as the belly was full.In this new phase of Creation, the combination of a large brain, speech and mathematical capability, and adequate temperamental tuning to allow for the formation of structured societies provided for the development of civilizations and cultures and the effectiveness of the accomplishments of great individuals.The results of this new phase of existence, which appeared within a cosmically very short time span, are absolutely astonishing.
In modern language, one can say that the “hardware” of the human phase of existence, the human body, differs little from the “hardware”, the animal body, of the Darwinian phase of existence.It is the appearance of the new “software”, the abstract phenomena of thought, emotions, and values, that are the essence of this new phase. With these phenomena came the increasing capability for mental analysis, mental creativity, and decision-making.From there came freedom and temptation and with them, as a consequence, the responsibility of humanity for itself. Consequently, from this point of view one could say that Creation was laid out for, or God can be seen as wanting freedom and responsibility to become the governing principles of the human era, as automation and self-reliance were the principles of the prior era of newly created life.
Was the creative force, God, still visibly active during the human era, during the time we call history?Was there divine influence on the evolution of human history?It certainly has been prayed for and expected by humans innumerable times in calamities of nature and in human strife.It certainly was gratefully recognized and also was bitterly missed innumerable times.
A broad-brush picture of human history may not yield more than the observation of the same forces of nature that were already visible in the evolution, expansion, and struggle of plant and animal species.However, while the majority of plants and animals did not progress to higher sophistication and only a minority did, with mankind it was different.The majority of mankind participated in the evolution of ever more sophisticated civilizations and only a minority became marginalized.There is a pattern of progress for mankind through the ages, different from anything one could have expected from the Darwinian pre-human phase of life.
The progress of mankind
occurred somewhat in a diversity of civilizations and in parallel in those
In this sense, the important turning points in human capabilities, thoughts, or concepts of religion and the world must be seen as moments of destiny.A few of those should be mentioned specifically:
*The beginning of the usage of fire.
*The invention of the wheel, the sail, and the plow
*The first ethical demands in public policy (by King Urukagina in Sumeria, also called Uru’inimgina, 2380 BC, presenting himself as the protector of the weak and of widows).
*The basic religious concepts developed in the Vedas (1500 BC).
religious concepts developed in the
*Confucius (551-479 BC), Mencius (approx. 390-300 BC), Lao-tzu (6th century BC)
*Buddha (563-483 BC) and King Ashoka’s acceptance of Buddhism (230 BC).
*Thales of Milet’s (624-546 BC) initiation of Greek philosophy.
*The beginning of intellectual inquiry by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and Pythagorean usage of mathematics to understand nature.
*The Stoic and Epicurean schools of thought.
*Christ’s teaching and life, Pentecost, Paul’s interpretation of Christ and his zeal.
*The survival of the Jewish faith.
*The destruction of the antique culture of the Greeks and Romans.
appearance of the competing Islamic religion in the
*Abelard, Maimonides, Aquinas, and the beginning of the Renaissance.
*Luther and other reformers.
*The emergence of science and the Enlightenment.
*The discovery of psychology and the workings of the mind.
*At the end, in our time, a return to practical technological innovations, specifically those leading to energy generation, automation, chemistry, telecommunication, the information technologies, genetics, and molecular biology.
And how about the negative occurrences in the course of mankind’s history, the repetitive and highly destructive Asiatic invasions, ever new plagues, devastating wars, genocides, innovations with devilish consequences, and mental obsessions – not to mention drug abuse and vastly expanding religious-ethnic “terrorism” with unforeseeable consequences?
One should be careful not to see history as being totally guided by God.This would deny human freedom and all human responsibility, thereby contradicting the basic principle of the human era of existence – and the cruelty and wastefulness of history could lead to a very contradictory God-image.But how can one see God as the creator of the universe and deny God’s participation in the evolution of mankind?Without interference by God in destiny, what religious sense would any kind of sacrifice, prayer, or ethical behavior any longer have – except utilitarian benefit and emotional soothing?
What does that leave as visions of God’s active participation in mankind’s historic evolution?Earlier paragraphs have discussed the cosmic reasons and the problems of theodicy as speaking against the view of a still-active God interfering with destiny.
In a view of ongoing action of the creative force of existence, God, one would have to include inspirations – a number of the religious, philosophical, and technical breakthroughs listed above.There is no question that even those inspirations that one could consider divine actually are appearing, in practical terms, through the thoughts that occur in the minds of some human individuals.Therefore, the religious person will seek an opening of the heart and mind to Divine inspiration, and will seek harmony with the Divine essence – hopefully, the right one – through contemplation or prayer.
