Making Your Life Count
AS WE GROW OLDER our attitudes change — not just our opinions on particular subjects, but also our general outlook on life. This changing outlook is manifested in different people in different ways, but there are common elements which apply to most people. For example as most people grow older they become less willing to take chances — chances of any kind. Politically, economically, and socially they become more conservative, more determined to hold onto what they have than to try for something different. And older men are also less willing to risk their lives — even though they have much less to lose — than younger men are.
In addition to these things, many men at about mid-life — around the age of 40 or so — go though a period of restlessness, uncertainty, sometimes involving depression or emotional instability. Sometimes during this period a man may do fairly drastic things — change his occupation, acquire a mistress, get a divorce, become an alcoholic.
Now, some Jewish writers have interpreted this period in a man’s life in a sexual way — as, in fact, they seem inclined to interpret everything in life. They have referred to it as a male menopause. They say that at about mid-life a man’s virility begins to decrease, and this causes anxiety. A man wants to hold onto his virility, his sexual potency, and he wants to assert his mastery over circumstances in a more general way to reassure himself that he is as manly and as potent as he ever was. Perhaps there is some truth in this view. Sex does play a very important role in determining all sorts of things — although it is certainly not the only thing which plays a role, despite what Freud and the other Jewish writers have said.
And there may also be some truth in the purely hedonistic, purely egoistic, view of the Madison Avenue advertising types whose philosophy is expressed in a popular beer commercial with the theme “You only go around once in life,” so grab everything you can. According to their view, a man — or a woman — becomes concerned toward mid-life that he may have missed something, some pleasurable or exciting experience; he may not have grabbed everything he could have. And so he or she, sometimes will make abrupt changes in sex partners or occupation or lifestyle during this unsettled period, in a frantic effort to pack in a few more experiences while there’s still enough vigor left to do it. I have known people to whom this explanation of their mid-life behavior applied pretty well, I believe.
Actually, in our present society one doesn’t have to reach middle age to feel a frantic urge to begin grabbing experiences. There are all too many teenagers with this obsession. And there are all too many young men and women in their twenties who are suffering from depression, because they are afraid they have already tried everything once, and there are no new ways left for them to amuse or titillate themselves.
That is only to be expected in this society, with the values which underlie it. Parental permissiveness from birth, unrestrained self-indulgence from the time one can make one’s decision, the lifelong abhorrence of discipline — these things lead naturally to the outlook on life expressed in the beer commercial.
But I believe — in fact, I know — that these two views, the Freudian view and the Madison Avenue view, do not provide the whole explanation of mid-life restlessness and uncertainty. For some people, at least, for the more thoughtful ones, the more sensitive ones — and for women as well as men — there is another explanation, perhaps not the sole explanation, perhaps mixed with some of the other elements I mentioned, but still it is there.
It is a nagging question in the back of a person’s mind. “Am I making my life count?” A person doesn’t have to be a philosopher to ask himself this question. Quite often it’s expressed other than the way I just expressed it. One may reflect on one’s uniqueness, on the fact that there never has existed before in the history of the Universe, nor will there ever again exist, a creature with exactly my characteristics, another I.
Furthermore, in the billions of years which make up the past and the billions of years which make up the future my 60 or 70 or 80 years is very brief indeed. It is an instant out of eternity. This unique and wonderful being that I am, the likes of which there has never been before and never will be again, exists only of a tiny moment in the overall scheme of things, and then it is gone. In my brief flash of existence, am I doing what I should be doing? Am I spending my precious instant of existence the way I should? Am I putting the unique and temporary being which I am to its proper use?
This sort of question, this sort of reflection, applies to everyone — or nearly everyone, at least, of our race — in one form or another. And it is a basically different sort of reflection from that implied in the Madison Avenue injunction to grab everything while there’s still time. This question, this worry about whether we are spending our lives in the right way is something which comes to those who share our Cosmotheist Truth as well as to those who don’t. The difference between the way it affects us and the way it affects others is this: We already know — in general terms — what we should be doing. We already know the general direction, the general purpose of our lives, while the others don’t.
