It wasn’t long ago that capitalism morphed from an intriguing, external theory to a pervasive, internalized mind-set in the West and now, increasingly beyond. It is an efficient means of organizing labor and resources and by all appearances, it has succeeded in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty worldwide. Its tenets have become tightly woven with the political concepts of democracy and republicanism over the last two-and-a-half centuries in the American experiment and it has all but completed its takeover of patriotism and even faith as a central point of orientation, despite its dependency on values it does not create.
As an entrepreneur living in this context I am often reminded of the need for a constantly nourished counterweight at the core of my experience and in the hearts of those with whom I associate. Some find this through their affiliation with a church, others are fed by a less structured but no less valuable spirituality, while others take a more secular, philosophical approach. No matter what the source, such reminders of virtue go a long way to keeping the weeds of materialism, solipsism and selfishness in check in a system that cannot intrinsically modulate its darker sides.
Having had mixed experiences with organized religion (which are themselves mixtures of truth and adulterating opinion), I have sought to articulate a philosophy for living through my writing and daily meditations on truth. I do not believe the soul needs to be fed; on the contrary, I believe that everything required for virtuous thought and action is already present – the key is to create the internal conditions which are propitious to the revelation of this inner wisdom. This only happens – at least in my experience – as there is consistent, meditative centering in the truth.
When the market mind-set displaces all other ideologies, comfort quickly becomes not just a god, but the god. And when comfort displaces radiance as the central desire in a man’s heart, all other virtues diminish. I’ve seen this process work out with mathematical precision not just in my experience, but directly in the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of others.
The question, I suppose, is how to live in a world dominated by this mind-set without selling out in subtle ways, compromising beyond the point of no return or worse, giving up entirely. This is a line that must be drawn in the experience of each one. It cannot be legislated, taught or externally imposed; such approaches may prime the pump, but at the end of the day each one must determine the degree to which he allows his orientation to yield to prevailing opinion, rather than to truth (if, as is typically the case, the two do not align).