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Must We Seek the Divine?

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. The last time I wrote about my religious beliefs, I said that I was starting over, “rebuilding” my foundation. I intended to get to the bottom of whether or not God exists, and journey forward from there. Two interesting forks occurred along the way. I thought I’d take a moment to share them.Spiritual Obligations At some point after I began thinking about the divine and how I should go about discovering it, an important question popped into my head, which was, “What obligation am I under to look for God?” This was immediately followed by questions like, “How can God take away the opportunity of living with him if I don’t follow rules in this life that I never knew I was bound by?” And “How can simply hearing ‘the word’ bind me to rules that must be followed if I am to ever live with God?” And “There are a thousand disparate religions with their own religious texts and rules, any of which I may hear at some point in my life, so, how should I know which are genuinely ‘the word’ of God?” It was questions like these that made me realize that a rational God would not take away an opportunity to live with him if I didn’t follow the rules that I never knew I was bound to follow. Which necessarily includes any rule that I must discover the rules, or even so much as care to. In other words, if God is irrational, I don’t care to know him because he sounds like a moron, but if God is rational, then he will give me the same opportunity to earn “admission” into his house in the next life as he does now. The same goes for every other divine privilege, too. Unconscious Mind My podcast co-host Philip Eger has been working on a theory over the course of a year now on where the idea of God comes from. We discussed it early on in Episode 033 of the EVC podcast. Let me start with an analogy (written by me) that Phil related to my wife and I about a month ago: Our minds are like a library. Our conscious is sitting inside the library at a table. Our subconscious is the helpful librarian. Our unconscious is the rest of the library, all the knowledge we were born with and obtained over our lifetimes. It’s always expanding, and always concerned with both our conscious focus and the rest of the body. The librarian brings us the books we need, but also pays attention to our conscious focus, which is represented by a computer connected to the Internet (everything outside ourselves). The librarian sometimes tries to get us to notice things she believes will help us, the entirety of us, mind... continue reading

An Open Letter to My Baby

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. Dear Baby Collins, Having just entered life and found myself as your father, you’re probably thinking, “Great, who’s this schlub?” I know, I know, I’m not all that impressive on first glance, but before you decide to pack your things and leave – which is entirely your right – allow me to make my case. If you are willing to hear it, please proceed.While it is true that you exist as a result of your mother and I engaging in intimate copulation, such should not be the reason you accept me as your father. Sharing DNA should not be the basis for voluntary association. Rather, I advise you to consider the merits of any given association and its effect on your future happiness. Having dismissed the presumption of default association by blood, I will now proceed to explain why I’m your best option for a father/progeny partnership. Besides your mother and future spouse, nobody will love you as much as I, my love being completely unconditional. As a human child, you have a psychological need for unconditional love from your parents, a need that I will meet completely, from your perspective as much as mine. While we might not always see eye to eye, I promise to always respect your decisions, because whether foolish or wise, they will provide you a valuable learning experience. And when you err, as we humans are wont to do, I will not make you feel ashamed or unloved. You will never be punished for your mistakes, nor rewarded for your triumphs. Either would make you believe that my love is conditional, when its not. Rather, when you do make a mistake, I will help you understand the natural consequences of your actions, and stand by your side as you face them. And your triumphs will be their own reward, though I’ll likely reinforce them by asking about what they mean to you. I’ll want to know in order to get to know you better. Further, I’ll do my best to decode your messages to me about the way you feel. Please forgive me if I have a hard time with this, as some messages are more difficult than others to convey at such a young age. I’ll also do my best to meet every other need you have. I’ll keep you safe and warm, your belly full, and your bottom clean. I’ll coddle you when you need me to and attend to every hurt you experience. And just as importantly, I’ll try to never be the cause of your pain and suffering. Life is challenging enough without a father making it harder. One of the most exciting things you’ll get from me is a commitment to your intellectual needs, which as a human include complete academic freedom and noninterference... continue reading

