I found humanism a very convincing world view. We adopted as many of these principles in our daily life and work as we could. Because “Humanism is a philosophy of reason and science in the pursuit of knowledge”, it was obvious to me to turn to evidence-based books when I wanted to learn more about happiness and myself. So, I did. But lately, I couldn’t fight the feeling that there was something missing in this world view. Something one might call “spirituality” (but without the god, spirit and all the incense).
I find the word “spirituality” very difficult and misleading not because of the “uality”-part but because of this “spirit” which leads not only to a slippery slope but rather to an escalator straight down to a mind-body discussion. I don’t want to go there now. But it points to a valid question: even if I acquire all the possible scientific knowledge and comprise it in a perfectly consistent world view, isn’t there something missing? A direction where I should be heading? Something about myself? Does humanism include concepts that help me deal with myself?
Since I learned about humanism I’ve done a lot of analysis, re-structuring, reduction, optimization etc. Humanism was easily and pleasantly integrated in my life. I was doing pretty well at my quest for a rational and consistent world view. But the more I read about happiness, the more shallow all these happiness studies, facts and techniques seemed to me. I’m sure if you adhere to all these methods, you can significantly raise your happiness level. But does that make me a better person or the person I long to be? And which person is that anyway? How can I find out who I am?
I didn’t find a humanist answer to these questions. Rather it seemed to me as if humanism was based on an idea of man just like economics is based on the homo oeconomicus. A man who does not exist. Equally, I suspect this “homo humanitus” does not exist – and couldn’t exist. People are not humanist through and through. My mind may be able to consciously hold mainly evidence-based views but what about all the rest of me? Those irrational, inconsistent, fantasy-loving parts of me? Are they just wrong? Of course, they’re wrong when it comes to a description of reality but how do I deal with them and integrate them in a healthy personality?
Maybe, this is not in the domain of Humanism and I’m again asking the wrong questions? But wait, AHA says: “Humanism can provide the purpose and inspiration that so many seek; it can give personal meaning and significance to human life.” And furthermore: “The cultivation of moral devotion and creative imagination is an expression of genuine ‘spiritual’ experience and aspiration.”
Wow, so I’m definitely in the right store to buy me this spirituality thing that goes with my scientific world view. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of stock or at least I could not find the item. Humanism doesn’t seem to say how this spirituality thing works…
This is weird. Because on many other topics, Humanists have a very specific idea, what are their goals, their means and how to get there. Take for example science and the future of the world:
“Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures. We need to extend the uses of scientific method, not renounce them, to fuse reason with compassion in order to build constructive social and moral values. […] The controlled use of scientific methods, which have transformed the natural and social sciences since the Renaissance, must be extended further in the solution of human problems.”
This is pretty clear and straightforward. And there’s a lot of literature how this works. Easy stuff – to save the world.
Maybe this other “compassion” thing mentioned above is the key? If you dig deeper, you find statements about ethics and something about values – like “We will survive and prosper only in a world of shared humane values.” But for all the talk about values, an application is missing. It’s nice to have values, but how are we supposed to implement them in everyday life? Sure “we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love. […] humankind’s sense of wonder is continually renewed, and art, poetry, and music find their places, along with religion and ethics.” That’s it? Meaning, let poetry and music do the job to implement values?
I stumbled upon a different path after my evidence-based happiness dead-end.
I read this book by this Google engineer called Chade-Meng Tan: “Search Inside Yourself”. And I must say I like it – a lot. I like his evidence-based, pragmatic and mostly ideology free approach. Apart from world peace the book is about mindfulness, meditation and emotional intelligence. While reading it, everything suddenly seemed to make sense. All the mosaic pieces fell in place and there’s this logical deduction to a path I can take – which in the end, of course, leads to world peace (but that’s a different topic). Tan has managed to make meditation and mindfulness seem perfectly logical, scientifically proven and consistent with a world view of a computer engineer.
I’m convinced now that this is if not the only at least the perfect path for me. It is my missing piece in Humanism that enables me to work with myself to find out who I am, who I want to be and how to get there. I think these techniques should be scientifically evaluated more and thus become an integral part of Humanism.
Now that I’ve seen the map, let’s see if I can go down this path.