Previously we concentrated on the general structure and scope of this principle. We then turned to how we applied, or could have applied, this principle in the past. This week we consider its present applications.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
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 on the middle-part of the principle, that is the phrase: “If Everything You Do Is Realized As An End In Itself”.
Looking for a way to being thinking about this idea I first looked 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.”
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…”
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 the principle is not suggesting an absence of goals (if anything the contrary). Rather it seems to be recommending having the desired “end” co-present (at the back of one’s mind) while focusing on each step. That often means an increase in pleasure because I am now enjoying each intermediate stage as fully as possible. However, even where that’s not possible or appropriate I can, nevertheless, 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 evidence when you give your actions the time they need to develop properly. Care includes the ideas of caring as well as being careful, working with precision, and 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”).