Gratitude of Opportunity

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. So I’m all about the voluntary principle, right? I refrain from using coercion as best I can. I still sin in this regard from time to time, mostly social coercion, but I’m getting better and discovering more tools to keep me on the straight and narrow, as it were. What I thought I’d explore this Thanksgiving is how grateful I am for the opportunity to earn the love and respect of – and to keep association with – my beautiful wife and children.Love and Respect Both of these beautiful concepts cannot be commanded or forced. Love and respect must be earned, either one on the basis of mutual-bond, -appreciation, -consideration, and -care. My wife and I love each other. We met, and then bonded, and our appreciation, consideration, and care for each other blossomed into an intense feeling of deep affection. We fell in love and remain in love to this day. I am grateful for the association I have with my wife. She’s inspired me to become a better person. Love and respect are the foundation of our relationship. Opportunity of Association My wife’s love and respect for me are not a given. I had to earn them, and she mine. They weren’t commanded or forced, nor will they be going forward. I must continue to earn her love, respect, and association if I am to remain true to my values as a voluntaryist. I am grateful for the continual opportunity of association with my wife. Enter our children. My three children are nine, five, and a newborn. I think I’m a better father today than I was a year ago; than I was five years ago. Children have a natural dependency on the adults in their lives. This dependency is like a chain around their ankle with the other end in the hand of their caregiver. This imagery disturbs me. Sure life is coercive, nature is constantly trying to pull us down and kill us, but survival for an adult is in his own hands. Survival for a child is in the hands of someone else. As a father, I have an incredible amount of power over the little people I’ve brought into this world. I can make their lives a living hell. I can command and control them from birth until they’re powerful enough to stop me. But what kind of voluntaryist would I be if I did that? These people don’t really choose to associate with me. They aren’t old enough or informed enough to consent to that. I gave them life and forcefully brought them into my home. They never had a choice and at their current ages still don’t have a choice. Like I said, that idea is very disturbing to me. As a voluntaryist I never want to... continue reading

Knowledge, Wisdom, and Wealth

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. I live in a great age. Despite all the problems in the world, the present era has so much knowledge, wisdom, and wealth from which I can benefit to my heart’s content, and benefit I have. At 30 years old, here’s what I’ve gained, and how it’s helped me. A quick note, this is not all that I have gained, just that which I value the most.Knowledge There’s certainly too much knowledge, wisdom, and wealth that I’ve acquired (and some lost) to list here, so I’ll keep to broad categorizations. Knowledge and wisdom are obtained in two ways: experience and study. I have thirty years of life experience and have learned a great deal about how to exist and to achieve my desired ends. But experience only goes so far. Study has been an important part of my life the past ten years, and enough to make up for the preceding twenty where my priorities were elsewhere. I view science and philosophy as the two parent categories for every other area of knowledge and wisdom, and they definitely inform each other. Here I will tackle the sciences, and philosophy in the next section. Psychology I was fifteen when I was introduced to a bit of psychology on personality called Human Dynamics. My boss, Sue, mentored me on the different personality dynamics discovered by psychologist Sandra Seagal. “Each personality dynamic is characterized by fundamentally different inner processes in the way they inherently learn, assimilate information, relate, communicate, approach tasks, problem solve, contribute to others, respond to stress and trauma, and maintain health and wellness.” The knowledge that I obtained then has entered my mind at least once every day since. Every person I meet is automatically evaluated by my mind and their personality dynamic determined. Human Dynamics has been helpful to me in two ways, a) understanding why I think the way I think and handle situations that way I do, and b) understanding why other people think the way they think and handle situations the way they do. Both my children and I share the same personality dynamic, labeled “emotional subjective (physical)”, while my wife is “physical emotional”. To learn more about what these are, check out their website and the book by now-deceased Dr. Sandra Seagal. Praxeology Ludwig von Mises (b.1881) pioneered the science of human action, called “praxeology” (originally coined by Alfred Espinas in 1890, but later developed by Mises). I was first introduced to praxeology after my study of economics because a praxeological approach to economics is methodologically different than otherwise. Mises argued that groups don’t act, only individuals act, and so economic analysis must begin with what he called the action axiom. This axiom states that all human action is the purposeful utilization of means over a period of time in order... continue reading

Whence Cometh Respect?

