There’s always something to howl about

Shyly’s delight: “The Secret” to man and god in the universe . . .

Kicking this back to the top from February of 2007, although the underlying essay is much older than that. This is the shortest statement I have made, so far, of the ontology of human behavior. –GSS

Russell Shaw has mentioned the film The Secret a couple of times. Cathy bought the DVD, and we took the time to watch it tonight. As an expression of the right attitude to take toward life, it was right up my street. As physics, metaphysics, epistemology and ontology, it struck me as babbling word salad. The Law of Attraction commended me to The Eyelid Show, as television often does, so Cathy saw the whole thing, and I saw about half.

What the movie would seek to ascribe to a volitionally-caused physics (this is solipsism, right there), I would argue is simply the secondary consequences of particular habits of mind. Russell wants to freely and very generously share all that he has learned in his career. To do this, he needed me as his amplifier, and the two of us needed Allen Butler for his technological prowess. A great many other very talented people will be involved in this project. Are we drawn to each other by a Law of Attraction, or all we all simply oscillating in our own minds at around the same frequency — birds of a feather?

I wrote a book about the ontology of human social relationships, but it’s dense, tough sledding. Appended below is a easier-reading summary of some of these ideas. I wrote this as a speech for my Toastmaster’s Club in August of 2001. In the weblogging world, I’ll throw out details about our lives, but that’s really just so much plastic fruit, local color. This is the world that I live in, the world I wish everyone lived in…

Shyly’s delight


Manifesting the secondary consequences of splendor

I have a Labrador mutt named Shyly. She’s about three years old, but because she’s a Lab, she’ll always be a puppy. Always busy, always involved, always eager to be right in the middle of everything.

Shyly is the world’s greatest master at expressing delight. She has a fairly limited emotional range — sadness, boredom, territoriality and contentment. But at expressing delight, Shyly is unequaled. When I come home, even if I’ve only been away for two minutes, Shyly races back and forth through the house, her every muscle rippling with undiluted delight.

It’s an amazing thing to watch, funny and charming and sweet. Shyly’s joy is clean and whole and pure and perfect. Uncontaminated by memories of past pain. Unfiltered by guilt or shame or doubt or self-loathing. Untainted by envy or anger or malice. Unaffected by affectation. Shyly’s delight is impossible to doubt, and the day she fails to express it will be the day she has scampered off this mortal coil.

“What,” you may ask, “does this have to do with me?”

Here’s what:

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “god is dead.” By this he did not mean that there had once been an omnipotent universe creator but that he had since expired. What he meant was that the manifestations of modernity had rendered religion unable to provide significant moral guidance to educated people. Unexpurgated religion had become inoperative as a moral lodestone.

This is actually non-controversial. When we make reasoned arguments about what one ought and ought not do, we do so by reference to philosophy or psychology or practical consequences, not to religion. Even members of the clergy do things this way, precisely because it is not possible to motivate educated people to take certain actions and refrain from taking others with promises of heaven and threats of hell. Received knowledge is no longer well-received.

I have a problem with this, actually. Reason is a much better guide to rectitude than is divination, surely. But half a truth can be worse than a lie.

I think god is not dead.

I think god has never yet even been discovered.

I know god. I have an on-going experience of god. I live in a state of the most devout, most enthralling worship of the one true god of human existence, the god humanity has always yearned to know and yet has never found. In the best and most perfect minutes of my day, in the cleanest and purest and most exquisitely splendorous days of my life, I am one with my god…

This is a fact: You are alone. This is the horrifying Existentialist wail, “The Scream”, the badge of honor of those who rationalize their lack of honor. But their despair and ennui notwithstanding, human beings are organisms, and all organisms are discrete, separate, unattached, unconnected. This is true of an amoeba and of my dog Shyly and of you. What is unique about you, compared to Shyly, is that you have a reasoning, recollecting mind, and therefore you can discover and acknowledge that you are alone.

Here is another fact: The “you” that is the real you is invisible to me. Shyly is who she is, and she can’t hide who she is. She can’t conceive of disguising who she is because she can’t conceive that she is. She just is.

You, by contrast, exist most fundamentally as you only within the silence and solitude of your mind. You have a body and I can see it. You do things and I can observe them. But I can only observe you doing those things that you choose to do in my presence. I can know you only by what you make manifest, reveal in your actions. Anything that you might choose to conceal or withhold is unknowable to me.

The you that is you most fundamentally — your soul, your spirit, your self, your ego — is never evident to anyone but you, by your own introspective consciousness.

Moreover, the actions and behaviors that you do make manifest — these are never more than secondary consequences of your life.

Every action that you take in your life is first taken by your ego upon your ego.