However, one should be
careful not to asymmetrically ascribe all positive moments in mankind’s
history to the direct action of the “hand of God”, or all bad moments to
human action.The various
pests and the arising of mighty Asian hordes overrunning great civilizations
were not human deeds.The
great calamities of mankind and all its individuals – whether in birth
defects, accidents, plagues, invasions, wars,
devastations of cultures, premature death, or suppression of great minds
– are an enigma, as are the great changes toward progress,
enlightenment, and well-being.Anthropomorphic
explanations of divine intent in calamities, as the setting of examples
or the teaching of lessons, appear inadequate.Explanations
by divine justice are equally inadequate, since too many innocent people
became victims.The saving of the
innocents, as at
B.2.Some words about abilities or capabilities:
Mental abilities or capabilities can be described only in part.There are IQ tests and qualification tests.However, the question whether you or another person is qualified to undertake a certain enterprise is often difficult to answer, especially when character qualifications are involved. A low assessment of capabilities leads to unused opportunities.A high assessment leads to risk and, possibly, to frustration or failure.
The assessment of abilities or capabilities should be raised with the capability of coping with risk and possible defeat.In sum, I see the assessment of capabilities in connection with character and the significance of risk.I recommend a rather high assessment of actual and potential capabilities to the young and strong.This serves as stimulation to develop and reach out.As circumstances and the course of life indicate, however, a more reduced assessment, humility and decisive concentration on proven or useful capabilities may be in order.
It is both unfair and unjust to tell each child in each environment and race that he or she has equal opportunity for success in life. If they do not succeed, they will consider themselves a failure and the world prejudiced, unjust, and mean.
Capabilities are often “valued” relative to those of others, specifically relative to one’s brothers’, sisters’ or parents’ capabilities and, consequently, their accomplishments.This is, however, neither fair nor suitable.There is, actually, no foundation to seeing human“value” in more or less capability.There is, at best, a difference in performance qualifications, earning capability, and qualification for a specific job.Human value should be related to how one does with what one has received by destiny.In most cases, it is unrealistic that children should see themselves with the same capabilities as their parents, brothers or sisters.
The assessment of one's’capabilities, character, or personality forms the “self-image”.A negative self-image leads not only to unhappiness but also to unnecessarily poor performance in life.An exaggerated self-image leads to arrogance and, ultimately, failure.A self-image of positive values and resourcefulness, combined with modesty toward others, is recommended.From time to time, one should investigate the image that others have of oneself and, hopefully, arrive at constructive corrections which lead to the building of positive capabilities.
“How should one use one’s capabilities?”
Regarding the earlier question, “What Shall I Do in Life?” most people need or want a more individualistic answer than the indication of general human objectives in growth, service, and culture.This leads to the discussion of specific capabilities and individually available opportunities that influence the choosing of one’s individual course through existence.
To start the discussion, let us consider a list of typical capabilities required for various professional occupations:
Acceptance of and desire for responsibility
desire for challenge
planning and control
decision-making capabilities – also in uncertainty
recognition of opportunities
thinking in alternatives
memory, including coordination capability
comprehension, including intuitive comprehension
The interesting point that emerges in looking at this list is the wide diversity of capabilities in which a person should excel in order to be assured success.Actually, depending on specific job requirements, the list is not even complete.Look, for example, at the requirements for successful performance in social activities, politics, government, and public leadership.
knowledge of people (judgment)
intuitive feeling for situations
intuitive policy selection
concern for others
proper relation to law, authority
proper use of power
balance between group-joining and individualism
Again, it is a very wide list.Some abilities even contradict each other, such as perseverance and flexibility, ruthlessness and concern for others.
Consequently, no one individual can possibly excel in all abilities, capabilities, or skills.This provides opportunities for a variety of individuals to excel in life, specifically since different activities require different capability differentiation at different times.
Capabilities can be improved through learning and training.The amount of capability improvement, however, is limited by an individually different natural ceiling.Close to that ceiling, even a large effort in training brings little capability improvement.
The question arises:Which amount of effort is justified to improve which capability, and by how much?With total effort being limited for each individual, one has to establish ranking of priorities.In other words, different values have to be established for different capabilities.
