Honorable is a word not much in vogue, virtually an old-fashioned concept. In American usage it is a title of courtesy accorded in some venues to address those who hold or have held office. However, said title does not necessarily refer to qualities of character indicated by its original meaning, that is, a person or action that proceeds from an upright and laudable cause and directed to a just and proper end.
Still, now and historically, America asks of us the honor and dignity associated with its sovereign individuation. That is, Americans are asked to design and plan a self-regulated life directed to a just and proper end. In this light, the philosophy and discipline of Autonomy and Life presented in our classes and coursework address an honorable approach to life in the form of being in enlightened possession of ourselves.
To be in possession of one’s self and one’s life is to be in control of it. Not omnipotent or omniscient control, of course. We have always to deal with the antecedents of our biology and untutored ego-function. Both lend themselves not to the individual responsibility on which America has built its hope and promise but to Henry James’ unsentimental description of life as a struggle wherein evil is apt to be strong, goodness weak, folly defiant and petty rages and easy mediocrity common.
Indeed, I believe the untutored ego-function enables us to exempt ourselves from a brave, intelligent, honest, legal and yes, challenging engagement with the nation’s commitment to the sovereign individual. I also believe, though, that each of us also wants and depends on everyone else to shoulder the burden of accountability because it is individual responsibility on which the freedom, comfort and security we enjoy is built.
As a means to self-possession, our philosophy overhauls our naïvely constructed practice of the ego-function, a naiveté we can’t afford to harbor given the function’s indispensability to our being in control of our lives.
We who study the philosophy and practice of autonomy and life believe the educated and trained ego-function is constitutive of America’s enlightened model of the sovereign individual and the pivotal or central means of our responsiveness to the civilized demands on our lives. Further, mastering this function, a responsibility that falls on all of us, is the key to making American democracy work for everybody, i.e., to achieving the promise of our country.
Today is the day America sets aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., a brave man committed to an upright and laudable cause directed toward a just and proper end, a cause enacted in word and deed in support of equal opportunity. To my mind, it is every day that we should appreciate and respect all those who, famous or not, choose the honorable approach to life.
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Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.