Reflections on Integrity and the Human Dilemma

Lately I have been thinking about drive and ambition, purpose and resolve, and the confidence needed to support that resolve, and how integrity fits in there, between the drive of the ego to survive, to thrive, to achieve, and the conscience which tells me that it is of vital importance that I not hurt others in the process of getting what I want.

I recognize that my words, thoughts, deeds, and intentions create an environment that either supports or weakens my resolve. And whether it supports or weakens my resolve is dependent on my integrity, my ethics, my system of values. I am a person of conscience. And while I have few morals in the sense most people seem to, my values are very simple and I live in harmony with them: I do what makes me happy. And I try not to do what will make me unhappy.

Notice there is no undertone of fear. I lack fear with regards to my integrity/values primarily because I am not a religious person. I do not have a ‘faith’ which dictates my ethical integrity. I do not allow myself that luxury: faith does not confront the questions of existence and how we respond to it; faith simply provides consolation and assurances that following a certain spiritual and moral road map is the answer to those questions.

There is not much that I invest ‘belief’ in because… in believing something, in taking it on faith in the absense of experientially substantiated fact, I close myself off to other things, one of which might actually be the truth. I refuse to believe in things that I cannot know. I neither affirm nor deny the existence of a god or gods, or an afterlife, or reincarnation, or a soul, or any of those Big Unknowables. Instead, self-honesty requires that I recognize what I do not know and I cannot know, and focuses me on what I can address: the human dilemma and the possible resolution of it.

And the human dilemma is this: at core, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, we humans are are isolated, anxious creatures in a hostile world. Most of us experience ourselves as beings pitted against the rest of the world–just one more desperate soul struggling to survive amongst countless others. It is this desperation which puts us in conflict with our own integrity, I think. Desperation often drives us do or say things which hurt others and thus ourselves. Whether we admit it or not, we humans are empathetic beings in a participatory / shared reality, and we cannot hurt, abuse, or lie to others without diminishing our own Integrity, that law within. Thus the sense of conflict between survival and integrity. Thus the human dilemma.

And the possible resolution? Remembering that we have ‘reality’ in common. Remembering that we are more than just competitors for the ‘better’ things in life. Remembering that everything is transient: that we are all born, that we will all die, and that we will all suffer in between those two inescapable events. Remembering that as long as we fear the inevitability of suffering, we perpetuate it. And lastly, and most importantly, Love. Being loving toward others is the best way to address the angst of existence we all have in common.

I think that most people don’t realize that when we act with integrity, when we operate from a place of compassion and empathy for ourselves and each other, when we stop clinging to our fears of the undeniable and inescapable transience of life, we create a world with less suffering. Or at least, we are less likely to contribute to the fear and suffering. Ultimately, my integrity, and the integrity of my thoughts, words, intentions, and deeds, are based upon my sense of what I have in common with others, rather than what separates or distinguishes me from them.

The Internet, more than anything, has taught me that much.