Some people doubt whether it is fair or justified to assign any value to capabilities.I agree that there is hardly any moral value in capabilities, but there is different use or utility of capabilities relative to a chosen course through life.Therefore, the question of ranking capabilities relates back to ranking motivations or objectives in life, as discussed above.
In practical life, people decide all the time whether to spend their money on food or books, whether to spend their time traveling or improving their property, or to what proportion to spend time and money on each.
In setting priorities between training of various capabilities and various objectives, one arrives at the question of selective specialization versus generalized, all-round life development.The answer obviously varies between that of a professional or sports specialist, whose success depends on specialized top performance in some selected capability, and people in general.
The discussion of effort, diversified or specialized, is an old one for mankind, from the pragmatic to the most philosophical level.In practical life, people always had to choose specialized vocations and train for them.The Western Renaissance man encouraged diversified involvement in all fields of activity, with almost equal interest and effort.In the extreme, Buddhism arrives at a view of existence declining all involvement and effort – for the sake of finding peace in Nirvana.
For most people, the "thumb-tack" approach is best suited for the selective development of capabilities.In this approach, a certain area of diversification is covered through development of a variety of capabilities in pursuit of a variety of objectives.In one or a few selected areas, however, special effort is applied to excel.In other words, one should neither scatter one's effort too widely nor live less than a full life in excessive limitation to one specialization only.
The essential point in response to "how to use one's capabilities" is the proper selection of those individual capabilities for concentrated development and effort, which allow survival, some success, and some positive significance in society as the basis for the pursuit of growth, service, and culture.
Besides a primary domain of pursuit, a reserve objective may be emphasized, and even a third one prepared.The reason for the reserve specialization is protection against accidents in life, as well as provision for a change in interests or capabilities with age.
In pursuing some specialization and a field of generalized interests, trade-offs in effort are necessary.A trade-off consists of giving up something of one kind in order to gain something of another kind.As before, when discussing objectives in life, I propose the lowering of the personal satisfaction or aspiration threshold in a general field of interests, in order to heighten performance in a specialized area.In practical terms:If you need less money for daily expenses, you can afford more traveling to specific places of interest.If you spend less time on newspaper-reading and TV, you can spend more time on your specialized studies.
There are also some synergistic capabilities.The most commonly known is the one between sports, health, and general life performance.Equally important is the maintaining of curiosity and intellectual flexibility with aging in relation to general life performance.
As a final comment, I want to mention the concept of lowering the aspiration or satisfaction threshold in some areas, in order to heighten performance in others.For example, the lowering of the satisfaction threshold in terms of the time and money needed for entertainment allows heightened performance in growth or service through availability of more time or money for those.If a person is satisfied with reasonably limited financial or career success, he or she may have energy and resources to spare for branching out into service and cultural projects or interests.
Those individuals seem to do best who initially concentrate their effort, pursuing only modestly diversified objectives, and who put special emphasis on career success in the age of 20 to 40 life period.The modest diversification in that time interval allows for more success in the selected field of concentration and subsequent better-founded branch-out to truly diversified development at a later age, when ceilings of professional development are reached.
In practical life, there is no accurate method of determining the optimal effort toward success per above considerations.It is often the "disposable" income only (remaining income after "necessary" expenditures) that serves as a base for growth in diversification and for service.Such "disposable" income is commonly only 1 to 10 percent of total income and grows only temporarily with growing income (success).This is one of Parkinson's laws, indicating that demand grows to meet (or exceed) income at any level.Therefore, people always see themselves at the steep foot of the success/effort curve, with only a little bit more success being important for more happiness or for diversification of interests, this effect never allowing them to reach the recommended point of branch-out.Here, the lowering of satisfaction thresholds is the key to widening the margins of disposable money and time for well-funded life expansion.
In sum, discussing the conflict between various objectives, I do not see the exclusive preeminence of any one objective.I see the fulfillment of life in an always changing balance and combination of all objectives.This is more difficult to handle intellectually, but it corresponds to the complexity of Creation and man's role therein.
B.3.What do death and suffering mean to us?
The question of why death and suffering occur is a key issue in many religions (for example, Buddhism and Christianity).The interpretation of suffering is either penalty or purification.Accordingly, the attitude toward suffering is either atonement and hope for forgiveness, possibly through sacrifice, or the attempt to prove oneself in hardship, possibly finding compensation in Heaven.God is seen either as possessing cruel features, as just (and humans as sinful), or as loving and helpful against evil.
