What I Affirm

Why am I Here?

I am “just” a human being… one among billions thrust into an impossible existence… uniquely blessed and burdened by a genetic and circumstantial inheritance I did not choose.

So, what shall I do with this fleeting and perilous “opportunity”?

My answer is as simple as it is challenging: I must make the most of it… by living a life that matters.


Freedom & Responsibility

Having never chosen to be born, here I am… inescapably “condemned to freedom”. Even the rejection of freedom is an exercise of freedom, is it not?  And no “authority”, earthly or divine, can relieve me of this never-ending burden.

Authentic freedom is as precious as it is demanding… and embodies the following principles and attributes:

  • Individual, responsible liberty is the only ethical and sustainable foundation for peace and justice.
  • Freedom of the individual is sacrosanct. I affirm the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom that is compatible with the freedom of others.
  • Denial of freedom is a form of evil. I reject any philosophical, religious, or political system that denies, stifles, or constrains free thought and free association. Such liberty is so sacred that its sacrifice cannot be justified even if it guaranteed universal peace.
  • Individual liberty means nothing without a commensurate measure of responsibility. Such freedom is SO responsible that it goes beyond the freedom to do as I like. It also includes the freedom to do as I don’t like.
  • Responsible freedom requires me to assert myself as a source of values and hope for a better world. This is not conceit or the sin of pride, but a courageous acknowledgement of deep responsibility.
  • Responsible freedom is always a risk. Each opportunity to succeed is also an opportunity to fail.
  • My freedom is always at risk… forever suspended between hope and despair, living or dying with everything I do or fail to do. As such, responsible freedom is a most heavy burden and its honorable exercise a rare and heroic accomplishment.

Knowledge, Truth, & Wisdom

We are all part of an incomprehensibly vast and mysterious unfolding… where everything… matter, energy, time, and consciousness… are inextricably interconnected.

What resources shall we employ in order to understand this mystery and our place in it? The following principles come to mind:

  • Obedience to “authority” is the least reliable way to know the truth. Direct experience is the most reliable way to know the truth.
  • It is unethical and irresponsible (dare I say sinful?) for anyone to believe anything without sufficient evidence or reasoned moral justification.
  • Nature is everything and everything is nature. And the self-critical, self-correcting process of science (guided by genuine human concerns) is how we understand nature’s ways. “Supernatural” is just a word for things we currently do not, and perhaps never will, comprehend.
  • The truth can never be known… and real problems can never be solved… from a safe, “objective” distance. Truths are many, and can be found only in the concrete life stories of real human beings.
  • Human destiny is something that we can influence with our own minds, hearts, and hands. This recognition renders us all responsible… to ourselves, to each other, and to eternity.

Right & Wrong

Ethical principles should be open to rational discussion and negotiation… in dual service to individual fulfillment and the collective welfare… guided by reason, honesty, fairness, and love. Such a discussion can be had, in fact can ONLY be had, by appealing to universal, natural human concerns… not by obedience to earthly or divine “authority”.


Conviction

It is not enough to be responsible for my actions. I am also responsible for defining my values. My values and actions are authentic only to the degree that I have considered them deeply and can accept or reject them with my full consent. Even then, I do not merely choose my values; I create them with everything I do or fail to do.


Integrity

Obedience, popularity, utility, social approval, avoidance of punishment or promise of reward are never valid justifications for any behavior. Something should be done for one and only one reason… because it is the right thing to do. Doing the right thing is often fraught with agonizing dilemmas, but one principle is inviolable: The only person I need to explain my behavior to is ME. For this reason, I will always be my toughest audience… and my most important and challenging project.


Creativity

“I do, therefore I am” carries infinitely more existential weight than “I think, therefore I am.” Sentiments, beliefs, and principles mean nothing unless they are transformed into meaningful action. The only way to BE somebody is to DO something that matters.


Immortality

There is no scientific evidence for an afterlife of any kind. Neither is there any moral justification for an afterlife of either eternal agony or eternal joy. Contrary to rendering my painfully short and uncertain time here meaningless, the finality of death renders my life here infinitely precious… and I must make the most of it. So I embrace my mortality… not out of morbid fascination and dread… but as a boon to living… as motivation to reject the routine, vulgar, petty, and trivial. Thus, immortality becomes an urgent and personal project… found in compassion, generosity, creativity, and courage in the here and now.