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Thursday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. I think that many people are confused about what respect is and where it comes from. Some claim that respect is owed by virtue of who they are, say a parent, or of what they’ve done for someone, such as bought them something or otherwise provided for their material needs. Others claim that respect is owed by virtue of title. And further, when one does what another commands without question, this is called respect. All of these kinds of people and ideas are wrong, and here’s why.Respect Defined Respect is both a noun and a verb, but their meanings are similar: to treat with, or to have, “deferential regard or esteem”, about sums it up. What does that mean in practice? To have a feeling of respect toward something, one regards them, or it, with “kindly feelings which springs from consideration of estimable qualities.” Estimable (admirable) is like beauty or worth, it’s subjective, a determination made in the minds of those considering said qualities. Origins of Respect If respect is the result of kindly feelings, which are a result of considering certain qualities as estimable, which is a subjective determination, then it follows that respect, too, is also subjective. What is considered respectful behavior, like what is considered beautiful art, differs from person to person. As people are social animals, there is likely general agreement on what constitutes respectfulness in a given society, though like people, not every society will consider the same behaviors as respectful or disrespectful. As respect is felt, people will behave respectfully toward other people if they not only understand what that person considers respectful, but desire to treat that person respectfully. The first is primed through a general knowledge of what constitutes respectfulness in a given society, as mentioned, but the second must be preceded by the act of bonding. Bonding Treating someone respectfully, like all purposeful behavior, is a means to an end (which end may also be a means to an end, of course). Which end? Likely, at least, the maintenance of a valued relationship. How do relationships become valued? Through bonding. When people bond, they get to know one another on a personal level. They learn about each others needs, wants, and aspirations. They learn about interests they share in common. They become friends and feelings of mutual-admiration and regard develop. And they become more familiar with each others qualities, like temperament or intelligence. Each person then assigns worth to those qualities and determines for themselves whether or not the other deserves their respect (to be treated with respectfulness). As importantly, the bonding also serves as a way to communicate, verbally or not, what respect means to each person so that the other has more knowledge with which to work from. Children Now, if respect is earned... continue reading

Whatever They Want

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. The one thing that has really taken my relationship with my children to a more peaceful and prosperous level, is the commitment I’ve made to giving them what is theirs by virtue of their humanity, the right to do whatever they want, albeit with a few caveats. Let me explain.Radical Unschooling We began unschooling three years ago. What is that? Unschooling is the education philosophy that says that children learn best through play and by following their own interests and passions. Quite the opposite of schooling, hence the name. I discovered unschooling while researching homeschooling options after I became unconvinced that government schools were in any way good or helpful to the development of young minds. I shiver these days when I see hordes of the next generation marching toward their prisons, plantations, and indoctrination centers. When my son made his decision to stay home, I was relieved, excited, and envious (my schooled inner-child). But I also lamented the commitment that unschooling would require of me, that is, the presence, the helpfulness, the patience, the creativity, and the drive that had theretofore been weaknesses of mine. Whatever They Want Three years later, I’m better at all of those things (not perfect, mind you), and it’s because I’ve realized that, yes, our children should be allowed to do whatever they want, and here’s the unless, 1) they’ll unintentionally hurt themselves, 2) they’ll hurt someone else, and 3) they’ll violate someone else’s property rights. But that’s it. If they want to play video games or watch TV all day, eat ice cream for breakfast, stay up all night, roll around in the dirt, whatever, they have every right to do so. What the Crazy?! Now, I know what some are probably thinking that I’m a nut job. That allowing my kids these liberties will produce entitlement, sloth, deviance, and a host of other vicious and undesirable traits for people in society to have. But here’s the thing, so far, it’s only brought peace, prosperity, learning, and growth (for them and me). And not just in my home. I’ve met or read about countless fellow unschoolers, from kids to adults, who were likewise allowed to do whatever they want, and also became happy, productive members of society. Actually, with their penchant for entrepreneurship and creativity, I consider them the best kind of members that society can have. Also, consider our evolution as a species. Biologically, including our brains, we’re still hunter-gatherers, whose children do whatever they want, all day long, all year long, for their entire childhood and young adult life. In other words, we’ve been programmed by evolution to learn best through free play. And that’s exactly what my children enjoy. My Role In a word, partnership. That’s the role played by every unschooling parent, to be... continue reading

What is the Point?

