Interior vs. Exterior
by phil on Sunday Jun 15, 2003 10:38 AM
Can one master life by simply mastering behavior in life? Like, can one live the good life if you infer good simply by the man's actions and not how he feels on the inside?
Like, let's say, I do all the great things that one could claim is in life. I work hard to make money and then donate it all to cure cancer. I have a loving relationship with my wife and family. I give the impression that I am jovial and am a positive force in people's lives by my humor and affable nature. I experience broad facets of life, maybe having grown up in the projects as a kid and then doing expeditionary work in Burma. I've also had my share of, let's say, formative indiscretions, such as licentious craziness in college. I've had balance in my activities in my comforts. I was, let's say, a scrawny teenager nerd but later became a physically fit, and charismatic CEO of a social software company.
Now, then, what if in actuality, inside, I felt that everything I was doing was wrong. I had doubts about my wife the whole time, that I didn't really feel love for my children but just showered them with love because that was what was expected of me. That I went to these random adventures but was truly bored the whole time. In fact, I was bored my whole life. I also, possibly felt that being nice to people was wrong, that instead, personal responsibility was important, or maybe that I should've been murdering mafia members as a free vigilant?
Would I then still have left the good life? Well, one could say, you were being dishonest and living an ungenuine life. Well, what's the harm in that. What if I died and not a single soul knew of the inconsistency between what was inside of me and what was outside of me? What if my wife died, perfectly happy and content in "knowing" that I loved her. How would she know otherwise she's been on the receiving end of soo much affection. What if people were so convinced that in my last year I decided to let the truth come out, and my previous accomplishments were soo overshadowing that people just resigned my recent comments as the results of dementia, Alzheimers, plain old grumpiness, or what if they just never took me seriously. "Now now dear, it's common for people to tell each other they don't love them, it's a natural defense mechanism, that's cute, here, here's your pudding you loving honey bunch."
Would I not have lived the "good life."
Heck, I bet if people saw a small glimmer of doubt, maybe something slightly fake in my appearance, I bet they wouldn't even criticize or ask about it to know whether inside I was feeling the same way. Maybe they'd ask, but what if I lied?
Part of the reason this is interesting is because there was this guy at Stanford who I felt had managed his appearances very well, but deep down had deep misgivings about it. Some people even noticed glimmers of his misgivings, but played along like it never happened. Heck, even I didn't call him out on it. Actually, I did once but he lied to me, or at least I thought he lied to me, and kind of felt maybe it was better if I left him be the way he was. How was I to know that maybe his way was a triumph of his rational over emotional.
According to Sartre and Nietzsche, something MUST have triumphed over something in him, so you can judge his actions as being authentically representing that which he prioritized most internally. To him, being nice and loving was more important than him actually feeling love inside. Is there something wrong with this? Heck, maybe is there something more noble in this because the man chose with his rational thinking to love rather than just went with primitive impulses? Is there more free will and more nobility in the man who is fake for the sake of creating positive forces within the world?