Once again, we find ourselves in a global crisis that also hits very close to home. As the uncertainty, fear and divisiveness of a global pandemic lingers, global warming fights for attention and we face the pain of increasing inflation, we also find ourselves witness to a grave challenge to the world order. Our hopes for ourselves, for democracy, for the whole world, are threatened. In these stressful times, it’s easy to lose sight of our faith in the promise and reward of the real heart and soul around which we are to be known and our life is to be played out.
At the same time, we are bearing witness to the incredible courage, determination and bravery of a people under siege. President Zelensky and the citizens of Ukraine’s commitment to their very freedom has inspired the world. We are bearing witness to the ultimate risk of life itself as individually and collectively one country stands up for democracy and shows us what it means that they “can do no other.” Zelensky’s leadership, gravitas and spectacular fortitude is a testament and tribute to our humanity at its best. He is a role model for us. For this, and what he inspires, we owe him our deepest gratitude.
Think about it. The people that we admire and take seriously possess the character or substance of giants. We all admire those able to sustain commitment and responsibility through the most troubled times, and the display of resilience, courage and honor in the face of devastating challenge commands our respect. As we witness an entire country frightened in the present and with the fate of a dire future at hand, they are in control of their hearts, their minds, their words and their deeds. Though daily life remains extraordinarily dangerous as they deal with the decimation of the life they once knew, their conviction and confidence is based on a moral resource – a never-quit, tough-it-out responsibility for their commitment to freedom and as such, autonomy.
Here and now, we are reminded that freedom isn’t free. Though thousands of miles away from the fight, we can take heart that some 230 years ago, here, in America, we too fought for and declared our freedom. Culturally created and collectively claimed against the tyranny of crown and cross, the free individual was philosophically envisioned, courageously declared, violently secured and in 1789, constitutionally authorized. The opportunity of the free individual in America is instantiated in the way we live. This paradigmatic transition to fully human selfhood rests its freedom in the principles of independence, morality and autobiography. It is the first principles of autonomy that support our freedom to author our lives. Yet, this freedom is neither innate nor is it fixed. It requires we stand the course of our lives and identify with the nation’s form of fully human selfhood, the authorially autonomous subject in America.
As we live in the relative safety and security of America it’s easy to forget the violent and courageous nature of our beginnings. Yet still, if we are to fulfill the promise of America—if we are to be in possession of ourselves exercising this freedom, we need to employ the biolinguistic tools of reason, rationality, felt-experience, imagination, intention, the subject’s principled authority of its agency, personage and autobiography as it is revealed in living the autonomous life of a free individual. This effort with progressive originality and deliberative judgment positions us best to be consciously in possession of ourselves. The principled form for governing ourselves is inextricably integrated with a tripartite emancipatory mechanism that is characterized by the independence of our agency, the morality of our personage and the entrepreneurship of our autobiography. The creation of the experimental, institutional and lawfully regulated free individual is our fate.
Nietzsche would say humans are animals and red in tooth and claw. He thought it could never be other than that. But we understand that the processing of our autonomy, accepting fully human selfhood, is a stronger, more fully realized, fulfilling and satisfying way of being. So let us not lose faith, as I said, in the promise and reward of the real heart and soul around which we are to be known and our life is to be played out.
As we see in the courage so poignantly demonstrated by Zelensky and the citizens of Ukraine, it is the stand we take in the authorship of our life that is the worthwhile pursuit. The goal is to become our stand. As such, we must learn how to identify with the authorial voice of the autonomous subject in America and accept our fate. That is, the self-possessed are the successful conclusion of autonomy in America. Let us “do no other.”