It could be said that half of us want to live the unexamined life, assimilating into the culture, and half of us want to write our own marching orders. It’s not so easy, though, to be an original, to bring to bear the autonomy of self-possession. How we have already been determined and shaped by the cultural impress resists our efforts to be other than the relentlessly acquisitive-of-stuff individuals by which the metaphorical Scoreboard now grades us. …


More than 2500 years ago the philosopher, Socrates, asserted that the unexamined life was not worth living. He predicted that we’ll be forever discontent if we don’t investigate, articulate and reconcile the struggle between the natural life force that we are with what the world wants us to do.

Until it is artificial intelligence that tells us what “it’s all about,” it is living breathing people who provide or have provided our information about the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Without such information, we are, in large part, reflexive entities, driven forward and set back by forces we…


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. …


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…

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. …


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


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.



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…

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…

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, weigh 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…

Arnold Siegel

Philosopher, Contemporary American thinker, Founder of Autonomy and Life

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