Holes in the Gospel of Joe
Joe Rogan is funny. Crass, yes. Okay, maybe filthy. But I love his spirit. I wish I could live as boldly my way as Joe Rogan lives his way. But I hope, for your sake and mine, that Joe Rogan is wrong about the meaning of life and how best to live it. Of course I don’t only hope he’s wrong, I believe he is. Here is Joe Rogan’s philosophy of life, as posted on his blog (see my Disclaimer for the Sensitive page):
The bottom line in this life, is do whatever the f**k you want to do as long as it’s not harming anyone else. Happiness is precious and there is no universal method of achieving it. If it really brings you joy, and you’re not hurting anyone else, f**k what some dummy like me has to say.
I don’t want to be too hard on Joe. He definitely isn’t alone in his world view. In fact, most Western people probably have very similar views. And I do kind of agree with two things in the quote above. 1.) Happiness is definitely precious. 2) The part about f***ing what Joe Rogan has to say. I agree with that. I mean, I agree that that’s probably what needs to be done.
So that’s what I’ve decided to do. Because the world can’t, and isn’t, working that way. The problem is that what I want to do will always be in conflict with what others want to do. And what I want to do will always be different from what others, as they pursue their desires for their lives, want me to do. In the very act of pursuing my own interests I will create enemies as I, intentionally or unintentionally, thwart others in their attempts to pursue their interests. This can only lead to an increasing cycle of hostility. Behind Rogan’s happy-go-lucky, do-whatever-you-want-to-do philosophy, lurks the simple reality that it just doesn’t work very well.
“If it really brings you joy, and you’re not hurting anyone else…”
The problem with this is that it is largely unknowable. I simply cannot always know if what I’m doing is hurting someone else. I mean, there are times when I can, but there are other times that my simply being the person I want to be is keeping someone else from getting something they want.
Then there are the cases where we are unclear on what we want. Let’s say a guy who really just wants to have sex with any attractive female with a pulse finds such a female and has sex with her. Later on the woman is hurt because the guy has ditched her and gone on to delight many other women in the same way. She was willing, right? She consented, didn’t she? But she was unclear on her own motives. She didn’t realize that what she really wanted was someone to love her. The guy who had sex with her and hurt her, while he didn’t KNOW he was hurting her at the time, hurt her anyway. Is he not culpable because he didn’t know it at the time? After all, he hurt her in a way that, even though neither man nor woman was clear on it at the time, should come as no surprise to either of them. This is often the response of women who consent to casual sex. If this man were truly seeking not to hurt anyone, this might have been a good behavior to avoid.
The idea of traditional systems of morality is, at least in part, to wrangle together the collective wisdom about what can, and often does, hurt people, and then avoid those things that tend to often have that affect. Rogan’s philosophy would seem to set aside traditional systems of morality in favor of simply “not hurting anyone,” but how is it that we come to know what hurts people and what doesn’t? Do we just assume that anything that doesn’t leave bullet holes is acceptable?
Actually, there is a universal means of achieving happiness. It’s through adherence to a principal called universal love. Most religions get to this one way or another, but there was probably no more articulate spokesmen for the principal of universal love than Jesus. To love someone is to will what is truly good for them. If I go to some bar and get drunk, but will what is good for the beautiful women around me, I will strongly consider NOT having casual sex with them, knowing it rarely produces good either for them or ultimately for me (despite short-term benefits). When we adhere to the principal of universal love, we stop seeking to constantly fulfill our own desires, and we begin looking out for what is truly best for others. As I look out for your interests and you look out for mine, neither of us has to claw and scrape to get what we want, nor do we end up viewing one another as the enemy. Universal love is the way to achieve happiness, and it’s a better way than me trying to get mine and you trying to get yours.
The ultimate problem with Rogan’s philosophy is that those who say, “Do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody,” have usually already turned their backs on one of the best ways of knowing what does, and what does not, hurt other human beings, which is through the collective human wisdom embodied in ancient religions.