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The Solitary Egotist Dilemma -- To Contribute Or Not To Contribute to Others?

Updated: Jun 28

A hopeless old man.

A Tale of Two Paths

This story explores a former classmate, someone I'll call Saul, who remains an enigma to this day. During our school years, Saul was a master of solitude. Intensely private, he made a conscious effort to withdraw from the world around him.

While details are scarce, Saul's intelligence was undeniable. Unlike most students, he lacked a phone or social media presence. His existence seemed confined to the school walls, where he spent his days pacing, both inside and outside the classroom. He actively avoided social interaction, refusing to participate in group projects or even any activity that was mandatory.

He did what many of us really wanted to do -- not study by force, in a society that wasn't voluntary.

The special needs class, primarily focused on students with autism (including myself), offered no clues about for Saul's behavior. His commitment to isolation extended even to exams, which he didn't bothered studying. He refused exams outright, and if forced to participate, his answers mocked the seriousness of the situation. In a question regading the definition of a "cult" he wrote: "a word with four letters".

Ironically, despite my success at school (often exceeding his demonstrated performance), a bothersome suspicion persists in my mind. Saul's withdrawn nature might have masked a deeper intelligence, one that simply refused to engage in the traditional school setting. That's because when he actually uttered things from his mouth, his contributions to discussions rivaled even my own.

Saul's story is intriguing because it challenges expectations. Unlike most students in our class, even those initially hesitant, Saul actively disengaged. Assignments remained incomplete, culminating in a final grade that barely mattered. This goes to show that high grades don't necessarily correlate with high intelligence, if you choose to not partake in school studies. However, there is a positive correlation otherwise.

Fast-forwarding to today, I imagine Saul remains at home with his family, likely unemployed and heavily reliant on technology. His world might be confined to his computer screen, with minimal social interaction. It's not like he needs it anyways, when he can research whatever he wants online.

One time I even made a reference only he and I understood. It was one of the times I realized I at best interact with obscure, eccentric people, more than those who willingly conform.

Reflecting on our contrasting paths, a realization arrived. While our outcomes differ, our shared solitary nature "connects" us. However, a crucial distinction remains. Unlike Saul's apparent disinterest in contributing to the world, I find purpose in creating this this article empire.

I never saw him again after I graduated.

Finding Purpose in a Vast Society

Beyond immediate family and perhaps close friends, most people's impact on the world is likely to be minimal. How minimal? According to Dr. Tim Elmore:

I teach that every student who is willing has the potential to lead and influence others—even if they are introverts. They may never be “Leaders” (possessing a gift for leadership) but they’re already “leaders” (they have influence). For years I’ve reminded people that sociologists tell us the most introverted of people will influence 10,000 others in an average lifetime. In others words, every one of us, even the shy ones, are influencing others. My question is: what breadth of influence could people have who become intentional about it?

The vast majority won't achieve lasting fame, and after the initial grieving period, life carries on for everyone else. What we may regard as "influence" is but one in many influences leading to the countless ripple effects which dictate our present and future. Reality is that subtle, an endless series of events and agents clashing and interacting with one another, leading to the reality we have today. It is one of the reasons I devised the Time Lapse Fallacy in the first place.

Nonetheless, most people are unaware of this rich web which we all partake in to an extent. You know, like in a massive soap opera with countless side characters. This raises a profound question: Why contribute to a society that's indifferent to your individual importance?

The allure of a solitary life, free from societal pressures, becomes understandable. One might imagine many adults choosing to simply stay with their parents, content with a life outside the traditional rat race. What if moving out and struggling to reach end's meet is not worthwhile, and largely a trend?

Here's where the true dilemma arises. While society as a whole may not require every single cog in its machine, it functions best when its members contribute in their own unique ways, and as long as automation makes many basic jobs obsolete. From janitors maintaining clean workplaces to bus drivers keeping our cities moving, every role plays a part, only in relation to the demand which needs to be supplied.

And thus, when we can be unemployed without society or a company at least collapsing without us... Must we really venture outside our homes and partake in social affairs? This does highlight the importance of finding meaning beyond external validation.

Nevertheless, the fulfillment derived from contributing to something larger than oneself, whether it's a well-run workplace, a beautiful garden, or even a philosophy blog, can be a powerful motivator.

The key lies in choice. Saul chose a path of complete isolation. I chose to contribute mainly because I feel guilty the less I use my time to work, and the more I use time to be killed. One of the things that make me feel very lonely stems from the fact I have yet to meet anyone who feels the same as me. Guilty, for not contributing to society. So, I contribute remorselessly, as I escape the hole within me.

The solitary life isn't inherently wrong, but it's important to recognize that it's a conscious decision, whether or not my metaphysical idea of universal lonerhood is true.

For those who find purpose in connection and contribution, society offers a multitude of ways to engage and find meaning. And to quote American author Bernard Malamud:

There comes a time in a man's life when to get where he has to go - if there are no doors or windows he walks through a wall.

The Conqueror's Mentality

Even within my chosen field, the notion of expendability looms large. Countless philosophers offer their perspectives, and this blog is just one voice among many. Additionally, the rise of A.I applies to philosophy as well. Understanding the vast competition I have, and that this world is competitive by nature, I'll do the best I can to be remembered across the ages like many of the "great fathers" throughout history. This simply how I would contribute best.

Just like Saul, I could choose a life of quiet solitude. Shutting down Philosocom, retreating to video games and living on welfare, wouldn't cause much of a devestation in the grand scheme of things. Saul, likely, embraces this guilt-free existence. But how can he do it? How can some of you do it? It is one of the questions that keep irking my mind.

For I am driven by a different fire. I am a conqueror, with a soldier's mentality. My desire isn't narcissistic, as I'm doing what I can to avoid this stigma. Being able to contribute, and actually conquering that notion, one opportunity at a time, is where I suffer the least.

I envision a future overflowing with engagement with my ideas. I want to see discussions sparked, theories dissected, and my articles read daily for centuries to come. I cannot bear the thought of not contributing to those who could use my articles to want to live and even to love being alive.

Philosophy is most practical when it helps people believe in themselves and have faith in what they're truly capable of. I know I can make people believe in themselves and in life far more than they already do. Because of that I can't completely retire from society. My "tikkun" has yet to be fully completed.

What purpose is there in an existence deemed replaceable? Your existence won't be deemed as replaceable when you'll be able to tackle problems like an oppressive regime -- with ambition, without relent, and of course, successfully.

By sacrificing the tranquility of solitude, I chase the potential for greatness, which is merely a means to a moral end, far worthier than empty statements.

And I've no desire to settle for a lesser domain.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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