Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
This little stanza seems to fully encompass the whole of the Philosophy of Individual Will.
Some philosophers may look at me with bewilderment or skepticism in making a claim, but I proudly embrace the thought that Will is a single thought that stretches all of history, a road, and it diverges into two paths. Will of the individual has been touched upon by every ancient, most modernist, and quite a few post-modernist and is the staple of all philosophy.
The Will of the Individual is quite simple: Happiness.
The Greeks called this idea Eudaimonia, the good spirit that drives Man. What is it that dives Man to want; makes Man seek and strain; makes Him forsake comfort and familiarity; drives Him to abandon all the leisure and wealth of society and inheritance, to go after it? What is this thing? It is happiness, and it represents itself in Man, as a manifestation of what is Objective, what is True; and Man spends its whole life trying to find this. The dirt road, that is the Will of Man, is the pursuit of Happiness.
Many of the Ancient Philosophers touched on this subject in their works. For the Stoics this goal of achieving happiness was obtained by walking off the path and lying with a rock around one’s waste in the riverbed, and being content as the waters of change rushed over His body; for the Hedonist, this was best met by enjoying each pleasure, large or small, as they came to Him on a stone or crystal platter; Cynics saw rejection of the flesh as a means of achieving happiness, because flesh kept one from doing good and seeking truth. Plato speaks at great length to the fact of Happiness as the Will but doesn’t speak much to achieving it. It was Aristotle that took up the task of further explaining platonic thought on the Will as being an end-in-itself, and that by doing good and seeking truth, one is happy. So, for the most part the ancients, instead of walking down the path that leads to happiness, they made well with the starting line or by running in the opposite direction.
The early church and the medievalist felt that the best place to find happiness, was on our Knees, in service and study to God, and to allow His truth to overwhelm us with submission and good actions.
Montaigne saw Happiness as climbing the nearest tree and enjoying the view, while Schopenhauer thought it best to bury one’s head in the dirt. Kant asked us to set happiness aside if duty required it, and Bentham would have us cut down Montaigne’s perch for firewood. The Moderns didn’t have any more of a consensus than the Ancients on what it meant to be happy, or how one achieved it.
Even today there are speculations of what it means for one to be happy. Robert Nozick rejects the notion that pleasure is equivalent to happiness. Carol Ryff says it is six-tiered; to be autonomous, self-worthy, to have growth in one’s own eyes, positive relationships with others, the mastery of one’s environment, and to define purpose for one’s life. Jonathan Haidt suggests that happiness is subjectively met when one feels transcended beyond His own experience and condition (the God experience).
Many others have and will speculate what exactly happiness consist of, and I wont hinder them from achieving a more coherent and realistic definitive, but it also doesn’t matter much for what I would like to point out in this blog. As I said the road is man’s will to achieve happiness, and while there may be overlapping thoughts on how to best reach happiness, even similar terrain and altitude, there are but two paths to take on this road:
The path of Liberty, and The path of Power.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The road less travelled is the path of Liberty; the path that takes more effort, and leaves the wanderer with bad joints and tore up ligaments. This path looks enticing at first, most wander down it without much inclination the other way, but then they get into the forest at night, and cross over. The path is a go-it-alone ordeal. Not much light, with the rough wind of night beating back any vision one might have. This thorny-bushed, muddy trail, with frostbitten tundra and cackling howls from on-lookers has less appeal then a war torn field of dead men that used to have families and friends. The path of voluntary action; of peace and honor to others’ pursuits, this path is hard because it requires that we leave the path better than we came. Men that are deep within this path are scarred and withered, with rotting stumps and deep cuts across their skin. This path is only lit by the flames of those that wander down it, searching for answers to the question of what it means to be happy. They aren’t willing to cut down others, but are only willing share in a concerted effort towards freedom. They innovate and build, making the path more navigable for others. This path builds on success and sees those that are on the journey as Ends to their own happiness. It wasn’t a path many knew about until later on in the grand trek that is Mankind. Man had to get lost down the path of power for a while, before a few frontiers cut back the brush to find this more excellent way. Man’s thought always dwelt on such a thing, but never having the capacity to see it in its fullness. The path of Power was the only known path, although with different plains of hierarchy and succession until salvation of revelation came to Man. Liberty, like a small flame in the eyes of Man, longing for freedom, guided Him to something never before felt or envisioned. And as dark and as dreary the path ahead may be, Man is at home here; He feels content here and will wish to remain here. The bright lights from the kingdom of Power often lead Men astray, but there is something inside man that calls him home to be free.
This is where the two paths fork.
The path of Power has a narrow opening and widens up as it is entered. Those that can climb, use the bodies of weaker Men under them as means to their End. This path is paved by force and fear. Those that have abandoned the rugged trek of Liberty submit to others for protection. Safety is a commodity here, but the souls of individuals are the currency. No one is sacred unto himself, but this is where nations are birthed and die. Mighty are those that have come before you. The few rules of this kingdom are strange and counter-intuitive. Honor to other Men and their traditions trump personal good deeds; lineage and bloodline serve as a bridge for some and a crevice for others. Those that become captivated here never make it back. People build their towns here, never finding what originally drew them into this journey towards happiness, but settling for the particulars of necessity. Necessity becomes mistaken as Happiness, whereas those on the path of Liberty will forsake what seems necessary in order to achieve Happiness. The self and its Will to find Happiness are all that is necessary. But Power forgets this, it forgets the self, and rejects the individual. This path will steal, use force, and kill in order to happen upon Happiness (or at least a contorted version of Happiness), it doesn’t care the sum of an individual, but sees force by the way of the collective. This is where the State is made, where Owners of others and traders of people do their business. Violence and destruction are seen as positive forces here. This path is illegitimate and is a dead end.
The rejection of the individual will always draw people down this larger and more progressed path, but this path doesn’t lead anywhere, and forsakes the nature of Man as indivisible. If we are to find happiness, in whatever form its revealed to us, there is only one way to get there. The path of Liberty, of Freedom and Equality; the burning deep within you longs for this path, and your inner-compass always directs you this way. It is down this path that Man finds his true home, and that the journey of all who wish to fulfill their Will are made legitimate. I hope you will find this path, and I hope you will find Happiness.