Image for post
Image for post
Source

Accusatory, nightmarish and alarmist visions front-page our printed newspapers, transmit from our airwaves and blanket our digital world. We are informed about corruption, exploitation, bigotry and a long list of other malfeasance in the corridors of local and national political and corporate power. Communication is often vulgar, hypocritical and intolerant. It goes without saying that unless our heads are buried in the sand, respect is in short supply. A large number of Americans have lost their way with the respect and decency that represent the practice of our self-ruled good citizenship and the management of our biology. …


Image for post
Image for post
Source

Though one would think there’d be no shortage of information about the right stuff that human beings need to know, and like to know, it turns out there is little data of import about the significant place the good fight has in our lives. Just how disappointing, meaningless and unfair life is remains a problem to be solved. Especially now.

Of course, much of this discontent is covered up. We, ourselves, have probably been conditioned to look as if we are fine, cool, never better. Looks are only skin deep, however, and the problem persists. And what about the circumstance that leaves millions of us ill-prepared, by dint of birth or limited opportunity, to prevail in the challenge that life is? …


Do the Right Thing

Stormy days are upon us. These are volatile frightening times. We find ourselves in a global crisis that also hits close to home. Though the proverbial “the world is going to hell in a handbasket,” rings true, we can’t sidle over to the dark side or wring our hands. We have work to do, commitments to keep, conflicts to resolve, relationships to manage and grow, social expectations to satisfy, care, compassion and concern to give, and hope to herald. Each of these requires substance — of heart and mind. …


Image for post
Image for post
Source

The promise of humanity lies in its bold spirit. We each have the ability to think, feel and imagine and to climb the ladder of transcendence. And we each have the ability to give honest and artful expression to the struggle to matter, to make order, to care. Indeed, each and all of us must put to right our inescapable personal responsibility for choosing our outlook on the world.

But we live in irrational and difficult times. Many of us, for many reasons, are angry, disgruntled, fed up. …


10 Brief Lessons in Autonomy

Image for post
Image for post
Source

The usefulness of our inquiries into “how should we live,” and “how to achieve our country” depends in large part on our willingness to see clearly, think freely and act accordingly. That is, we must take full advantage of America’s emancipation of our minds. Of course, learning how to employ the freedom of the autonomous subject is both the opportunity and the challenge of a lifetime. Emancipation has empowered us to be the authors of our lives and the chemists of our emotions. It is our freedom that will tell us how we should live and achieve our country.

What follows are ten brief lessons in autonomy. …


Image for post
Image for post
Source

It always was and probably always will be evolving wisdom, aptitude and the clash of wills that inspire and guide humanity’s long journey from its brute state to the poetic light of the heavens. But we don’t get from that place where we were originally inserted and situated into a life of our own design without going through the changes. And no one can make them for us.

Fortunately, every step of the subjective designing and purposing, though perhaps challenging and time-consuming, is intellectually, emotionally and aesthetically rewarding. Pragmatically rewarding, too.

Let me tell you what I mean.

We often hear that the aim of the examined life is to substitute truth for myth, to try to provide explanations (for phenomena) that aren’t based on false cause. In this case, truth does not refer to an absolute. It refers to what is left when we eliminate the mistaken suppositions and errors in our thinking, listening, reading, writing, etc. It is not a final certainty because there is no place to stand outside the world and no vocabulary vast enough to describe all that was, is and will be. Indeed, there may never be a theory that reconciles the messy complexity of human issues into a neat simple truth. …


Image for post
Image for post
Sitting Still in the Cool Air

In the Summer 2014 issue of The Hedgehog Review: Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture, Mark Edmundson, of the University of Virginia, addresses the happiness we forsake when we are too distracted to be absorbed in something we love.

In service of his point, he references William Wordsworth who had the “ability to do one thing at a time,” Bertrand Russell who “believed that paying attention was a form of paying your dues in the interest of being able to possess the best that life offers,” and T.S. Eliot who said, “Teach us to sit still.”

Those of us with a philosophical curiosity and inclination, who love to contemplate our autonomy and take seriously living the examined life know of what they speak. The payoff of such focus? The deep absorption and happiness that Edmundson addresses. And the acquisition of a resourceful and substantive life that powerfully informs an independent and forthright voice as well as our day-to-day decisions and actions. This authorial voice, which requires generosity, an open-mind and authenticity, is an accomplishment beyond comparison. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image by the artist Manolo Valdés

Living the examined life is not so easy. To be an original, to create a life of your own design, to parse, weight and scale where and how you can best contribute is not so easy. To write your own marching orders, to look and ponder, to surmise and re-evaluate is not so easy. Whether you’ve always had in mind this intention — and even see it as an obligation or, startled, realized that too much of your life “just happened,” there’s much to think about, plan for and do.

Think about it. When you choose to create a life of your own design, you must accommodate all those commitments already undertaken. There’s the normal pressure of what’s expected of you, of course, the standard exterior clash of wills with those who have claims upon you or those upon whom you make claim. What do you owe those who contribute to your support? And what do you owe those who depend on you? And then there are, of course, the ever-vigilant conventions and rules that apply to you and everyone else, no matter what. …


Giving Balance to Our Existence, Poetry to Our Hearts and Strength to Our Character

Image for post
Image for post
Source

When we’re children, adults ask us to decide what we want to be when we grow up. When we’re college students, we are asked to decide on a major. And then, there we are, living the adult life, grappling with day-to-day problems, too often avoiding those life-orienting questions and decisions, just allowing the future to unfold in the way that it does.

For any number of reasons, we may avoid making plans for our lives. Distraction may rule. Or we may worry that a plan puts an end to joy and spontaneity. …


Image for post
Image for post
Source

We’re in the world as authors and authorities intent on taking our lives to the next level. We can experiment with possibilities that benefit our unique intellectual and moral commitments and our one-of-a-kind natures. But we’re also in the world in just the way that we are, up and running, defined, often on autopilot.

Many values or authorities affect how we manage our lives. Authority means here the right to control, command or determine. The authority I refer to here is the invisible self or ego-function. …

About

Arnold Siegel

Philosopher, Contemporary American thinker, Founder of Autonomy and Life https://autonomyandlife.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store