Philosophy
    As I see it, a person's philosophy is his or her framework of attitudes and assumptions. It is the personal explanation of the way life is perceived, a personal understanding of how things interact. In this broad definition, it covers cognitive reasoning processes, moral or ethical judgement, and any sense of supernatural, even divine power. To speak one's mind, then, is not necessarily philosophy in action. But to explain how one has reached a certain opinion, to "dissect" as it were one's path of information gathering, sorting, meditating and judging -- is philosophic activity.
    To be clearly aware of one's philosophy and to be able to explain it to others, is rare -- and something to strive for if one lacks it, and to be proud of if one can do it. My philosophic self-awareness was developed from about age 15 to 20. Ever since it has remained fundamentally unchanged. In 1980, when I was 19, I wrote my philosophy for a school class. The gist of my treatment may be outlined as follows.
    An individual human is possessed of a unique outlook, and the ability to choose. Despite being partly bound by biological abilities and necessities, he or she is subjective, reflecting, questioning, emotional, rational, and can accept or reject actions and ideas. The individual's philosophy, values and behavior is based on his or her interpretation of input. Input is everything that comes into contact with an individual: chance, nature, God, time, society, relativity and necessity. From this universal medley the individual seeks, accepts or rejects in a unique way.
    Individuals begin life as immature babies, largely acted-upon from without. They are conscious, unlike rocks, but still need nurturing for years before they mature. Because of different genetic backgrounds and environmental stimuli, individuals remain unique. Some babies are handicapped. As we age we gradually expand our consciousness and become more choosy about our development's direction; we question, we learn. Our bodies certainly, and our minds usually, mature. We reach maturity at different times in our lives; some of us never become mature; most do. Mature people occasionally lapse into immature behavior. Maturity is when a person exercises self-awareness, responsibility, control, conscious choice, and willingly accepts the consequences of his or her judgements and actions. When trying to decide something, the mature person juggles in his or her mind all the relevant data possible, and then makes a decision. What a person thus decides is proper or good is not necessarily ideal according to the standards of others, or God -- but we do the best we can.
    Some societies foster individual thinking and action, and others don't. (Once we start in on societal differences it is almost impossible to stay focused on universal principles.) All I have said so far is universal -- as I judge it, of course. The rest of this essay is not going to say more about my view of how individuals form their unique philosophies -- I've explained that as far as I care to. Instead, I'll describe my general opinions on a few topics. In other words, I'll give my opinions, or interpretations. Your opinions, arrived at in your own way, may be quite contrary.

    We need to be aware of, and sometimes on guard against, blind emotions such as revenge desire, sexual desire, and power desire. Because when one part of our mind becomes too obsessed with something, our reasoning ability and calmness is impaired or completely overshadowed by passion's insatiable appetite. It is true that until any rioting passion subsides we cannot help ourselves. But we can gradually learn that choosing certain things will help us stay balanced. We can try personal goal setting to help us strengthen our weak points, and dilute or shrink our vices. Since we know that chance plays an important yet unpredictable role in our lives, the least we can do is consciously try to be on guard.
    Some individuals are so intellectually or otherwise superior to the usual level that they are called geniuses. I favor the opinion that says a genius is like everyone else in actual brain capacity or ability -- but merely uses more of his or her potential. This suggests that any of us, despite our background, can, through determined conscious drive, improve our brain power. It may be that many more of us are genius-like but don't know it because we've not had the chance to find out. In a deprived environment life suffers, and genius must needs worry about basic survival first, and about art and science after.
    We should help one another. To cooperate is better than to fight; to share better than to compete. The very success of society more or less depends on this. Injustice, as well as chance accidents, not to mention our own blunders, frequently set us back, knock us off course. It can be demoralizing, can be debilitating, and is sometimes fatal. Such is life. Those of us who are ablebodied, sound thinkers with a social sense, must help our less fortunate peers. We must be mature in the face of immaturity, carry heavy loads while our weaker peers carry less, work hard and sacrifice much. We need patience, optimism, and a broad-based, well grounded philosophy to see us through life.