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. I’ve really been focused lately on the question, “What is the point?” as it regards life, and to some extent, eternity. Many have tried to answer that question with varying degrees of appeal, to me personally. Here are my musings on the topic.The Point of Life I probably lean toward the answer to this question as it regards life as, “To find happiness.” But then I invariable wonder, “Then what?” That seemingly pernicious follow-up puts me in a bind. One could say that that question answers itself once you find happiness, so if you’ve found yourself asking it, then you’re not quite there; keep looking. However, in my greatest imaginings of having found happiness, must that wave just simply be ridden until my life is over? It loses a bit of it’s appeal when consider the over part. If it will just be over one day, and that’s it for “me”, then it feels like life really is pointless, at least on an intrapersonal level. The prospect of doing everything I can to find the greatest thing ever, true happiness, and then losing it soon after, is a disheartening thought for me. An Eternity? Let’s pretend for the sake of thought that there is an after-life to my existence. This would make the challenges of life more bearable and feel less pointless, considering the possibility of carrying forward my experiences, memories, and relationships into the eternities. That idea makes me feel better about living life. But then here comes the lovely, “Then what?” So we find happiness, die truly happy, experience the novelty of the after-life, rekindle lost relationships… then what? Let us even assume the Mormon view that individuals work to become gods, and as gods create worlds and spiritual offspring. What an adventure that would be! If eternity has any point, it’s probably, at least, that. “Then what?” Perhaps the answer to that question is beyond understanding. Actually, I really hope so, because if what I’ve described here is all of it, at some point, the novelty will wear off and things will start yet again to seem pointless. Final Thoughts I don’t know if there’s an after-life, if my soul or my spirit, or whatever, will continue after my body dies. Or if instead this life is it for me. And I don’t know exactly how I feel about either prospect. Both are appealing in their own ways; and both are unappealing in their own ways, too. All I can be certain of right now is that I do enjoy living. I enjoy associating with my wife and children, and countless other individuals. I enjoy reading and writing and talking about things that interest me. I plan on continuing to live, and hope that these things will get clearer for me in... continue reading

Evolutionary Mismatch

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. In “The Primal Insight: A Question of Needs“, I recommended looking at our evolution as a species in order to determine our biological, physiological, and psychological needs. Another way to approach this is by determining what practices and behaviors create an “evolutionary mismatch” for our species. I want to explore here a few that I am working on overcoming in my life and the lives of my family, starting with the earliest.Spanking Children Our evolutionary ancestors (and modern hunter-gather types) didn’t spank their children. The practice of spanking, or rather, hitting children for behavior correction, has its roots much later in the history of homo sapien. It probably began soon after the advent of agriculture, when children were turned into slaves to the family farm. Human children evolved through a childhood full of play, not work, and so proper discipline to farm life would likely require violently punitive measures. The long-term consequences of spanking are entirely negative from the perspective of one who values peace, empathy, compassion, and respect, as I do, and so, I abolished this abhorrent practice in my home. Spanking as a practice, then, is an evolutionary mismatch and so is a violation of the needs of children. Compulsory Education As I mentioned, the childhoods of our evolutionary ancestors were filled with play. Once of age, around sixteen, youth would naturally be intrinsically motivated to begin their education on hunting and gathering, and they did so primarily hands-on. The practice of forcing children to sit down for hours at a time to receive probably uninteresting information and instruction is an even more recent development than spanking, and quite contrary to the ideal mode of learning for human children, ie. play. Likewise, I have abolished all compulsory forms of education in my home and encourage my children to play all day according to their own interests and passions. My personal challenge is in assisting them in every way they need and ask for, as unschooling, as it’s called, is not for the lazy parent. Compulsory education is thus an evolutionary mismatch and, like spanking, is a violation of the needs of children. Diet Two years ago my wife and I learned about dieting based on our evolution as a species. Eating as close as possible to the types of foods that our bodies evolved on lowers our risk to evolutionary mismatch diseases, eg. type II diabetes, heart disease, obesity, some forms of cancer, et cetera. Even cavities are considered a result of evolutionary mismatch. Sugar, and the carbohydrates from grains that are converted to sugar by the saliva in the mouth, creates cavities, which were unknown to our evolutionary ancestors. The agricultural age, with its creation of close proximity between humans and animals, larger human societies, backbreaking toil, and the primary consumption of... continue reading

