All of us have partial views of the world. We can only see and hear so much. At our best, we take in only a slice of the whole. Still, I’ve been noticing something that seems widespread and worthy of comment. Here it is:
I see an increasing number of people who are markedly better than the world around them.
My title for today's dispatch comes from the book of Hebrews, where the author lists great men and women and concludes by saying, of whom the world was not worthy.
Yes, yes, I know that we can all complain at length about the stupid, brain-locked, and obnoxious people who surround us. And most of those complaints are true. But there’s another side to this:
Humans are inherently biased. We focus, probably at a ratio of at least two to one, on the negative.
Try asking people what they want. In most cases, they’ll start listing the things they don’t want. This negative bias masks most of the good that happens in the world.
And right now, there are millions of people who are becoming qualitatively better.
Why this should be so is a great question, and while I’m not going to dig in to it today, an increase in understanding has to be a central factor.
You Are Better
I obviously can’t know all my readers, but I do pay attention to them, and I think I have a pretty good feel for them. So while what I say here may not apply to every reader, I am sure that it applies to most. And what I want to say to you is this:
You are better than the world around you. Perhaps not better than every individual you know, but better that the enforced mentality of this world; better than its rulers; better than its great men. BETTER.
You see, we live in a time of rising contrast: millions of individuals are becoming better while the ruling systems of the world are becoming worse. Saying “of whom the world is not worthy” isn’t that big of a statement just now.
And I’m seeing people—old, young, male, female—who are, by nature, better. They display more kindness. They’re interested in understanding and improving. They are truer to themselves, and from thence are truer to others.
I think you should take this seriously. Compare your virtues with those of the world’s ruling systems. Find the truth of the matter and accept what is true.
Is “Better” Defined by Rules?
You’ll notice above that I said these people were better “by nature.” I did not say that they were better because they were good rule-keepers.
Keeping rules is precisely how not to become better. We’ve been trained to define “good” by comparing ourselves to rules, but the great thinkers of the world have been more concerned with transcending rules. First on the list of such people was Jesus, but I devoted an entire issue of my newsletter (issue #44) to that aspect of his philosophy, and it’s far too much to repeat here.
But I will give you two ancient thinkers. The first is St. Paul. He writes in one of his letters about people who:
doing by nature the things contained in the law… are a law unto themselves.
And this was not just a Christian concept. A few centuries earlier, Aristotle had said nearly the same thing:
This I have gained by philosophy: that I do without being commanded what others do only from fear of the law.
So, if both pagans and Christians in Greece and Asia Minor could do this between 2,000 and 2,300 years ago, is it crazy to think that modern people are capable of it too?
Here are more modern thinkers who had more or less the same thing in mind:
He who regulates everything by laws, is more likely to arouse vices than reform them.
Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will.
James P. Driscoll, writing on Carl Jung:
From whatever aspect we consider the command… it is the most dangerous single element in the social life of man.
Gustave Le Bon:
Armed with a small stock of formulas and commonplaces learnt while we are young, we possess all that is needed to traverse life without the tiring necessity of having to reflect on anything whatsoever.
Now, let’s go to the second part of this discussion: Who makes the rules?
In our time, that would be politicians. That is, the same people we condemn as liars nearly every day. Are we really supposed to take rules made by these people as definitions of “good?”
Furthermore, rules can be purchased from these people. Are we really supposed to surrender our moral natures to that?
Love, kindness, courage, integrity, understanding, and empathy: these are things that make people better. And they stand wholly apart from rule-keeping.
In the current world system, rules define who is punished, not who is good.
Fear of Being Better
People fear being better, and not irrationally. Let’s be honest about this: good people suffer mostly for their virtues, not for their vices. In our current situation, above-average virtue is often punished.
So there’s reason to fear being better. Not only will some people resent any type of positive difference, but the hierarchies of this world need their masses to be weak, intimidated, and confused. The problem with better people is that they grow out of those characteristics, even though they’re pressured to conform.
The system’s answer to this, as we all know, is to pile more penalties and pressure on these better people. It’s all they have; it’s all they know; it’s what they are.
So to you who are better, I have one primary piece of advice: Learn to accept the fact that you are better, and that you may be punished for it.
Is This Too Radical?
Before anyone gets the idea that these observations of mine are too radical to be taken seriously, please allow me to pass along another quotation:
That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
Did you get that? If something is high and glorious among men, if it enjoys status—if it is authoritative, powerful, and feared—God is disgusted by it.
Now that is radical.
You wanna take a guess who said it?
Yup, that’s right, it was Jesus. That Jesus. The rabbi from Nazareth. Get a concordance and look it up.
Actually, there is no “so” in this case. This isn't a prescription for conduct. I'm writing about internal acknowledgment, not outward actions.
What matters here is that you accept a fact: that the ruling systems of this world are less moral than you, and that you’re not crazy to think so. Whatever change that spawns in you will be to your credit.
But please, be better: Live with more love, more kindness, more courage, more integrity, and more empathy.
A Free-Man’s Take is written by adventure capitalist, author, and freedom advocate Paul Rosenberg. You can get much more from Paul in his unique monthly newsletter, Free-Man’s Perspective.