What does it mean to live a life of integrity?
Human beings are, as Aristotle observed, animals of habit. Our minds are habit machines. Our minds are also machines of action based on belief. If I believe that money is the highest good, in small and large ways throughout my life I will act stingy. Our actions are often the product of habits, and habits often reflect our beliefs. In German there is an expression, man fährt immer dahin wo man hin schaut.
Values are then, in a sense, a kind of habit-pattern. Values are the master patterns that shape our habits and trickle down into our daily thoughts and routines.
(There is an exception. Sometimes our mind is weak. After a long day of hard work, or in the face of a particularly storng temptation, our mind and strength of will can be weak.)
What does all of this have to do with integrity?
The word "integrity" means coherence, undividedness, and wholeness. It is a relative of the word "integer" - a whole number. A man of integrity lives coherently. He lives according to his values.
I have a list of values, which I've written down. I walk through them in my memory on most days in the morning.
My values are, arguably, idealistic and ambitious. I violate them frequently. When I violate them, I feel broken, divided and incoherent. It can be a daily struggle.
How can I improve?
As someone trying to live a life around the principles of Stoic philosophy, my internet addiction has been a source of frustration and aggravation.
Yesterday, I wrote about a system to control my addiction. Unfortunately one tool I used - SelfControl App - isn't working properly. What follows is a somewhat technical discussion of a different, Google Chrome-centered system, to regulate my access to the internet.
It is not that we have a short time of life to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.
Why do we complain about nature? She has acted kindly: life is long if you know how to use it.
I am addicted to the internet. Given the opportunity, I will read news websites. I will watch movies. I will watch TV shows. The brilliant kaleidiscope of entertaining distractions provided to me freely, daily, is overwhelming. Most people are like me. Most people are losing the battle against entertaining distraction.
People justify reading news. News, after all, is important to keep updated about. But deep down we know that most news, at least, is trash. Nassim Taleb writes about the importance on Wall Street of discerning the signal from the noise. After thousands of years people still read Plato. Plato, therefore, is signal. Online news is noise. People on staff at the Huffington Post and the New York Times are paid to distract me. They are paid to pluck at the strings of my emotions, emotions like fear. They are good at their jobs.
Stoic philosophers cultivate and strengthen their free mind. They also use exercises and tricks to help them. Daniel Kahneman has written extensively in the past 40 years about the weaknesses of our mind. Stoic philosophers cultivated strong minds, but they also listen to reason. Reason indicates that our minds are both strong and fragile. There are moments throughout the day when our minds are fragile and susceptible to distraction.
David Allen, the self-organizational guru of Getting Things Done, writes that complex problems sometimes require complex solutions. His organization system is, as a result, complex.
Internet addiction is a complex problem. The reason that it is complex is that we need the internet. We need it for work and we need it for life. A few people have taken long holidays from the internet. They have reported remarkable results. And yet going cold turkey for must of us - because of work, and because of life - is not an option.
In the last few months I have developed a complex solution to my internet addiction. Today is, in a sense, Day 1 of this system actually functioning. I will have more to report in the coming weeks. Doubtless, there will need to be tweaks. And yet I think that I have created and built a workable system. I use Mac OS X and iOS.
You can read more about the details of the implementation of the AppleScript - including a copy of the Applescript that I used - on my Developer Blog - http://henrys-devblog.herokuapp.com/posts/53.