Fault versus Blame

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. Distinguishing between fault and blame is important to me. How I react to a situation depends on the difference. Here’s how I define either and why I react in the way that I do toward them.What is Fault? I’d argue that fault is as simple as cause and effect, and not necessarily willful. It means that you are the cause to some effect. For example, if I fall out of a tree by accident and land on someone, I am at fault for injuring them. Because I am at fault, I must compensate them as guided by custom and arbitration. I caused their injury, the fault was mine, but in the case of this particular accident, I am not to be feared by the injured party as their enemy or someone bent on doing them harm. What is Blame? To be blameworthy is to be at fault, but to be at fault is not always to be blameworthy. Blame, I’d argue, can only be assigned to a willful cause to an effect. In the previous example, fault was assigned to an accidental fall from a tree, causing an injury, but blame was not. Had I willfully jumped from the tree to land on and injure someone, then I would be both at fault and to blame. In other words, one is worthy of blame if they willfully cause injury or damage to someone or something (among other causes). Why the Difference? I think this distinction is important as it concerns how I react to a situation. If someone fell out of a tree by accident and injured me, I would expect them to make me whole, but I would not fear them as dangerous to my future health. However, if someone willfully jumped from a tree in order to injure me, I would not only expect them to make me whole, but I would consider them a predator. As such, I would take all necessary precautions to mitigate the risk that they represent to my life, up to and including killing them. To be at fault is one thing, but to be assigned blame means the actions were willful. If those actions are injurious to person or property, then all necessary steps may be taken to insure one’s safety from those who are to blame for their injury. Fault, Blame, and Parenting The distinction between fault and blame is important to how I parent as well. If one of my kids injures their sibling or another kid, my reaction will depend on whether they are merely at fault, or are worthy of blame. Was the injury accidental, or willful? If it was accidental, I will guide and help my kid make things right with the other kid. If it was willful, then I as a... continue reading

What Do You Tolerate?

Send him mail. “One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically on Monday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here. Since I wrote my column on intolerance and voluntaryism, I’ve been thinking a lot about the beliefs, attitudes, practices, and actions that I tolerate on a day to day basis. That’s something that’s proven painful to think about, because I seem to tolerate more than I’d really like to. Let me explain.Tolerance and Intolerance Tolerance and intolerance are a matter of action, not attitude. To tolerate means to not interfere, so of course intolerance is the action of interference. If I tolerate something, then I either bite my tongue or stay my place if I disagree with it. If I interfere, either verbally or physically, then I am acting intolerantly. Tolerance and non-interference go hand in hand. What I am I Intolerant Toward? If my actions betray my intolerance, then one observing me would conclude that first and foremost, I am intolerant toward my own uneasiness. Indeed, every action I perform is an exercise in removing some felt uneasiness; like writing this column or scratching my arm. And that is true for everyone. To get a little more specific, I am also intolerant of the perpetuation of statist myths. My interference takes the form of this website, my writing, my podcast, and in conversation with countless others. I am constantly interfering with the perpetuation of statism. Likewise for the perpetuation of, what I consider to be, bad parenting and childhood education practices. There is much that I am intolerant of along these and other lines. What I am Tolerant Toward? And now the more uncomfortable question: what do I tolerate? Considering the previous list of what I’m intolerant toward, my observer would also conclude that my intolerance toward statism, bad parenting, and bad childhood education practices is unfortunately limited. I speak and write in opposition to these things, which is verbal intolerance, but how often do I physically interfere with them? How often do I stop a parent from smacking his child? How often do I lay down in front of the state’s tanks and refuse to tolerate their wars? How often do I try to assassinate the countless murderous tyrants around the world? The Hard Truth As much as I like to pat myself on the back for being intolerant toward evil, my intolerance only goes so far. Obviously, I have other considerations to make and values to protect, but that doesn’t remove the fact that I have a degree of tolerance toward evil. And that troubles me enough that I find myself thinking about ways to increase my intolerance toward these ills. For example, take spanking. If I am about to witness a parent spank his child, and I want to interfere, I have some options. I could confront the parent and get between him and his child. That’s likely to be quite costly.... continue reading