Some distinctions: internal activity and external activity. Activity I am in control of and activity I am not in control of. Of the activity I am in control of, activity that I am in immediate control of and activity I am only indirectly and at a distance in control of. Strictly speaking we will want to avoid attributing “active” to anything I am not in control of. Under ordinary circumstances, I am in control of bodily movements–but sexual arousal? Hmmm. That happens to me to some extent, and I am in control to another. That I type? Hmmm. Yes, to a large extent, but such activity is made possible by a lengthy list of conditions which must remain constant: physical conditions (gravity), physiological conditions (nerves, muscles, brain signals).
Sensation (feeling related to externals), I am not immediately in control of, but I am indirectly influential over. And, it is almost, and I emphasize almost, necessary to attribute pleasure or pain to sensation. This I have some say over. Thus, even sensation to the degree that pleasure or pain accompanies I am in control over. And what I am sensing, to the degree I have control over the here and now spatio-temporal location that I inhabit, I am in control over. But, all said, what I sense at the moment I am impressed by it, is not under my control.
Imagination (feeling related to the play of sensation and emotion independent of reality), I am not always in immediate control of its production, but am of its cessation.
Emotion (feeling related to desire and aversion and the presence or absence of that which is desired or averred) I am indirectly influential over by my relation to externals and also to the degree that I can influence what I desire or am averse too.
Choice. To persist or desist in conscious activity. I may choose to move or not, to speak or not, to think or not, to imagine or not and to the degree all of this influences feeling I may choose how I feel. The primary choice is on of attending to. Attention is a finite good that may be distributed this way or that. And it is ENTIRELY up to me what I do with the amount I have. It is not up to me entirely what I have. Attention can be increased or decreased by my effort or lack of effort. But there is likely to be an upper limit though I know not, without striving for more time, what its upper limit is.
Thought (not a mode of feeling, self-controlled imagination or concepualization (a bank account of feelings related) that has rational form. There is internal consistency and approximation to correspondence with reality. I am in control of thought explicitly.
Speech (feeling or thought captured in external sound or shape). I am in control of speech to the degree that I am in control of expression. The limits of the capacity for sound I am not in control of. Though the condition of the sound producer in me I can influence (through smoking or excessive and harmful screaming) or shoving a rod down my throat and causing injury.
Movement of body. The analysis is now easier. The limits I am less in control of. And certain parts of my body operate independently of my control: breathing, digesting, movement of blood, fighting disease, repairing damage, etc. But, I can preserve the health of those activities to some degree. But there is such ordinary control that we often associate the body with that which we are in control of. One merely needs to encounter the “disabled”, say the Parkinson’s patient, to realize the limit.
The ranking is not easy: attention and exertion seem inseparable. This is why will and intellect have always been distinguished in conception, but inseparable in reality. Try for even a moment to conceive of one without the other. The will is power. Intellect is grasp of reality. Such is rational being. The two components are necessary: the power to grasp, and the what is grasped. Objectively, our brightest have not found any way around the inclusion of both in the account of the rational being. Even the divine is spoken of as omniscient (intellect) and omnipotent (power/will).
In the subjective, incomplete, non-actual but full of potential human animal rationality is less than fully actualized. So, accounting for activity is messy. It should be the goal of every potentially rational animal to achieve and actualize its potentiality. But this requires great effort.
In its undeveloped state the materiality of the animal is the principle of much more of what we might call activity than anything like spiritual attention (intellect and will). Will is after the good and intellect is after truth. The human animal is after sugar, shelter, sex, status and security in all. But whether they are good, and the truth about that are more or less investigated. One can explain much of human animal activity by speculating the influence of the animal drives for calories, protection from elements, reproduction, position in the larger community and the relative guarantee of all of those.
The trick in organizing activity is first the realization of the necessity of governance, self-direction, budgeting, organizing attention and energy effectively and efficiently. This often is initiated as the “poverty of spirit” that is the moment of realization of how poorly one has been able to achieve these earthly goods.
The next step is to mourn the under-development of spirit that could have produced so much better.
Then, meekness that is submission to the that which one is not so as to welcome its presence in one (rational capacity).
Then, the meekness and submission, and the patient waiting and looking our for development, for strength of spirit more full realized is converted into a desperation for the rational capacity which is, in the tradition I am now tracking recognized as “hunger and thirst for righteousness”. I like “virtue”. This is exciting. My commitment to submissively welcoming virtue and development is met with a self-transformed desire for it. Oh to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than all else. To realize that the best me, the happiest me, the blessed me, is in the starvation for righteousness.
The merciful are noted because it is the precise characteristic that is needed to deal with the not-there-yet-but trying. Once you get a desperation for virtue or righteousness you risk the despair that comes with failure to attain what is now hungered for. This is why mercy is necessary. Mercy is not for he who is still directed at sin and destruction. Mercy is only for the mournful and meek. First and foremost mercy is from the self to the self. You must be patient with yourself as you develop. Patience is in mercy. But it is only for he who is sincerely trying and submitting. But if you wait, look what is to come next! What is good for you with yourself is good for you with anyone else who is striving for the good-mercy.
The culmination of that is “purity of heart” in which the divine is realized. The result is “seeing God”. What an achievement. The importance should be in inverse proportion to the little else I say about it. Everything is in this moment. The mystics called it the beatific vision.
From then on the benefits are outward. External effects of world changing come at the end of a long journey of soul-development. Peace will be the product in the soul, and its extension out of the soul is predicted, at least in the relations that the developed soul has with others.
Then persecution. Why? Envy. Rensentment. Guilt. The undeveloped has a tendency for the hatred of achievement. The knowledge and example that the achievement is possible and I have myself only to blame for its failure is a temptation to the desire to annihilate the developed. And so Socrates is killed. And Jesus was killed. And there have been others. Not all being treated harshly is persecution. Some is not even though it is sin. Here we are interested in what the last verifiable fruit of development is on this earth. It is to be targeted for destruction by that which is complacently content in undevelopment.
Activity. What kind? First, the realization of the potential in spirit. It is but a seed in me. But with water, sun, conditions, work, attention, patience, discipline, encouragement, focus, and great effort the activity can become what it can be.
The final Kierkegaardian question is how the activity of the underdeveloped can ever become the activity of the developed. This implies the effect being greater than its cause. This is unreasonable. Yes, it is outside of reason. Reason is at the end of development. Development toward reason is by definition unreasonable even though approaching it. How is it possible? Don’d doubt THAT it is even if you doubt HOW it is. It is only reasonable that the underdeveloped cannot understand HOW. But THAT cannot be denied…Can it? Oh the despair of the denial.