Not only are you alone with yourself, the sine qua non relationship of your life is with yourself. With your self, with the you that is the essential you, which only you can see, only you can know, and only you can act upon.

You are all there is to your life. The universe is everything there is, but the universe of your experience starts at your skin and goes inward. The actions you bring to the world outside of you are secondary consequences, and all of the events that happen outside of you are only as significant as you make them. By your choices, inside your mind.

Clouds don’t darken my mood. I darken my mood, then blame it on the clouds. Shyly’s delight doesn’t cause mine.

Do you want to see god? Close your eyes. Imagine yourself clean and whole and pure and perfect. Imagine yourself completed, burnished, glowing in exaltation.

Do you want to worship the god who is clean and whole and pure and perfect? Then be it. Be that god.

My Shylygirl can do things that are wrong, but she can never do evil, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because evil is taking an action that you know in advance is wrong. I’ll say that again: Evil is taking an action that you know in advance is wrong.

But I’m not here to threaten you with hell but rather to bring you the promise of heaven. So I’ll give you the complementary definition of rectitude: Rectitude is doing everything you know to be right.

In every choice you make, in every action you take, in each of your thoughts and in each of your deeds, you are acting upon your self. By your attitudes and your habits of mind and your internal and external behaviors, you are acting either to complete and burnish and exalt your ego — or to dismantle and deface and destroy it.

This is an inescapable ontological fact. This is what it means essentially to have a reasoning, recollecting mind. Skyscrapers and symphonies, on the one hand, and squalor and slaughter, on the other — these are secondary consequences. Every action in every human life is first taken by the ego upon the ego.

So do you want to worship your god, the only god who can exist in the universe of your experience? Then be that god. Behave always, constantly, in such a way that you will have earned and deserved your own self-adoration. Act always to complete your self and never to dismantle it, always to burnish it and never to deface it, always to exalt your ego and your body and your mind and your life — never to destroy it.

You’ll have to do this by yourself. The world outside your mind is at war with these kinds of ideas. Your pain, your guilt, your shame, your doubt, your self-loathing, your envy, your anger, your malice — these are the attributes of your character the world loves to see you manifest. These it will support and rationalize and subsidize. But to argue that self-destruction is not a worthy use of the precious gift of human life, to argue instead that the purpose of human life is to love one’s own self and to be a self worthy of one’s own unlimited adoration and devotion — merely to utter these words is held to be the worst kind of heresy.

And don’t be fooled into following false flags. Self-worship does not imply the abuse of others. This was Nietzsche’s egregious error. To the contrary, rectitude is doing everything you know to be right.

Nor is the modern canard, “self-esteem”, a substitute for self-love. Self-love is the joy and reverence you earn and deserve by the relentless pursuit of everything you admire, everything you desire, everything you aspire to. Self-esteem is the high regard in which you presume to hold yourself in appreciation for the accomplishment of absolutely nothing.

We are talking about self-adoration, not self-absorption. Egoism, not egotism.

But we are not talking about religion or philosophy or psychology. We are talking about ontology, what you actually are, in fact, irrespective of what anyone thinks about it.

I stand before you as witness to my god. I speak not from divination, not from revelation, but simply from direct introspective observation:

If you want to know Shyly’s delight, live it.

If you want to manifest splendor — unlimited, uncontaminated, untainted, unfiltered joy — then be the person who has earned and deserved undiluted delight — mental, physical and emotional — earned it and deserved it as the enduring secondary consequence of your choices…

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34 Comments so far

  1. Russell Shaw February 24th, 2007 12:31 am

    Very beautiful.

  2. Norm Fisher February 24th, 2007 9:57 am

    A beautiful and thoughtful post indeed. I know I’ll be back to read this one again. Thanks Greg.

  3. Jim Gatos February 24th, 2007 12:10 pm

    I had to read and reread the post. Well written, I will save this post for future readings..



  4. Jeff Turner February 24th, 2007 12:16 pm

    I have come to have great respect for your thinking and from it, what I perceive to be your values. This post confirms what I have already come to believe as truth about you. I don’t “know” you, but you reveal a bit of yourself in each post you write.

    I will also be back to read this again, but I am now longing to read your book. I am willing to wade into the deep waters.

  5. Kris Berg February 24th, 2007 1:10 pm

    Wow. Speechless.

  6. David Saks February 24th, 2007 2:33 pm

    You need to turn off the Deepak Chopra tapes and enjoy the Ramen. Friedrich Nietzsche also said, “Perhaps no one has ever been sufficiently truthful about what truth is.”
    My cat and I had a lengthy conversation about this before I left the house for the home builders trade convention today. The cat suggested that I fung shui the area around his litter box before I left.
    Hope your having a great weekend.

