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Means And Ends

"Meditation is not meant to help us avoid problems or to run away from difficulties.
It is meant to allow positive healing to take place.
To meditate is to learn how to stop – to stop being carried away by our regrets about the past,
our anger or despair in the present, or our worries about the future."  ~Thich Nhat Hanh


Dharma Rain on the Climate Train, Climate March & Flood Wall Street | smilecalm


What is the chief end of man?
The chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy him forever. -- an old catechism.

According to Aldous Huxley (The Perennial Philosophy) and Dutch historian Jan Romein ("The Common Human Pattern") contemplation of the invisible universe was central to every culture before the Industrial Revolution which disrupted the postion, not only of aristocrates and craftspeople but also, of the gods.  Contemplation, the most important activity of the most important people, was considered an end.  No one asked why people did it, it was simply considered that those who could do it, did it.  Even in Western churches, the role of contemplation deminished and, at least in Protestantism and almost in Catholicism, disappeared.  Mysticism and poetry seem to have kept each other alive but both were dismissed as unfruitful activity.

For some reason or other the breakfast discussion turned to Yoga. Just more evidence of our increasing narcissism, my intelligent and  skeptical friend, G, remarked, shaking her head (sadly or in frustration).  I tried to defend the practice, though i know nothing about it.  I should have said that i would have to know why the person was doing it in order to say whether it was narcissistic.

The difference between means and ends is like the difference between norms and values.  Means are of use, like tools; if they don't work they are discarded.  When questioned about why i have certain values i don't have good answers.  The "end" often means "end of the discussion."  Why do i like contemplation (or more honestly, the idea of contemplation)?  i just do.

Means can become ends when they work too poorly or too well as means.  When we are confronted with the fact that our means don't serve their intended ends we, logically, should discard them and look for others.  Instead. we bestow sanctity on them and defend them as ends.  When means work too well, they become "generalized reinforcers," to use the language of behaviorist psychology.  Money can help us achieve so many different ends that it becomes an end in itself.

Money has been around for a long time, but only recently have we paid more attention to it than to the things we could buy exchange it for.  Marx put it more formally, but the basic idea is that money has become an end rather than a means to various ends.

As the sacred wanes and the profane expands. we demand that sacred things and rituals and ideas prove their worth as means to profane ends.  Perhaps as i grow old and see that i have fewer means, the  nature of ends becomes more important.  The idea that one studies and learns and works and soldiers and runs a household for the purpose of putting all these things behind to travel a spiritual path seems more relevant.  Narcissism?  Perhaps.  Maybe that is why the wise advise the taming of the ego as an important part of this process..

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
sabrinamari
Oct. 23rd, 2014 10:24 am (UTC)
Yes.
bobby1933
Oct. 23rd, 2014 09:23 pm (UTC)
:), thank you.
vaporw
Oct. 25th, 2014 02:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, I agree totally on the meditation.
bobby1933
Oct. 25th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Jackie.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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