I personally interpret Creation differently and see suffering and death within the context of evolving Creation.Observation of early Creation indicates that a decisive step toward suffering and death occurred in evolution when multi-cell beings did not become self-repairing, aged, and became mortal.Another equally significant step occurred when primitive living beings began to feed on other living beings.Both occurrences, however, were in line with automated, self-functioning evolution and at that level of Creation did not have emotional significance.Reaction to suffering and the fight for survival became the principal moving forces in the evolutionary development of nature (besides the pursuit of opportunities for easier living).Death made room for newer, more advanced life.
With the later occurrence in Creation of emotion, morality, compassion, and justice in the human species, those earlier methods of evolution came to appear utterly cruel and unacceptable.The fact is that death and suffering could not be religiously or intellectually attributed to personal behavior alone, in spite of many attempts from Job to modern philosophers.Even guiltless children suffer in car accidents or the wise and saintly from accidents and diseases.Therefore, religious explanations were often rejected and the existence of a just or loving God doubted.But the fact that earlier mechanisms of Creation became unacceptable to later forms of evolving life is not necessarily a disproof of a spiritual essence at the beginning or foundation of Creation, as in providing its appearance and structure.
While suffering is significant to those afflicted, and death ultimately to all, it is important not to see either as an exclusive or the principal parameter of life (as in some religions), but to use remaining freedom or strength in the whatever remaining part of life in a positive view for the pursuit of the potential and opportunities of life in following the basic objectives as indicated before.
The above relates to extreme degrees of suffering and to death.Life is more commonly related to minor forms of suffering:the necessity to work for a living, to perform for compensation, to sustain rivalry, to experience frustrations and unfulfilled wishes.
It is an experience of life that most people who do not have to apply themselves decay quickly by turning lazy, soft, or irrational.Few people given large degrees of wealth or freedom can restrain their desires reasonably.In such cases, suffering in the form of some struggle, some limitations to cope with, is a blessing in disguise or else self-imposed discipline, sacrifice, or restraint is necessary.
What can one do?In order to derive fortitude, we must accept limited suffering.Generally, however, we have to accept suffering as part of the evolution of nature, always trying to reduce it compassionately, hoping for continued evolution toward reduced suffering, and not losing sight of remaining opportunities.
B.4.Is there an afterlife, a continued existence of the soul, or the individual essence after bodily death?
The experience of many dying people is a beautiful one as suffering ends.Many people have sensed the spiritual contact to loved ones, who had passed away earlier.All these visions give support to religious concepts of an afterlife, possibly a perpetual one.Science, however, leaves little room for a perpetual existence after death.Science does not see a justification for the concept of “soul” independent of the living brain – as all aspects of “soul” continuously change with changes of the brain, whether in consequence of aging, diseases, or accidents.Furthermore, the end of our solar system and, ultimately, of the whole universe in Black Holes, diverging radiation, or a Big Crunch does not let another existence of permanently stored “souls” appear as within the concept of Creation.This rather indicates that one should accept death as part of Creation – and be grateful for the lives we now have – and make the best of that.
B.5.Contradictions in Direction
How shall we resolve the contradiction between the moral code of man an the law of nature as we experience it?
In earlier eras of history, it was acceptable to fight for honor, to expand territorial dominance, to live in hierarchical or socially stratified communities and to punish cruelly.
The most recent centuries of development of human thought have brought a rapid increase in the desire for peace, justice, Christian values, Socialism, social justice, and abolition of all forms of cruelty.“Human”, “humane”, or “humanistic” are synonyms for good or preferable behavior.At the same time, it is feared that these ideals will make us “soft” and unmanly, leading to less success of our civilization in rivalry to others.Recent political events give evidence of stronger groups cruelly overrunning weaker ones.In personal life, it is a fact that a person educated for perfect Christian, socialist, or cultural behavior is less successful in a career pursuit or in his or her pragmatic life.
Observation of raw nature indicates a clear preference for behavior of strength and dominance.Without this principle, the elimination of the weak and sick, most species would deteriorate or catastrophically overbreed.
Humans have to live in compromise between the higher ideals which the recent phase of Creation is pointing out (and which should be the human mission in Creation) and the demands of raw nature, which are still very much part of human character.To be a force of love, Socialism, justice, and forgiving, one must be mentally, morally, and physically strong and stable.One’s own survival has to be assured, one’s basic position be built and defended against rivals by a certain degree of hardness, selfishness, discrimination and even some disregard for suffering.Whatever you eat, you have not given to someone more hungry than you.Whatever you spend on yourself, you have not donated to the suffering.
