John, your reply to my article is an article all by itself. With a little bit of editing, that could be one fine article.

I do take notice of your allusion to moral desserts. I wrote about that earlier this year. This idea of goals, wealth and achievement as evidence of success has not served us well, and you seem to have taken notice of that.

As to your question about how to get there, to a place where we have learned to serve in peace rather than seek an advantage over others for personal profit, I think there is a way:

The quick summary is this: people exhibit challenging behavior when they lack the skills to respond proactively to the demands of their environment. Teach them the skills they need to negotiate the demands of their environment and the challenging behavior goes away. Collaborate with them to help them solve their problems, and the challenging behavior goes away.

Most human suffering is for lack of skills or capacity to respond to the demands of their environment. Much human suffering is imposed upon one another by way of punishment and reward, be it material enrichment, status elevation, a moral judgment, or prison.

The problem with this paradigm, as you call it, is that none that stuff really leads to happiness. I quoted Ringo Starr in my article, but another great example of this disenchantment with the money=success model can be found in Don Henley’s song, The Heart Of The Matter, to wit:

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?
Ah, the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
They’re the very things we kill, I guess
Oh, pride and competition
Cannot fill these empty arms
And the work I put between us, you know it doesn’t keep me warm

Here, Henley sees that he lacked the skills to do better. He is not making a moral judgment upon himself. And he sees that he’s lost his way with professional success as a musician.

Once we can acknowledge that punishment and reward don’t work and that what we really need to focus on is problem-solving through collaboration, a form of service for one another, I think we will find lasting and endearing peace.

The feelings we get from that peace will be worth more than money and material success. We must train ourselves to respond to the positive feedback that those feelings are designed to encourage. How we feel when we help each other must matter more than money, status or possessions. That feeling we get from helping each other will mean the difference between survival and extinction.

That is the way.

Write on.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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