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The Art of Being a Human Being

This essay is dedicated to my beloved Sarah who has been an unfailing infuence in the creation of it...

The imperative to authenticate ourselves is confronting us more than at any

time in human History. There is no doubt that many of us are staggering
through life devoid of an ethical core, deeply troubled with what is
happening in our world, and surely anxious in our Present about our
forthcoming Future. For many, there exists a pervasive state of injustice in
their lives—a something they have no control over and that haunts their
senses of vulnerability. The swirl of the Electronic Age has left millions of
people trapped in a double bind in which they have been confronted with
two irreconcilable demands: to be complacent with what they now possess
as being suffcient to their needs; or, to seek more, then more, then more....
Greed, corruption, and incompetence characterize the functioning of
governments and the business community. We are stuck in a moral
quagmire. We clamor to want out.

Never before have we been left to feel as if we have become victims of some
objectifcation of our very beings. Our privacy has been invaded, many of
us believe we are under constant surveillance, and governments all over the
world abuse their powers and intrude upon their peoples' liberties.
Horribly so, most times individuals cannot even corroborate whether or not
they are being spied on. There are enough conspiracy theories to make
even the most stalwart individual schizoid. We live in a time that demands
that an individual must take hold of himself or herself, set goals that keep
them going in the direction they have determined for themselves, and
above all, take stock of their merits, demerits, their strengths and
weaknesses. How, then, may we authenticate ourselves so as to reach some
self-confdence in ourselves, and live within the vortex of frenzy that
surrounds us?

There are fve suggestions I may offer—counsels that have kept me for years
on an even keel—and which I hope will serve my readers interested in
authenticating themselves in order not to lose contact with their physical
and spiritual selves for the sake of some unreal, delusional fgment of the
imagination. I ask my readers to embark on a journey of study so that they
can reach their own, private solutions to the tumultuously confusing epoch
we now live within. You must create yourself, my dear reader, and then live
with what you have made of yourself!

It is unquestionably the time for a neo-Existentialist movement. And who

are the “big guns” of Existentialism who can be turned to to stimulate in us
an involvement in Existentialism? Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky,
Friedrich Nietzsche, George Carlin (visit Carlin on; start with
his “Save the Planet” monologue and go from there), and Existentialism's
guru, Jean-Paul Sartre. (Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre's lifelong companion,
is the authoress of The Second Sex—a book every woman should read.)
Existentialism helps one to have the courage to be hisself or herself. It is an
enormous succor that keeps us blithely swimming in the deep, rough
waters of Life.


The philosopher Peter Singer says that “Ethics is about how we ought to
live.” And who can deny that it is that that we must learn to do—to live in
peace and good will with those who surround us. Professor Singer edited
Ethics (Oxford University Press, 1994), an anthology on fundamental ethical
ideas beginning with Plato and fnishing with Derek Parft's call for a Non-
Religious Ethics (“Belief in God, or in many gods, prevented the free
development of moral reasoning. Disbelief in God, openly admitted by a
majority, is a very recent event, not yet completed.) Professor Singer is also
known throughout the world for his courageous energy defending the
rights of animals.


We need “romanticism” as we have never before needed it. We must

redefne ourselves as we stand in the midst of what denigrates Nature. We
must seek inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual before
we become lost in the narcissistic jungles of FACEBOOK and TWITTER.
In the Past, this was eloquently accomplished by the Romantic poets
including William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron. Samuel
Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, William Blake—just to list some of the
English Romantics—and, of course, the Swiss Jean-Jacques Rousseau
popularly referred to as the Father of Romanticism.

A R T H U R S C H O P E N H A U E R (1788-1860)
Schopenhauer is frequently referred to as a fagrant pessimist. Yet, he did
offer us advice on how to live in this dreary world we have created for
ourselves: admire Beauty in people and things; help your fellow man; and,
live frugally.


The very frst sentence of Professor Wing-Tsit Chan's anthology, A Source

Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton University Press) is this: “If one word
could characterize the entire history of Chinese philosophy, that word
would be humanism.” I wish now to quote some philosophical gems from
Professor Chan's masterpiece: “Prayers for rain were gradually replaced by
irrigation...the destiny of man or the future of a dynasty depends upon
virtue rather than upon the pleasure of some mysterious, spiritual
power...when the state is about to rise, its ruler is solemn, illustrious,
sincere, and correct. He is discriminating, pure, kind, and affable. When
the state is about to perish, its ruler is greedy, reckless, depraved, and
perverted. He is lewd, indolent, negligent, lazy, vulgar and can
make the way great; the way cannot make the man great...if the superior
man is not grave, he will not inspire awe...a superior man in dealing with
the world is not for anything or against anything...the superior man wants
to be slow in word but diligent in action...if we do not know yet about life,
how can we know about death...knowledge of men and women is
allow people to go to war without frst instructing them is to betray nature men and women are alike. Through practice they have
become far is simply that they are too intelligent to change
downward or too stupid to change upward...the function of the mind is to
think...a ruler who uses force to make a pretense at humanity is a despot...a
ruler who practices humanity with virtue is a true king...the feeling of
commiseration is the beginning of humanity...the feeling of shame and
dislike is the beginning of righteousness...the feeling of deference and
compliance is the beginning of propriety...the feeling of right and wrong is
the beginning of wisdom...the land was divided into nine squares, with
eight families each cultivating its own square and together cultivating the
ninth public square for the government...between father and son there
should be affection...between ruler and minister there should be
righteousness....between husband and wife there should be attention to
their separate functions...between the old and the young there should be a
proper order...between friends there should be faithfulness...a drowning
empire must be rescued with moral principles...let the ruler be humane,
and all his people will be humane...let the ruler be righteous, and all his
people will be cetera...”

I hope these promptings will be of beneft to those who might think to

investigate them further. There exists always some manner of living that
will help us exit our most dreary thoughts and circumstances. They must be
worked at being found. The fve ideas that I have presented are valid for
me, other thoughts—and there are many—might be authenticating for
others whose slant on life is different from my own. Nevertheless, I wish all
good luck who wish to make themselves more genuine as they see
themselves as human beings. The road ahead will be rough-going, but the
effort is well worth it and will heap unthought of rewards on your thinking
and behavior with other human beings.

Authored by Anthony St. John

Calenzano, Italy
Twitter: @thewordwarrior

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