Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
Last week I mentioned some thoughts about the implications of a possible neurobiological basis for this principle. This week I am focusing only on the middle-part of the principle with some considerations about the phrase: “If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself”.
The first thing I did was look up the phrase “an end in itself” in dictionaries of idioms and phrases — yes there are such things. Here’s a sample from The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs: “…existing for its own sake; existing for no clear purpose. For Bob, art is an end in itself. He doesn’t hope to make any money from it. Learning is an end in itself. Knowledge does not have to have a practical application. See also: an, end, in, itself”
© 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Another example, this time from The Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. “…if an activity or action is an end in itself, it is important to you not because it will help you to achieve something else, but because you enjoy doing it or think that it is important Education should be an end in itself…”
© Cambridge University Press 2006.
In the discussion of this principle a few weeks ago the point was raised that to get anything done we need goals and need to go after them. These examples of common usage seemed to drive home the idea that it ’s not a question of an absence of goals (quite the contrary) but of having the desired “end” co-present while my focus is on each step. That often means enjoying each intermediate stage as fully as possible. However, even where that’s not possible or appropriate I can, nonetheless, attend to each step and do it with all the care I can muster.
One interesting place to learn and practice this principle is in those processes we call crafts. Their practice also gives new intuitions and inspirations about the principles. Historically the crafts have been tied to those central of the works of Silo’s school, the systems of self-transference called disciplines. The disciplines however are not everyone’s interest — requiring as they do, special conditions, preparation, and sustained dedication. On the other hand, the crafts are of more general use, and far more accessible. In daily life crafts are generally practiced in order to create beautiful or useful objects. In our ambits however, they are used to create beautiful or useful attitudes. Our practice focuses on three of these, which we refer to as: Permanence, Care, and Tone.
Measure and Proportion:
One form of permanence is in giving your actions the time they need to develop properly. Care can also be translated, as precision, or even attention to detail. Tone is a matter of measure and proportion and so related to what in another time might have been called temperance from the Latin temperantia i.e., moderation which derives from temperare, i.e. restrain. This is an idea related to another word that perhaps also sound out of date: prudence, using that word in something like its original sense ((Latin: prudentia, from providentia meaning “seeing ahead, sagacity”).