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.

From The Joe Rogan Blog

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Dana

    Are we to “Be the change you wan to see in the world” ? Change in that sense is subjective for example; Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would say as he did yesterday that the change for the better in this world would be to exterminate the nation of Isreal and the Jews. Nation after nation after nation would line up to agree with him. As it is he denies even the massive “hurt” placed upon the world with the Holocaust.
    Or are we commanded to be the change that is prescribed by God? A change that is well defined in scripture. And should that change not one seep into our personal lives but into soiety as well?

    • I think every comment can be understood outside its intended context. Most people think strife and anger is outside of them and see it represented in wars and international strife. Gandhi’s point is to realize that this stuff exists inside of us, and when we say we want world peace, we must seek peace within ourselves. If we want less war in the world, we need to become less angry people in our daily interactions with others. A better world will never be a reality until there are better nations. And better nations cannot be realized without better local communities. There will be no better communities without better families, and no better families without better individuals. There’s no point in lighting a Zippo and singing “Give Peace a Chance” if I remain always prepared to hate the person who cuts me off in traffic. Basically, there is very little wrong with the world that is not wrong with the individual human heart.

  • Your post reminds me of the Adam and Eve story – they seemingly do something rather simple, mundane that leads to Creation itself fracturing. They do this by trying to gain the knowledge of Good and Evil. They break the one simple rule they’re given. By giving them that rule, it’s like God was saying, “You guys are not equipped to know what is good and what is evil.” Kind of like we were designed to be one way and when we decide to do things that “make us happy” everything falls apart because we can’t even fathom the repercussions we have on our own world.

    Great post. Keep them coming.

  • Bryan

    Great post, Dave! I am a fan of Joe Rogan, he is hilarious, and I agree with his philosophy to a certain extent. But I think that a tremendous amount of gray area enters into the discussion when analyzing the word “hurt”.

    “Hurt” is very subjective. I think that in Joe’s world, “hurt” is probably used in the legal sense. Do what you want, as long as you don’t violate the law or someone else’s rights. Therefore, you can engage in all sorts of reprehensible behavior, as long as it falls short of breaking the law.

    The other end of the spectrum would be the interpretation of “hurt” by a very religious person. Any immoral act or sin could be shown to ultimately hurt someone, so this person would strive to behave in a manner which totally minimizes the infliction of any sort of hurt on another.

    Therefore, while Joe and the religious person could both profess to do whatever they wish as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, you would find two very distinct codes of ethics and patterns of behavior permissible by this mantra!

    • I totally see where you’re going, Bryan, and I think you have parsed it out pretty well. And if Joe is referring only to “hurt” in the legal sense, and thus could justify engaging in “all sorts of reprehensible behavior,” as you say, then you have helped me make my point.

      Everyone (Christian, Buddhist, Atheist) — or at least almost everyone — talks about making the world a better place. But the world will not become a better place if the guiding philosophy in most people’s lives is “try not to do anything illegal.” Since most people can come together around the basic goodness of making the world a better place, it’s probably a good thing to say, “How exactly does that happen?” and then to practice in one’s life whatever the answer is. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

  • Sarah

    I tried to “share” the post on facebook, but it said I couldn’t do that…?

    • Strange Sarah, I was able to share it from Facebook with no problem! How did you try doing it?

  • Sarah

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts the last few days.

    • Thanks Sarah. I’ve decided that if I don’t make it as a writer it’s not going to be because I didn’t give it an honest effort. I appreciate all you might do to help me get the word out.