Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

The strategy of life

I agree with Aristotle that there’s a natural hierarchy of human activities. The gradual completion of each level leads to fulfilment of one’s human potential and attainment of authentic life.

Alas, we’re only living in the beginning of the second millennium, and our civilization hasn’t evolved far enough to allow humans to be free of material constraints. Therefore, material aspects of existence have to be incorporated into one’s life plan. At the same time, any ascend above physiological constraints would be simply unattainable for the vast majority of people, as it requires certain luck and privilege.

Anyway, here’s a winning strategy of human existence in the 21st century.

The first step is to establish the basis, the material foundation of one’s existence. Cover the first levels of the Maslow pyramid, if you prefer to use psychological terms.

1. Get a decent job that pays for your living and provides for physiological needs (such as food and shelter). What’s important is that such professional occupation shouldn’t absorb all the time and energy from your life – whether it’s coal mining or a management consulting job with 100 hour-long workweeks. In order to have a wide range of options on the labor market, you’ll need to become a high-skilled specialist, so make sure to get a proper education first.

2. Ensure your safety. Choose a country with a favorable legislation that won’t threaten your freedom. Emigrate. You don’t expect people in North Korea to realize their full human potential.

3. Establish basic relationships that are good enough to satisfy your psychological needs. Sorting out problems with the opposite gender takes too much time and energy. As Samuel Coleridge said: ‘A great mind must be androgynous’.

When the basics are covered, the second step is to satisfy one’s intellectual aspirations. Do it either on your own (in absence of a social circle) or bilaterally in presence of intellectual environment. To have a proper and up-to-date view of the world, make sure to study basics of Philosophy, Politics & Economics, as this is what any discourse is dominated by, even though some topics might seem more shallow at the first sight. Read one book per week. Get familiar with the intellectual tradition running through the past few centuries. You don’t want to get stuck contemplating ideas sorted out 200 years ago.

Finally, you have everything to fulfil the ultimate human need – the need to create. Whether it’s art or political activism. Start your own creative projects. Internet has established the most favourable environment for it, as creative expression has never been more accessible. Capitalism went even further – if you’re lucky, creative activity might even bring some modest material benefits.

Of course, there’re also many other activities in life, but I don’t think they’re important in filling one’s life with meaning. Watching nature or enjoying food is pleasant, but not necessary to reach the highest levels of human capacity. Maybe things like travelling can be attributed to the second point, as they expand one’s worldview. In any case, such activities are optional.

So what can go wrong with the plan outlined above?

Unfortunately, the world is a cruel place and most people will get stuck at the lowest levels of the hierarchy. Some won’t manage to find a decent paying job due to the lack of skills or a poor education. Others won’t find a decent partner. They will focus all their energy on either searching for one or fixing underperforming relationship with someone unsuitable. Aspirations of others will be limited by a bureaucratic system they live within (think of our parents in Soviet times). Then, I assume most people won’t have enough courage and energy for any creative deeds. Most people will fulfil theirs by raising children.

In any case, that’s a natural hierarchy of human activities that leads to attainment of authentic life through fulfilment of one’s highest human capacities, and transcends humans above nature. If you’re stuck on the lower levels, sadly, your being is closer to the lives of animals and rocks, but not of the human creatures.

As John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the US, wrote:

‘I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain’

That’s the same hierarchy of activities, but laid out on the scale of society as whole and spread in time throughout a few generations. I think this hierarchy can be covered within one’s individual life span, and your human moral duty is to go through the entirety of it, reach the top levels, or at least strive to do it.

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