In rivalry, survival must be assured.Some individual success commensurate with personal objectives has to be obtained in rivalry in order to arrive at individual strength, which is the foundation for service to others.However, we can attempt to maintain the dignity of the rival.We can constantly compromise between our own needs and those of others.We can build a society with deterrent strength and then be gentle and exemplary in using the strength for help.We can prevent decay through discipline, sacrifice, and struggle for the realization of our ideals.
How shall we resolve the conflict between the demands for progress and for conservation?
the loss of “humane” existence in an overly progressive and increasingly
crowded world requiring conservation.But
we must cope with the demands of the
How does one resolve the conflict between the desire for peace and freedom?
There were times in all civilizations when fighting was the fulfillment of a manly, noble life.Today, peace is a preeminent ideal of mankind.There is abhorrence of violence and suffering, a desire for security, and regret for the waste resulting from wars.Non-violent, peaceful behavior is also preferred in personal life.
all lives experience struggle and rivalry.The
preference for absolute peace leads to unacceptable yielding and loss of
freedom.Freedom is also lost by nations
yielding too readily in some international conflicts.Russian
foreign policy (prior to its collapse) promoted the peaceful behavior of
others in order to foster Russian expansion based on military strength
and subversive terror.
the desire for peace has been in contradiction with many nations’ desire
Mankind's task should be to arrive at “humane” methods of settling conflict and arriving at individual or social development.In the meantime, people have to stay strong and at times belligerent, to defend their own survival in physical and cultural terms.Nature expects fight for survival and for development in diversity.Fight, however, can be transposed in human society from military violence to rivalry in moral, mental, and economic terms.
As in all the discussions above, the answer may not be in an absolutely extreme point of view.In absolute peace, there is no benefit in yielding without struggle.Absolute freedom, without reasonable limitations, is not realistic either.Creation shows that all life has to struggle for its place, that one can minimize struggle by moving or evading to a suitable territory or by suitably specializing and that one can live reasonably or better with less than perfect freedom.
There can be no absolute freedom.There is a need for moral/ethical behavior codes, and criminality results in the need for police control.Therefore, there is more personal freedom in societies with accepted ethical standards, whether in business, politics, civil service or in interhuman relations in families, among neighbors or with strangers.In this sense, intellectual liberalization from all moral values is a disservice to society.
ContradictionsBetween Various Sources of Insight
In a situation of rivalry, observation of nature indicates a course of prevailing through strength to the limits of brutality.In the same situation, intuition may indicate a course of compromise between hard struggle and lenience.Christian doctrine may indicate only lenience.How can one determine the relative value of sources of insight in case of contradiction?
There is a vicious circle in attempting to solve this problem, because the selection of a method for arriving at the right approach already implies the preference for a source of insight.Thus, in cases of contradiction, an intellectually oriented person will intellectually arrive at the observation of nature as the prevailing source.Another person may state intuitively that intuition will lead most successfully in situations of contradiction.The religious person sees the Commandments of the Bible as overruling raw nature and human intuition.
Often, contradictions are not realized but, instead, eliminated subconsciously through self-deception.This occurs, for example, when people are subject to different source hierarchies on different levels of their existence.The adolescent may accept science as prevailing in his thoughts, yet act and live emotionally.Some adolescents or immature individuals may claim scientific thinking in pursuing highly opinionated courses such as radical theories for society.Self-deception also occurs through selective observation and the use of selected input information.This allows individuals with low mobility in thought perspectives to stay in their "tracks", even when contradictory sources of insight are available.
Source usage or preference – and, hence, source conflicts – varies with time, in historical development and within an individual's life cycle, as, for example, in the young radical becoming an old conservative.
One should retain a critical attitude, mental liberty, mobility, and width of vision if one wants to come closer to“truth”, to optimal performance, or to lead a fuller life.
Apparently, the structured character of Creation allows understanding by observation, logic, and conceptual thought.However, the complexity of existence and the limitation of the human mind and resources require a complementary approach by intuition, positively accepted feeling and, beyond that, a search for inspiration by meditating about the spiritual essence of existence, God.
