by Brad Nelson 4/19/14
In dealing with the subject of Objectivism, and in reading a little (by coincidence) about Christian Science, it occurred to me that probably the worst development of the 20th century was the field of psychology.
And it’s not that skilled counselors can’t help people out of their bad habits. Occasionally they do (and very often they take your money and do no harm, at best). The problem with modern psychology is that it has reduced man to thinking of himself as a problem to be solved.
And there are many problems in life to be solved. And problem-solving skills are greatly beneficial to us. But if I’ve learned anything from all my own musings and personal struggles over the years it is that we are not beings to be “figured out.” Our job is not to find the right and perfect formula. The search for the perfect doctrine or philosophy, although individual principles are often of use, is ultimately more harm than help.
To some extent, the art of living is learning to live with ourselves rather than trying to perfect every little thing. It’s learning to live in a world where what happens isn’t necessarily prone to analysis and thus correction. We are not problems to be solved. We are not a complex of phobias and neuroses looking to be untangled and defused. And I think that in thinking like this, we can turn our life into a living hell, for the backdrop to all this is, once again, the expectation of utopia.
Any philosophy or religion has the potential to smother a mind in the minutia of ritualistic thinking, where we think of ourselves, our world, and even our God, as a puzzle to be solved. This is the approach of Christian Science, for example, where the idea is that if you are sick it is because your thinking is out of whack with God, who is perfect and thus without corruption or disease. And so if you just somehow purify your thinking, you’ll be healed. Does that not sound like a living hell, to live with such angst-filled strivings so that if you catch a cold it’s because you failed to live up to the perfection of God?
And it’s not that there isn’t a healthful benefit to positive thinking, to being cheerful instead of depressed. There clearly is. But that kind of thinking reduces all of life, and its great mysteries, to a mere method, a formula — and leaves little to no room for the redemptive aspects of suffering. It exercises and over-exercises the “rational” aspect of us to the detriment of all others, especially including the creative and spiritual aspects.
And this is also the fault of Objectivism and libertarianism. I think both camps think they have a formula for all of life, if we would only adhere to the rules. As I’ve noted, conservatism, at best, is only a general guideline. It’s much like a carpenter learning a bit of mathematics so that he can measure twice and cut once. Its about learning the equivalent of the basics of gravity so that whatever you build will not fall down. But conservatism doesn’t tell you precisely what kind of building you should build or how many stories it should have.
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