So they have a double uncertainty. They must grope not only for an answer as to whether they, personally and individually, are doing the right thing with their lives, but they must also try to decide what, in general, is the mark of the right thing. How does one distinguish, in general, between a wasted life and a well-spent life? The result of this double uncertainty is, I believe, a much greater difficulty in focusing on the problem — and on coping with it. Their anxiety is much less likely to be resolved: they are much less likely to find any answers. And the things they are likely to do in response to their unrelieved anxiety will be more erratic, more tending toward emotional instability and alcoholism and other problems than is the case for us.
We already have the general part of the answer. That general answer, as to what we should be doing with our lives, comes from our Truth, as expressed in our Affirmation. And the answer is intimately tied to our understanding of the true nature of reality and, in particular, of our oneness with the Whole, which is the Creator. The answer is tied to our knowledge that each of us, like every other part of the Whole, is permeated with the Universal Spirit, which is the Creator’s Will toward self-consciousness, toward self-realization, toward completion. Our proper purpose is the Creator’s Purpose. The proper aim of our lives is advancement along the Path of Divine Consciousness. The goal of our lives should be to carry us just a tiny bit closer to our racial Destiny, which is Perfection, which is Godhood.
So, we have this general knowledge, and that puts us along way ahead of everyone else. But each of us still must answer a very specific and personal question: What about me? Am I doing the specific things that I should be in order to advance our general Purpose? After all, I am a little different from everyone else: I am unique. I have different abilities, different inclinations, different strengths and weaknesses. Am I doing what I am best fitted to do, what I have been ordained to do, what will make my life count most? Am I doing what I should — or should I be doing something else instead?
That is the question which each person, ultimately, must answer for himself, for no one can see better into our own souls than we ourselves — at least, not after we have trained ourselves to look there. Even so, one of the purposes of our Community here is to help each member, to the extent possible, find the correct answer for himself. We can do that through individual guidance, and we can do it through collective guidance.
What I mean by individual guidance is that the experiences and insights of other individual members of our Community can usually help any particular member find his own answer.
And by collective guidance I mean that there are certain common factors which can help all of us find the right answers, and by making those common factors a part of the structure and the activity and the teachings of our Community, we make it easier for anyone who comes into our Community to lead a life which counts.
Of these common factors the first is knowledge; the second is consciousness; the third is discipline; and the fourth is service. Knowledge is simply an objective understanding of our Truth, an understanding of the meaning of our Affirmation. We have talked about one aspect or another of that meaning in each of our meetings, and we’ll continue to do so in future meetings. Our knowledge, our understanding, grows with time.
Consciousness is the next step beyond knowledge. From our knowledge we know what we must do. Consciousness comes when we not only know but also feel what we must do. It comes when we have learned to look into our souls and have seen the same message there that we have understood from our Affirmation. It comes when we have agreed not only outwardly but also inwardly that our ordained purpose is the Creator’s Purpose — not stroking our nerve endings; not indulging our whims; not accumulating property or being secure or enjoying ourselves.
And when we have attained knowledge and consciousness, we should also have at least some inkling, some tentative ideas, as to the specific role which we can best fill. Perhaps we will try one thing first and then find later that we can be more effective, that we can count more, doing something a little different. But what is important is that we begin translating our ideas into actions, that we begin serving, in one way or another, the one general Purpose which gives meaning and value to our lives, and that is the Creator’s Purpose.
And in doing this, discipline is both necessary and sufficient. Discipline allows us to focus vague aspirations and tentative ideas onto specific goals, and then it gives us the strength to work steadily toward those goals without hesitating or straying. Our community is, at this time, I am afraid, deficient in discipline. That is mostly because we are still small, and the primary way in which we develop self-discipline is through the discipline imposed on us by doing things together as a Community. This situation will improve as we grow, and at the same time the fourth factor, service, will become increasingly important. That is, the stronger our Community is, the more it can serve our Purpose. And as each of us advances from knowledge to consciousness and finally to service through discipline, we can more and more surely find the answer to the question I posed earlier: “How can I make my life count?” For in the final analysis the fullest understanding of the particular way in which each of us can serve best comes only from the actual experience of service.