There is a need for compromise between these sources of insight, depending on individual conditions of conflict, whereby I personally depend on some degree ofintuition in finding the right compromise between a harder interpretation of nature by its own rules and lenience in terms of human ideals – tending to the latter as I can afford it.
The resolution of conflict remains a mystery.Some people think that finding one’s way through life is a matter of luck or of character.I think the vision of the right path to follow through life is a matter of mercy.It is then a matter of character to follow this path.
In plotting a course through life, as in any problem, one can distinguish three phases:
Search for information as discussed in the preceding sections
The following discusses the decision-making phase and the phase-over to implementation.
The significance of the decision-making phase varies widely between individuals or situations.For example, the only son of a farmer may not really consider any other course but continuation in the farming life of his family.On the other hand, an artist whose career has been curtailed by a mutilating accident is forced to decide what to do next, yet may have a hard time selecting an acceptable, alternative approach to life.There are factual and emotional aspects.Therefore, it may be interesting to analyze the decision-making process in more detail.
The decision-making process can be seen from three different angles, which are presented in the following paragraphs:
-The formalistic decision-making process developed in business administration and government under the heading of “Planning”
-The decision-making process in a complex human environment, which requires not only intelligence but also what is commonly called “Wisdom”
-The step that leads from intelligent or wise insight or judgment to actually deciding and doing something.This is initiative-related and, hence, a matter of “Personality”
This essay is about planning and pursuing a course through life.Therefore, the following chapter, which specifically discusses “planning”, is somewhat longer and more detailed than the others.
Planning is a formalistic approach to decision-making in plotting a course for the future.In the last decades, academic researchers, people in large organizations in industry and government have done much analytical work about decision-making.Specific methods have been developed to optimize this process.Including old and new methods, the following approaches to planning can be distinguished:
A.Planning by prediction
C.Analysis of trends, cycles, and structures
D.Investigation of laws of nature controlling trends, cycles, and structures
E.Classic business planning
F.Enlarged business planning
While some of these methods were developed for business and governmental planning, they can also be applied to personal planning.Therefore, a short description and critical analysis of the various planning methods will be given next.
A. PLANNING BY PREDICTION
Historically, this is the oldest method of planning and is based on intuitive, sometimes“inspired” prediction.Hence, it is as good as intuition or the basis for such inspiration.The earlier paragraph on meditation pointed out the importance of the God-image for the quality of the resulting inspiration.History shows that there were outstanding prophetic leaders as Moses and devastating leaders as Hitler.Some predictions or prophesies are self-fulfilling.For example, if an accepted leader predicts trouble with a neighboring nation, mistrust and friction will arise and, finally, there may be trouble just for that reason.If people foresee doom and act in fear and resignation, they mayfind doom.Past and present history shows examples.
This planning method, by far the most common, consists of presenting the future as the expected extension of developments of the past.Extrapolation fails when the unforeseen happens or when the development of important factors in the course of time is misjudged.At the end of boom periods, many people failed in business because they expected endless continuation of the boom in industry or tourism.Others lose their chance by not seeing the end of a depression and let the competition take the lead over them.Marx has been fundamentally wrong in extrapolating the social development of industrialized nations.
C.ANALYSIS OF TRENDS, CYCLES, AND STRUCTURES
This is an improvement on extrapolation through seeing trends before they become prevalent or seeing the cycles and structures that change trends.However, this method is also based on observing the past or present and predicting from there.Hence, the origin of new cycles or the change of structures may not be considered.
D.INVESTIGATION OF LAWS OF NATURE CONTROLLING TRENDS, CYCLES, AND STRUCTURES
This is the scientific approach to prediction.More than prediction, the attempt is then made to influence the future, rather than merely accept its course.Examples range from Toynbee in the field of political history to economists in governments influencing the development of booms or recessions.Yet, this method finds its limitations in the complexity of the field, the psychological effects involved, and the unpredictability of destiny in the appearance of catastrophes, weather, inventions, or influential personalities of unique character.
E. CLASSIC BUSINESS PLANNING
This follows an established sequence:Definition of goals or objectives, development of alternative routes for reaching the goals or objectives, decision-making in selecting the most suitable route followed by implementation and control.This sensible and comprehensive method has proven itself in simple environments as the planning of a simple business by economic considerations only.However, problems arise in complex environments, for example, if not only economic but also social, political, and, possibly, aesthetic considerations enter into personal planning.Then, there may be dissatisfaction with the capability to develop alternative routes to reach complex objectives.Also selection between complex alternatives may not be possible.Hence, the emphasis in planning may shift to the following.
