So, how does our philosophically and socially constructed referential authority begin? It begins with the intent not to demean others by word or deed, by attitude or intonation, by arrogance or a willed ignorance. We know that our words and civil behavior can inspire and expand not only our own possibilities but also those who depend on us. (We also know that words and uncivil behavior are the stuff of inquisitions, hatred and violence.)
Our referential authority for our authentic representation of the autonomous individual also demands that we be respectful, courteous, receptive and thoughtful. These are not submissive practices that reduce our ability to express ourselves. We employ them purposefully to temper the human capacity for cruelty and indifference so that we don’t regret the mean and small life we’ve begotten ourselves, or inflicted on others by such merciless practices.
The call on us for integrity, leadership and toleration requires self-rule, as does the call for courage and creative resourcefulness. We live in an endlessly competitive and often harsh social environment. It takes energy and resolve to stand tall, to pull our weight, to hold ourselves responsible for our behavior and accountable for its consequences. Interestingly, when we conduct ourselves well, we serve not only the social good but also our own self-interest; behavioral gold is the means to flourishing.
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Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.
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