It's a case of mistaken identity
Do you know who you are? Before you say, “of course,” not all of us do. Knowing who we are, and who we are not, is among our greatest challenges. Even those who get off to a good start, who have had the advantage of good parenting, wealth and higher education, for example, don’t necessarily recognize who they are.
From the beginning, we are apt to absorb and psychologize misinformation about who we are, about the ruthless rules of reality, about security and certainty and about the emancipatory mechanism that would free us from these half-truths or subjective distortions.
Indeed, generally, at least to some extent, we retreat from the challenge of recognizing ourselves. Involuntarily and uncontrollably we become preoccupied, captured by and identified with the narrative in our heads. It's not thinking. It’s an agonizing brooding narrative, at once wishful, fearful and angry, very angry, but its drone is hypnotic, addictive. “As time passes, much of it while we converse with ourselves (as a bystander—watching it all go by), forgetful (just going through the motions of living), distant, nervous and long-forgetful of why, we may lead a silent, lonely, practically inert life.”
Yet out here in the external world, we may not readily find good solutions to the malaise, to the inside-our-heads-but-outside-of-timeliness narrative in our minds. We can distract ourselves even further with our electronics or get caught up in Scoreboard, assuming or believing that if we knew better people and bought better stuff, our experience of ourselves and of life itself would improve. We’d hope to be recognized, appreciated, maybe even honored. But this is not the usual outcome. Life is a serious business, a responsibility, and we feel unprepared to face it honestly when we don’t know who we are and don’t possess the personal and social skills to match.
So, when we look to know ourselves, to better recognize who we are (aside from where we usually look), the philosophy of Autonomy and Life proposes that we look to that aspect of our nation which rests its future not on the Scoreboard but on our exercise of an ordered freedom. America’s demand for self-regulation supports our executive responsibility to think for ourselves and live a life of our own design. *
As such, the philosophy of Autonomy and Life is designed to help us bring ourselves forth, to pull us away from the virtually non-stop, mind-numbing chatter into the world of thinking, telling and participating. Why? Because if we do not confront our fear of the external challenge and cope with judgment, criticism, melancholy and antagonism whenever and wherever they show up, much of our lives remain a vicious circle of intimidation, discontent and recrimination.
When we study Autonomy and Life we are intent on raising our conscious framing of the regulative matrix that orders our freedom. This newly understood framing still saddles human animals with the burdens of self-discipline and self-control, that is, of self-rule. But it also animates and rewards our regulative resources. More, despite the challenges that America now faces, and has always faced, to my mind America’s revolutionary experiment in nationhood continues to hold great promise. Why? Because if we succeed with its experiment, we can expect not only safety and security and a wealth of opportunity, but also enjoy an extraordinary freedom.
To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, 17th-century philosopher and scientist: Humans are only reeds, the weakest in nature, but they are thinking reeds. Even if the universe were to crush them, they would still be nobler than their slayer, because human beings know the advantage the universe has over them. The universe knows none of this. Thence, it is not from all matter and energy in space that I must seek my dignity but from the government of my thought.
* For more specifics, please see my 02.26.18 post titled, American Patriot
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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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