Obedience

Obedience is no virtue. Obedience is a parent of ignorance and strife… and should be opposed in all forms. To that end, I reject all dogmatic systems of thought and morality. I reject all appeals to “authority”, “tradition”, “divine command”, and “patriotism” to legitimize any body of knowledge or ethics. I pledge allegiance to no man, no flag, no God, no commandments. I pledge allegiance only to my innate conscience… guided by one master principle: “Love yourself, love others.”


Conformity

There is no wisdom, freedom, or dignity in following the herd. Conformity is a parent of ignorance and strife… and should be opposed in all forms. To that end, I reject all patriarchal or bureaucratic conceptions of human organization… race, tribe, religion, nationality, gender… as the divisive and dehumanizing non-sense they are.


Solidarity

I have responsibilities… quite natural responsibilities… to myself and to other living creatures.  My wholeness as a human being is impossible to conceive without relationship… in my significance to others… and my significance with others.  To that end, we should foster social institutions that recognize the complementary merits of both individual and collective effort.


Salvation

The world’s problems will not be solved… because they cannot be solved… by choosing the “right” religion or by replacing “bad” religion with “good” religion. The world will be healed only when humans become fully liberated by the triumph of secular values… values that are universal, timeless, natural, and self-evident.


Education

Curiosity and diversity, not obedience and conformity, are absolutely essential for all moral and scientific progress. To that end, I reject the indoctrination of defenseless children into the dogmatic beliefs (religious, political, philosophical) of their elders. I advocate a liberal Socratic education that cultivates a moral and scientific mind with the freedom and power to seek honest answers to important questions.


Success

Personhood is an achievement, not a birthright. My identity… my humanity… my meaning… is defined NOT by what I have (or not), but by what I choose to DO with what I have (or not). Dignity can only be earned, not merely claimed… by going beyond myself… beyond my perceived limits, beyond my fears, beyond my doubts, beyond my weaknesses, beyond my strengths… in dual service to self-actualization and service to others.


Spirit

Suppression of desire is no virtue. A meaningful life is a passionate life… lived as a full participant and creator… with intensity, lust for adventure, and interest in others. Such enthusiasm transcends my animal drives to seek pleasure and avoid pain… by embracing the moral dimensions of curiosity, honesty, compassion, wonder, awe, joy, aspiration, empathy, forgiveness, generosity, creativity, courage, and love. All these things are sacred goods that require no sanction… and should be practiced with audacity and gusto.


Faith

It is not enough to believe something. It is not even enough to believe in something. I can claim no freedom or dignity unless I stand for something.


Love

LOVE is the foundation of all ethics.

True LOVE is a verb, not a mere sentiment.

Encompassing freedom, power, and justice the exercise of LOVE is often the most painful thing imaginable.


Significance

Everything I do (or don’t do) matters… to me… and to all living things. Each and every one of my actions (or inactions) casts a vote for what exists in the world.


The Meaning of Life

So, what is the meaning of life? Answering this question is not optional. The meaning of life… the meaning of MY life… is answered emphatically, for better or worse, by what I choose to do (or not) each and every day.


Presented to the world as a celebration of life and a prayer for global solidarity and peace.

Frank J. Peter

9 June 2016


Afterword

Virtues of this Manifesto

  • The utter simplicity of these affirmations makes them comprehensible and applicable in all places, for all time, and for all people.
  • They embody a universality that transcends the divisive doctrines and trappings of so many competing and failed attempts at human organization.
  • These affirmations constitute both a rational and eminently moral response to the mystery, danger, and opportunity of our tenuous existence.
  • Peace and justice are embedded in the recognition of our common plight, common foibles, and common aspirations… a recognition that ought to unify us in mutual concern and shared purpose… fighting against the real enemies: ignorance and natural evils.
  • This is no abstract philosophy and no cheap faith, but an audacious commitment to FREEDOM… with all the joys and perils that authentic freedom entails.
  • This an eminently optimistic view of human potential… optimistic in the most heroic sense. It celebrates the best in us by challenging us to rise above the worst in us.
  • This is not the last word, but just the beginning of the hero’s journey… a quest for a deeply examined and meaningful life.

Two Closing Thoughts

First, a confession. I have declared many things here with unapologetic enthusiasm and conviction, but I am no saint. While I do my level best to walk my talk, I fail in many ways, big and small, almost every day. Please forgive my imperfections… and walk with me for a while.

