all that is valuable

Will code for food

All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.

– Albert Einstein

I love pop culture, as long as it is my pop culture. I love Star Trek and don’t care much for American Idol.  Loving one and not caring for the other won’t make me much better or worse as a person; there is nothing in Star Trek that makes the fans of that show “better” than the fans of American Idol.  Yet I feel that there is some value from the one show not possible from the other.  I feel that liking one over the other makes me more of an individual.

There are many opportunities for the individual to disappear. In a totalitarian society, the disappearance of individual is a survival instinct.  In a command economy, it’s the easiest action.  In a capitalist society, it’s not the way to wealth but it may serve as the avoidance of poverty.

If you stop and think about the ways in which you can live a “life fully lived”, either through commerce or service or self-improvement, the individual is key. I imagine Donald Trump gets the same sense of satisfaction through commerce as a community organizer does through service to others, although I can’t be sure.  But the opportunity for development accorded to the individual makes or breaks a society.

Do you want your neighbors to succeed? Your city?  Your state?  Your country?  Your world?  At each point you’re concentrating less on your own self-development and more on a larger ideal.  As a family man, I concentrate less on my own self-development (reading, contemplation, exercise, etc.) and more on my family’s development.  I think others expand this to concentrate more upon their neighbors’ development, and so on.  It’s not a bad thing, but I think every time you set aside your own self development for society’s, you eventually will suffer.

Boil it down to real life? Killing yourself to guarantee your children’s college education?  Paying exorbitant taxes to support a dying city?  Working to support a corporation?  Destroying your own health to support a family?  All are self-defeating in the long view.  Each will eventually undermine the initial reasoning; working long hours and wrecking your health to support your family will fail to pay off when you die young, for example.

Most people can’t make that difficult choice to concentrate on their own self-development. I’ll be honest:  I can’t. It’s hard to say that you need to work on your own happiness or health or prosperity now to ensure your family (or friends’, or community’s, or whatever) betterment tomorrow.  Sacrifice is tough in the short term.  America hasn’t demonstrated much stomach for that in the last decade or two, and we’ll pay the price in the next couple of decades.  But if you want to help others often the best way is to learn to help yourself first.

photo credit: pvera

18 Replies to “all that is valuable”

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  3. I have been using Desktop Budget from to manage my personal finances for a few months now. Its the easiest to use free, offline personal finance software I have seen so far.

  4. Umm…Steve – in my reader there was a picture/advertisement for Dianetics. I'm pretty sure you're not an Elron Hubbard follower, but wanted you to be aware. And officially scared of your posts.

  5. I'm not sure whether it really is better to concentrate on your own self development at the expense of your family or your neighbourhood. I mean that there should be a balance – some people focus too much on the external, but others focus too much on the internal. I'm more of an internal person myself.

  6. I like this train of thought you got going on here. The honour of taking care of one's own self-development, the then versus the now, and the self-defeating results of those acts. Did you just finish Fountainhead? 🙂

    1. Dana, I think you misinterpreted what I wrote. I'm not suggesting that you should drop everything to focus on your own self-development. I simply meant that if you make yourself miserable working at a job you hate, for example, you're not doing anyone around you a favor – or yourself. You have to focus on your own self-development before you can be a good parent, or spouse, or child, etc.

      Fountainhead's really more of an ode to the ego, and I'm simply stating that too often we shove aside our own concerns (health, happiness, etc.) that, in the end, cause problems to others if they aren't attended to. But if that didn't come across clearly in my post then I suppose I need to work more on my writing…

  7. There's that old saying, 'You have to love yourself first, before you can love anyone or anything else'
    Otherwise, you're just using them as a crutch.

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