F. ENLARGED BUSINESS PLANNING
This emphasizes the consolidation of dimensionally different objectives (for example, business and social demands), the development of imagination or creativity in finding alternative routes, and the development of judgment capability for selecting suitable strategies in complex environments.The formation of character is emphasized in matters related to implementation and control beyond formalistic management techniques.Thus, this method addresses itself to underlying complex factual and human conditions of life, in addition to the formalistic steps of the classic planning method.However, the complexity of existence and the limitations of the human mind may still exceed comprehension even by the “enlarged” planning method.
This method skips formalistic planning steps by simply collecting and statistically evaluating statements, opinions, or judgments of selected successful individuals.The selection can be one of experts in the field of interest, or it can specifically include non-specialists (“inperts”) to broaden the scope of inquiry.For example, a set of leading physicists and a historian or sociologist may be asked to predict the time when fusion-type nuclear energy will be available.The statistical distribution of the indicated time is then presented.In matters of national development and governmental strategy, a number of known personalities may be asked who may be experts in their specialties but would be “inperts” relative to questions of very broad scope.Applied to personal planning, one could ask several outstanding personalities or friends which course in life one should follow at a certain time.They may be well informed about the situation or just people of good judgment.
The results of this method are interesting but not necessarily dependable.The selection of people asked to respond is relevant to the results.Fashionably prevalent opinions or concerns may overshadow factual investigation.A number of doom predictions, such as the MIT Resources Study, are examples, as are predictions of friendly development of basically aggressive and expansionist powers.
H. THESCENARIO METHOD
This method is a broad-scope planning method for complex environments and includes both intuitive and analytical elements.In the first planning step, concepts of future circumstances or environments (“scenarios”) are visualized.Alternate scenarios are developed for possible alternate developments or decisions of the future.The scenarios are sometimes supported by factual analysis.The presentation of meaningful scenarios, however, requires a high degree of intuition.After definition of scenarios, plans are developed to either influence future development to arrive at the preferred scenario, or to reach a desirable position in the scenario.For example, future scenarios of a certain country may indicate, alternatively, a democratic/free-enterprise or a totalitarian/socialistic environment.Consequently, one may plan to facilitate strong personal investments and public initiative to strengthen democracy or a strategy of a low-profile position and adaptation to civil service bureaucracy.Thus, scenario-type planning is used extensively in policy planning of governments and large enterprises.But the method could be equally applied to personal planning problems.The weakness of the method is in the intuitive aspect of scenario development and in judging probabilities of future developments.
I. CONCEPTUAL PLANNING
This method expands on the scenario method for personal planning.Personal planning is as complex as the planning individual's personality, life involvement, and aspirations.For simple individuals, planning by extrapolation or analysis of trends/cycles/structures may be adequate (for stable people in defined professions, established interpersonal relations and limited, stable environments).In complex, dynamic situations of personal planning, however, the scenario method will be preferable for gaining insight and direction in existence.The conceptual planning method is possibly best suited for personal planning.
Conceptual planning is an expansion of the scenario method. As applied to personal planning, it includes the following steps:
1.Analysis of the present and future environment (alternative scenarios, starting with the large picture and generalities, leading to specifics in a multifaceted view).
2.Analysis of the basic human objectives (starting with the general human objectives, leading to specific objectives applicable to oneself in these times) and personal capabilities.
3.Conceptual definition of a realistic self-image in the future environment (taking into consideration undeveloped potential, as well as personal limitations and limits of feasibility).
4.Articulation of the plan (using any one of the more basic planning methods).
·No one source of insight or approach in thought gives a complete or adequate understanding of existence.
·Generally, not-closed systems of thought, which accept contradictions, are closer to the reality of existence than perfect, single-perspective systems.
·All planning in life must respect basic human limitations or natural motivations and allow for diversity.
·The more sublime one attempts to think, the less forceful are the results. There, the struggle for further elevation of thought becomes ineffective, and the results revert to trivialities.One should stay in one's band of best performance, not too low, not too high.Possibly, one can raise the upper limit of performance in time.
·Between any two perspectives there is always room for one more perspective different from the others and provable by selective observation.
·Intelligence proves itself by seeing a large number of colors in the multi-dimensional rainbow of life.Wisdom is in recognizing the significant one under the circumstances and tolerating the existence of the others.