  7. Greg Swann February 24th, 2007 4:40 pm

    Jeff: Here is the book I was speaking of. However: This one might be a better place to start.

  8. Norma Newgent February 24th, 2007 6:25 pm

    Thank you. That was a lovely surprise.

  9. Jonathan Greene February 24th, 2007 7:44 pm

    Uhm…I feel dumb now. I just watched that video yesterday as well. My reaction was more like “Cool video.”

  10. Brian Brady February 24th, 2007 8:27 pm

    I was correct. Brophy, Junior Year.

    Make that the 4th career; anything less would be a disservice.

  11. Curtis Lawson February 25th, 2007 8:05 pm

    Wow. I’m really sorry to hear you feel that way. On real estate issues, we think very much alike. But we couldn’t be farther apart on this one.

  12. Allen Butler February 25th, 2007 11:14 pm

    Oh Greg.
    You are a kook! I love it. You seem to have a unique blend of Objectivism and Existentialism going on here. It’s abundantly clear that you think too much. Go play with your dog. Is your lovely wife a brainiac too?


    PS: No Offense.

  13. Jeff Turner February 26th, 2007 12:33 am

    Thanks, Greg.

  14. Jim Cosgrove February 26th, 2007 12:56 pm

    My thought when I first saw the video in a CRS class was that it was an updated version of Dale Carnegie and “The Power of Positive Thinking”. I liked it but was almost embarrased to like it becasue I thought it was kind of hokey and simplistic (not to mention overly theatrical).
    This is a great blog post though. It really takes it to another level.
    Thank you.

  15. Greg Swann February 26th, 2007 1:32 pm

    > You are a kook!

    Possibly. But think of this: What if I were the first completely (or even partially) sane person you had ever met in your life? In what way would your reaction differ?

    I’m not being contentious. I have nothing to prove. I almost never talk about this stuff with people, because it often incites hostility from folks who are steadfastly opposed to the kinds of ideas I propound.

    > It’s abundantly clear that you think too much.

    Man is the only animal capable of comprehending what his life requires, and he is the only animal capable of failing to do what his life requires.

    > No Offense

    None taken.

  16. […] The Secret be damned! I said this was plausible back on April 1, 2007: Here are some warning signs the painfullly paranoid (like me) might feed upon: […]

  17. […] Heather. I’m sure he’s not busy enough, so I would point him back more than a year, to Shyly’s Delight for a glimpse of what I consider to be the fully-human life. You can sneak a peek, too, if you […]

  18. Genuine Chris Johnson May 2nd, 2008 10:31 pm

    Read it, but you knew that. I don’t know, because your definition of evil includes say, eating a cheesburger. There’s something inbetween a Randian Hero and evil. There is room for Eddie Willers.

  19. Greg Swann May 2nd, 2008 11:32 pm

    > your definition of evil includes say, eating a cheesburger.

    I wouldn’t think to frame things that way, but if a person believes that eating a cheeseburger — or eating the wrong foods or eating to excess — is morally wrong in the context of that person’s life, then doing so anyway would be self-destructive and therefore evil by my definition. Morality is graduated, obviously, but self-remonstration — guilt, shame, denial, regret — is not an act of self-construction. Do you dispute that claim?

    > a Randian Hero and evil. There is room for Eddie Willers.

    I think this is a false dichotomy. We each of us do good and we each of us do evil, both as reckoned by my definitions. The question is, which way is an individual person moving, toward good, toward evil — or in the random drunkard’s walk that seems to typify so much human behavior? In the long run, if a person is not consciously choosing the good, I think that person is affecting to pretend to make believe that he somehow has not consciously chosen evil instead. But, if I am right about the ontology of human behavior, it doesn’t actually matter what anyone says. Everything in human life comes down to time and a vector, and one cannot persistently point oneself toward the via de los lobos and expect to arrive at the via de las aguilas instead. People can be fooled. Nature cannot.

    I believe that every cognitively normal human being understands everything I am saying in thoroughly elaborated abstract concepts by the age of four or five, sometimes younger. We waste much of the rest of our lives trying to insist to ourselves that it doesn’t have to be true. The uniquely human life — the possibility for Splendor — begins in earnest when we pick a vector and stick to it, damn the consequences.

  20. Genuine Chris Johnson May 3rd, 2008 5:22 am

    I chuckled at ‘cognatively normal,’ while that’s assumed, many people waste time dealing with the ‘what about the retarded and crazy.’

    I wonder how much of the cognitive surplus is spent dealing with obvious exceptions.

