A MODERN AND WORLDLY PERSPECTIVE
Capable Capable
Capable Capable

Rude awakening
Arnold Siegel —February 3, 2020

A rude awakening is a surprising and unpleasant discovery that one is mistaken. For example, “she thinks she can get by without doing any work, but she’s in for a rude awakening.” In my most recent post titled, Revision your journey, I said that we think of ourselves as realistic, down-to earth. If we’ve not spent quality time acquiring an emancipated mind, however, in all likelihood we’re in for a take-the-wind-out-of-your-sails rude awakening. 

This is what I mean. Before we acquire an emancipated mind, many of us believe that a true self/soul/ego, different from what others can see, lives beside or inside of us. This so-to-speak invisible self provides us not only with an almost all-knowing insight and wisdom but also a sense of unique superiority. It feels as if it can do anything it puts its mind to, because that's one of the clichés, along with “everything is going to be all right,” and “everything happens for a purpose,” inherent in the cultural discourse.

In other words, under the thumb of a dualist ontology (that we’re an earthly body as well as an other-worldly superior mind) we may not realize that we’re a product of nature, history and language set down in a constitutionally and socially sourced process. No matter how hardcore or otherwise our beliefs, nothing exempts us from these facts. 

The good news is, as we wake up—kindly or rudely—to these facts, we have access to the creative discipline of autonomy.  But having the American right to an emancipated mind doesn’t mean that any life is ours for the asking. Rocks-are-hard recognition and competence must be acquired. 

We must learn how to identify with the authorial voice of the autonomous subject in America.  Autonomy relies on the emancipated mind and as such on our natural fitness for wielding a principled freedom, a tripartite emancipatory mechanism characterized by the independence of our agency, the morality of our personage and the entrepreneurship of our biography. And it isn’t just about achieving our own satisfaction. Living in accordance with these constitutive principles satisfies the nation’s expectation of autonomous behavior, i.e., its reliance on the autonomous subject as the instrument central to satisfying its intention to create and sustain its civilization. 

If we can manage the philosophic courage to face these facts, we’ll recognize that the life we will have is the life we are physiologically and cognitively fit to live. With this recognition, chances are we’ll have more control over the churning, yearning physiology (living system) of the animal we are. The driving force of the naked animal is its emotions, and many of us run our lives at the effect of these raw feelings. Timidity. Belligerence. Fear. Bull-headed anger. Hurt. Passion. Obsession.

On the other hand, we are situated within the social construct that each of us is an autonomous subject, a citizen who is subject to a certain form of autonomy in service of America’s orthodoxy. So as philosophic governors of our lives, we take the feelings of the animal into consideration and as much as possible focus the energy of those feelings to accord with the creative discipline of autonomy. 

Yes, every day we face an awakening. Ideally not a rude one. After all, with the physiological and cognitive capacities we’ve acquired to manage the situations in our lives, there is something really pleasant about waking to life. What better than to meet the world with the autonomous subject’s organically self-regulated perspective, its cognition-driven behavior and its authorial voice?   

Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its
Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes.