What is my idea of a superb human being?
My first thoughts on this were:
I can see that I have great potential as a person, and the key seems to be discipline; I have the ability to learn, and simply have to make the effort to learn and to practice things.
Some of what I want to do is learning of skills in the usual sense; other things are less conventional skills and more thought pattern modifications, coping skills etc. What I initially thought of was to be undisturbable in feelings, and always to evaluate things correctly viewing facts and not my feelings. However, Christ himself was not undisturbable in feelings, so perhaps this is not the correct target.
I can see increasingly the importance of self-discipline, and can see that I haven't really made a start on it. It's one of those things with a self-starting problem... I need self-discipline in order to become disciplined. I have theological views on the way out of this (that grace can lead you out), but what of the psychological level (i.e. what can I actually do about it?)? The key is probably motivation to change... perhaps I am too content with the way I am now, and not aware enough of the goodness of how I could be.
So what are the advantages that I can look forward to after growth through discipline? (The glib answer, of course, is ``pretty much anything I want to be, that doesn't involve other people''!)
I could be calmer overall; less peturbable by changes around me; fairer; happier; with greater reserves of concern / love for others; almost free from doing / saying things and then immediately wishing I hadn't. I could also be slimmer, fitter, stronger, better-read and better at deciding what / when to buy things.
There are things that no amount of discipline can win me: these are the things that depend on other people / God. So, for example, I can't make myself better-liked, although I should be able to make myself easier to like.
And what do I lose through discipline? I would lose some of what many people see as `freedom' (by which they seem to mean `feeling alright about acting on immediate whim without consideration of the full context'!). I'd probably eventually lose my reputation for being someone who speaks and acts in haste.
Is it possible to carry this approach too far? No, I don't think so. If it seems like it is, you're probably not thinking of the same approach that I am! For example, not buying unnecessary luxuries could in some sense be taken `too far', e.g. never eating biscuits; but freedom to choose not to buy something for comfort is something that it's always OK to have more of.
So is this an extreme view, for just a few oddball, specialized people, or is it just the way it would be good for more people to be? It seems obvious that the world would be a gentler, less hurtful, place, if everyone followed this way!
Here are some outworkings on aids to this, and related, forms of self-improvement...
It might be helpful to have a two-dimensional classifier system to help in understanding wants, in which one axis is how good it feels that something would be, and the other is how good a rational evaluation in broad context says it would be. So, for example, in deciding whether to have another biscuit (note: I don't have anything against biscuits in themselves; I'm just using them as a convenient example villain for this discussion!) I can feel that I'd enjoy eating the biscuit at the time (on the assumption that its recipe has been designed to produce pleasing taste and texture); but I can evaluate that it will only taste / feel good for a moment, will re-inforce my tendency to have yet another biscuit, will tend to keep my waistline the way I resent it being, and will further postpone the increase of my self-control.
What does Wisdom have to say on these things? The Book of Proverbs says ``He who has control over his own spirit is mightier than he who takes a whole city'', thus covering both the virtue and the difficulty of this feat.
This all seems at first to be very much a work, and an effort, of human will; and yet it can, I presume, be done only with grace prevenient. Indeed I can see that its revelation to me is itself a grace... although I elaborated it by writing down successive stages of thought, simply going through that process of thought and writing did not guarantee any results; those with no belief in anything outside the self will presumably disagree here; but I feel that I received this message, and the process through which I went was simply tuning in to receive it.
It could be said that motivation is a very significant form of grace... it is the source energy that allows us to jump up to the top of a barrier state, such that we can decide on which side of the barrier state we come down on... it is perhaps a form of the energy needed to live against entropy (that is, to really live, rather than to be simply part of the conjectured heat death of the the universe).