·The limitation of resources and time force everyone to make timely decisions in uncertainty. This is a matter of personality, initiative, and wisdom – and of modesty, if things turn out right.
·Concentration on the finding and utilization of opportunities permits better coping with the problems of existence.
·Personal mental growth or character improvement, caring service to others (or the environment) in fostering a better society to reduce suffering and improve opportunities fairly for all, and joy about the beauty (and art) in this world are the three basic directions of human life.
A PERSONAL FOOTNOTE:The History of This Essay
I perceive my own personal life – and everybody else’s – as a miracle of nature.I perceive any form of existence as a miracle.Such perception of existence necessarily results in a number of questions.How can one understand this universe, nature, and one’s own life therein?What forces are behind these grandiose, large-scale, and very detailed phenomena?Can one find an order, meaning, or purpose in existence?What direction shall we follow in our lives?
I perceive my own life as a unique, one-time opportunity – to perceive, explore, contribute, sympathize, act, and also enjoy.I perceive the life of any conscious, thinking, and feeling being as a unique, one-time opportunity.This leads to additional questions.What can I do, what shall I do with my life?What makes sense to do?What is a “fulfilled” life?
The search for answers
to these questions has been a theme of my life, as it may have been for
many others.The search began during
my years of adolescence.I suffered
from the not uncommon problems of trying to understand this world and of
finding a meaningful approach to life.It
began at age 14, as I had to leave Berlin, Germany, in 1943, moving to
Switzerland in the midst of the war, when Hitler was still in power.This
period lasted through 1950, when I was 21 and had finished my high school
and college years in
During the following years,
I had to concentrate on my work and business.I
found some success and happiness in family life.Then,
The writing of those years was based on five steps in the thought process:
1. An initial liberation of the mind from accustomed perspectives – by contemplating existence in a “new awareness” (as explained in the “Introduction”)
2. The formulation of a set of basic questions about existence
3. A search for sources of insight and an analysis of their validity
4. The formulation of answers to those basic questions of existence
5. The defining of some conclusions regarding the planning of a course through life and the practical conduct of life
After the “sabbatical”
year, I returned to work in industry.Ten
years later, during a stay in
Now, in my seventies, I
Human thought should not be so polarized between the views of existence through the eyes of science and through the eyes of search for a spiritual essence of existence.After all, both address the understanding of one and the same world.Furthermore, both views should be tempered by practical life’s experience and by human sensitivity.Should one not attempt to define and justify a unified view of the world, of destiny, of meaning, and the purpose of life – a unified view between science and religion, in practical and human terms?
This effort led me to a third writing of “What Is Your Life?”.At first, I called it “Understanding Existence”, but now, another six years later, I added “Meaning of Life, Purpose, Direction – an Attempt at Unifying the Perspectives of Science and Religion, Tempered by Practical Experience and Human Sensitivity”.I did not write for an audience, but – as advised by my sons – put this essay on my website and was surprised by the number of “visitors” searching for this theme.I did not dare to burden my sons and friends with the reading of my thoughts – but let those read them who are possibly sharing my concerns.
In the end, everybody has his or her own set of life experiences, perceptions, and, consequently, perspectives on life.An infinite number of perspectives are possible, all different from each other.I did write – and keep doing so – because I consider this quest for clarification of existence the most significant of all the many “journeys-of-the-mind” that are summarized in the various essays on my website.I wrote to put my house in order.I wrote in humility, awe, and even fear in sensing the ultimate mystery of existence – of a transcendental foundation – of God.
Was I able to retain some of the idealism and strength of emotions of the earliest notes?Was I able to keep some of the marveling at the fullness of life as experienced when writing in my middle years?Did I not write too analytically and too humanly detached, after having lived for so many years in an intellectual environment of science and in the world of business?Was I able to combine my ultimate intellectual curiosity with a deep faith in a transcendental foundation of existence – and combine a practical mind with human warmth?
Where did this “journey of the mind” toward the limits of understanding existence lead?Did it lead to enlightened clarification?Did it lead – like so many others of my journeys – from the humanly familiar to the ever more non-humanly grandiose but also to the great and unfathomable and even strange depth of the universe and of existence?Did this inquiry also end in vagueness, uncertainty, even contradictions, as so many others before?Was I able to return with a stronger mind and soul to appreciate human life as it is and to do what I can do with what was given me – during the time left for me?