Now, our understanding and our consciousness that our lives acquire meaning and value only through serving our Purpose distinguishes us in the most fundamental way from the great majority of the people around us. Let’s look at some examples:
On the NBC Saturday Night News at 6:30 last night the newscaster spoke of the rapidly falling birthrate in the United States. The reason for this, he said, is that more young couples today are deciding to improve the “quality of their lives” — enjoying leisure time they wouldn’t have if there were children to take care of, buying sports cars and boats and other luxuries they wouldn’t be able to afford if they had the expense of raising children. For the newscaster and for the young couples who are not having children the “quality of life” is defined strictly in terms of pleasure. The more pleasure they can pack in, the higher the quality of their lives. The more vacations they can take, the fancier the car they are able to buy, the bigger their hi-fi systems — the more meaningful their lives are.
And I don’t mean to suggest that all these people are crude, insensitive types who get pleasure only from drinking and whoring and riding around in big cars. Maybe they also go to the opera. Maybe they collect art. Maybe they are birdwatchers. The point is that it is only pleasure, it is only sensation, it is only personal experiences which have value for these people. That’s the way they define their lives — only with respect to themselves, their feelings and wants and desires, nothing else.
But what about the people who do have children? Are most of them really different? And I’m not talking about non-Whites or about White trash who have undesired children because they have too little self-control to use contraceptive measures. I’m talking about ordinary White people who make a conscious decision to have children.
Isn’t it true that their reasons are, in most cases, self-gratification? Don’t they see having children, raising children, as something interesting, challenging, even exciting? Aren’t most of them people who have decided that life without children would be boring? Don’t most of them see in children an outlet for their affections? How many people today think of child-raising as a service to the race, or a service to anything? Very few, I am afraid.
One has the excuse these days, of course, that there’s no point in our trying to out-reproduce the colored swarms of this earth. They are too far ahead of us, and other measures will have to be used to eliminate that numerical imbalance. But the point is that very few even brother to use that excuse.
And I don’t really mean to imply that the people who have children are in exactly the same category as those who do not. Just as those voluntarily childless couples who spend their leisure time in nature-study, say, or devote it to music — real music, that is — are not exactly the same as those who spend it drinking and whoring and watching TV. We can see a progression of degrees of social desirability in these different groups of people.
But the important truth that I want to point out to you is that all these different types of people, who make up most of the society around us, base the value of their lives on personal pleasure. They found pleasure in various way, but it is the one thing which has value. That is what the larger society is based on — maximizing pleasure, minimizing pain. The voluntarily childless couple is different only in degree, not in kind, from the average couple with children.
Now, I have stated the foregoing truth in a critical tone. One might suspect I see something evil in pleasure, that I am a later-day Puritan, perhaps.
Well, that is not so. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are very natural things, and we are generally in favor of what is natural. Every animal, from the lowest insect up to and including the men and women of our own race, has built into it the tendency to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. It is instinctive. It is what has assured survival in the past. I have spent many hours watching my pet cats, whom I dearly love, and their whole lives are determined by instinct. They do exactly what pleases them, except when fear of punishment or being hurt overcomes their desire. The idea of service never enters their heads. And man is pretty much the same.
And yet, there is a difference. Man — our race — stands at a threshold, an evolutionary threshold. It is the threshold of Divine Consciousness, the threshold of understanding and feeling our oneness with the Whole, our Purpose, and our Destiny.
But not for us. For us there must also be something more, something in addition to the purely animal. And so we press forward. We take the first, small step across the threshold. And that step brings us into a new realm, where all the bases of value and of meaning are different than they were before. Because now we can see, for the first time, the meaning and the value which our lives can have beyond ourselves, their meaning and value in terms of the Creator’s eternal Purpose — if we so act as to give them that meaning and value.
So, egoism, self-seeking, is the way of most of the world — value based on personal pleasure. But for us value is based upon service to the Creator’s Purpose.
A moment ago I said that seeking pleasure and avoiding pain was Nature’s way, the Creator’s way, for animal survival, for animal evolution. If you want to survive, you look out for yourself.
But now I say this: For man, from this time onward, egoism is the way of death; and service is the way of life.
That may sound like a paradox, but it is not. I hope you will think about it.
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Source: National Alliance BULLETIN, April 1977. Join the National Alliance