  21. Jason Sardi May 4th, 2008 2:24 am

    Very impressive & revealing. This is not my first taste, but yet another visit to your writings Mr. Swann. This is smart, plain & simple. However, I also think it reaches a new level…perhaps.

    More than just food for thought on a Saturday Evening/Sunday Morning.

  22. […] process of sharing. That’s what has always made BloodhoundBlog work, and it was a thing of Splendor to howl like a Bloodhound in a completely different way. We are so much in debt to our guests for […]

  23. […] “Every action that you take in your life is first taken by your ego upon your ego.” If you commit yourself to absolute excellence as a Realtor, and if you follow-through on that commitment to the absolute best of your ability, you will be impervious to the likes of Keith Brand. When you are guiltless in your own mind, when you know by your own rational conviction that your performance is excellent beyond all doubt, there will be nothing that a graveyard-trolling wretch can do to make war on your attitude. […]

  24. […] And I try to live that way, too, with my whole life, as best I can manage it, being the expression of one idea: Splendor. […]

  25. Ken brand December 27th, 2008 8:05 pm

    I’m reminded of the movies, “A beautiful Mind.” and the “Big Lebowski”.

    Nash: “What truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me to the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back. I have made the most important discovery of my career – the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found. I am only here tonight because of you…”
    [looking at and speaking to Alicia]

    The Dude: “Look, man, I’ve got certain information, all right? Certain things have come to light. And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I… this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it’s not just, it might not be just such a simple… uh, you know?”

    It’s complex ain’t it?

  26. chrisel December 27th, 2008 8:30 pm

    Well there many truths to your article.Yet the relationship with God is very personal with each and any one of us.Over the years many argued the existence of God and I think all of them were right whatever position they took on the argument (is there God or not).Further many commented that humans are the only creatures that “Man is the only animal capable of comprehending what his life requires, and he is the only animal capable of failing to do what his life requires.”
    Well this is a very false premise as we do not know much about anything and seems to be extremely self serving.
    I believe in the eyes of our creator we are just a piece of the big picture,as special as any other creation (lets say a cockroach).

  27. Greg Swann December 27th, 2008 8:30 pm

    > It’s complex ain’t it?

    There is nothing in that essay — nor in everything that proceeds from ontology to ethics — that is not completely obvious to every normal five-year-old human child. We complicate things in order to rationalize behavior we know in advance is wrong.

    This essay is devoted mainly to Splendor, but two days ago I explored the essence of Squalor:

    The time of your life is your sole capital, but that’s an inexact statement. Your life, in essence, is your awareness of your life — experienced now, remembered and anticipated. When you do something you know in advance is wrong, you have to make war on your own mind. You have to renounce your real-time awareness while it is happening, pretending to yourself that something else is happening instead. And then you have to try to paper over the memory of what you have done — even though it calls itself to your attention again and again. This is self-destruction — the deliberate and on-going dismantlement of your one, real, irreplaceable life.

    I don’t like everything about the way these episodes play out, but I always like some of what happens. A lot of people are learning a lot about the real science of ethics, and this is the kind of thinking they ordinarily would not do. It’s only when our everyday rules of thumb come up short that we craft better tools with which to measure reality. It doesn’t make me sad when people fall short of my hopes for them, but I could not be more joyous than when they eclipse my expectations.

    How do you change the world? One mind at a time.

    Here’s wishing you a healthy and wealthy New Year, Ken.

  28. […] BLOODHOUNDBLOG UNCHAINED There’s always something to howl about « Shyly’s delight: “The Secret” to man and god in the universe . . . […]

  29. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris Johnson and Real Estate Feeds, Patriot Connect. Patriot Connect said: On BHB: Shyly’s delight: “The Secret” to man and god in the universe . . . […]

  30. Teri Lussier August 22nd, 2011 7:10 am

    I’ve seen this several times. Two days ago I would have said I’d read it as many. Today I happily see I was mistaken.

  31. Greg Swann August 22nd, 2011 2:30 pm

    > I’ve seen this several times. Two days ago I would have said I’d read it as many. Today I happily see I was mistaken.

    I wrote Shyly’s delight in 2001, as a speech for my Toastmaster’s club. The audience was hugely pissed off by the end. Funny to me, because, from my point of view, that text is nothing but benevolent.

  32. Tony August 22nd, 2011 4:10 pm

    thanks, i needed this. I watched the movie several times back in 2006/7, and i think it’s time to watch it again with my kids.

  33. Hamid Grinage August 23rd, 2011 3:08 pm

    Great post, inspirational!

  34. […] She taught me so much just by being alive, but what she taught me best was how to be that completely, that unreservedly, that rapturously alive. She was beautiful inside and out, and she was exuberantly delighted every day of her life — even this one, the last day of her life. […]