Second, an invitation. Although I have reasonable confidence in all that I have written, this manifesto remains forever open to revision… as new argument, evidence, and experience require. If you think I have something to learn, please exert your influence upon me.

Peace.

4 thoughts on “What I Affirm

  1. Hi Frank. A wonderful manifesto which, if I could write so well, would parallel something I’d write for myself. I would like to question the comment on “love” though. If I claimed “love” as a verb, would it not be more accurate to say it is no longer “love” but has become compassion for me?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for checking in and for the most kind words of appreciation, Sha’Tara. Indeed, compassion… the capacity to suffer with… is a primary ingredient… perhaps the very thing that makes love possible. Any more thoughts on the subject of love? Peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to meet, Frank. On the subject of love, yes I have many thoughts, most of them not in keeping with the “rank and file” thoughts on love, quite the opposite. Since you ask, and since you have the option to delete this comment, here goes. What I know of love: it does not work. I say it’s a psyop pure and simple. Perhaps there was a time when love did function, but that would have been before the inception of civilization. Now it’s just another commodity with a bar code and price tag. It can be anything anyone wants it to be and still be love. It can even be hate and still be love. When I comment on conjugal love, I like to use this example from a local court case, some 20 years ago: a man is on trial for killing his live-in girl friend. His defense: “I loved the bitch so much, I had to kill her; she was leaving me.” Love can be a set of new snow tires. It can be an invisible sky wizard called “God.” It can be patriotism. It can be rape and torture. The point is that anyone can practice love whether to help, hinder, harm or kill or extract some self-serving or self-satisfaction. The very worst kind of love is self-love. That opens a Pandora’s box of horrors.
    The other problem with love is that it is reciprocal. When it is not, it is no longer love but compassion. Compassion is never reciprocal: it only knows how to give. I know this from long and carefully observed personal experience. Because I choose not to live reciprocally, i.e., in expectation that if I do a good turn, a good turn will be done to me (as in the false teaching: do unto others as you would have them do unto you), I can claim there is no love in my life. Consequently, there is no faith and no hope in it either because I found these concepts, when deeply involved with them through my years as a Christian believer) to be dis-empowering, and actual lies. Bluntly: I don’t use concepts that don’t work 100% of the time.
    As I say to people, as a commuter, would you own a car that started only a few times a year, and the rest you have to leave it and call a taxi or a tow truck? Surely you’d get rid of such a dog and buy something reliable? That’s the problem with the three white elephants or sacred cows I’ve rejected: they are totally unreliable and often likely to give the exact opposite of what is claimed of them. Hope: how reliable is that? Right now, today, I read a lot of good wishes for a new year. Honestly, what has a new calendar number got to do with a change in one’s condition or circumstances? Nothing but a short-lived and childish good feeling followed by greater disappointment and in some cases actual distress.

    There is, however, a way that succeeds totally where faith, hope and love fail utterly. That is the practice of compassion as a way of life. When all of one’s life is superimposed with compassion. Whereas love creates co-dependency, compassion demands self-empowerment because all of compassion’s energy must come from the compassionate being. Only the self-empowered can understand how that works, and can be equipped to do it. What compassion does is open one’s “heart” to the two greatest aspect known to awareness or human consciousness: joy and sorrow. This is the payoff, to be given the “honor” to participate in, or partner in, the joy and sorrow of a world. To be a bridge between these two forces, joining them. Joy and sorrow, so greatly misunderstood as cheap happiness and useless suffering, are twins that unite duality, but only if there is a third force involved: the compassionate being or avatar of compassion, that which lives between worlds and functions independently of any of the Matrix’ controlling forces.

    So I was taught, so I’ve learned to live and so I created my own irrevocable purpose for my life, independent of anyone else’s thoughts on the matter. I’ll tell you this: my choice has made this the best life I’ve ever had here, and I can remember quite a few going back through time. From the extraordinary, to the ordinary, to the sad, and to the horribly brutal (my last one), this one finally makes the most sense and given me the greatest satisfaction. “Namaste”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nice to meet you, too. And I am honored that you took so much time and care to express your thoughts on love and compassion. I agree, with deep sadness, that “love”, as practiced by most, is just a shallow commodity to be traded… and is thus always at risk (even to the point of violence as you described). I also agree that one’s capacity for joy is only as deep and wide as one’s capacity for sorrow. Enough thoughts for now…. “Namaste”

      Liked by 2 people

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