The 2020 Summer Olympics are over, a year after they should have been. The athletes went home before the closing ceremonies. The 2022 Winter Olympics are only a few months away, and already there are stories about how draconian the pandemic safety measures will be in Beijing. Don’t fault the Chinese. They are showing us what a world with an ongoing pandemic looks like.
We live in a social media world and a pandemic world and a global warming environment. We have neuroscience, and gene editing, and mega-farming. We have dysfunctional governments. We have the end of oil on the horizon. Major and irreversible change will occur. Last week, I got from the library a history book on The Enlightenment (1680 – 1790), published in 2020 (Ritchie Robertson, HarperCollins). It has been said that The Enlightenment had a major effect on how we approach today. I don’t know, but maybe I will learn. The book is 2 inches thick. It might take me a while. I hope to report back on any ideas I glean from the book.
In The Enlightenment, scientists such as Isaac Newton (law of gravity), Nicolas Copernicus (earth revolves around the sun), Galileo Galilei (telescope), Christopher Huygens (blood circulates), changed our world. There were philosophers. Hume, Kant, Descartes, Locke, Voltaire. There were wars. The French Revolution. The American Revolution.
Many parts of today’s world seem hopeless. How am I governed by thoughts that occurred in 1790? Do I bury my head in the sand, because after all, I’ll be dead in 30 years? Do I have anything helpful about today to comment on? Most of the people in the US suffer from lifestyle diseases. The pandemic is taking them out. Since I am not part of the ultra-rich elite, and I have only one vote, what impact do I have? How should I live?
I offer you Jordan Peterson:
Read the books. Follow instructions. Have a happy life. Peterson deals with third order desires, although this concept is not mentioned by him. What I mean is: First order desire is the immediate thing you want to do. Second order desire is more of an internal moral principle for why you shouldn’t follow the first order desire. Second order desire is in conflict with the first order desire. The conflict is a psychic irritation that cannot be endured for long. Third order desire is even deeper into spiritual values. Third order desire is difficult to figure out since it is expressed more in feelings than emotion. Third order desire is discerned with slow deliberative thinking, not the ego’s fast thinking. Happiness comes from discerning third order desire because it resolves the conflict between the first and second order.
Third order desires have nothing to do with the US Congress, whether you should get a vaccine, Olympic medals, or peak oil. Daily life can be fruitfully lived within third order desires. I myself never even heard this proposal of ordered desires until just now in my sixty second year of life. When I list out my third order desires, they clearly point the way towards what I should aim my life at. Deep thinking. Spiritual connection. Financial independence. Writing a master piece. Solitary contemplation. Athlete.